Monthly Giving (called Regular Giving on my side of the globe) is a way for donors to commit to give a set donation amount, each month, on an ongoing basis — usually debited from their bank account or credit card.
Monthly Giving is an incredibly powerful way to attract, retain, and grow great value donors. In fact Monthly Giving programs have introduced billions of dollars to causes around the globe. Through a variety of recruitment and conversion techniques organisations just like yours have introduced millions of new donors to giving — and giving to new causes they had not previously considered.
So you might expect my only reasons you need a Monthly Giving program to be to get more income and more donors. And you are right – these are both great outcomes from effective Monthly Giving programs. But the reasons you should consider Monthly Giving has more heart than just numbers on paper.
My number one reason why you should have a Monthly Giving program: Monthly Giving programs deliver a reliable and predictable source of income.
Monthly Giving is easily forecast using a few key metrics (though you should be able to get more detailed and even more accurate fairly quickly when you collect the right data and build appropriate reporting). The more consistent analysis you do and the more you talk with your Monthly Givers the more you will be able to identify and predict:
- Donors at risk of cancelling.
- Donors best to target for upgrades.
- Donors who will still be giving a year from now, two years from now, and so forth.
Monthly Giving is not the solution to a short-term income need. Its benefits are mainly longer-term. Any Monthly Giving activity will cost you upfront — but the returns can be the difference between growth and decline, between scaling up your services and impact and reducing the breadth of what you do, between expanding your engaged audience and forecasting an ever-shrinking supporter base.
My number two reason you should have a Monthly Giving program is the committed and valuable donors it can create.
The upfront act of committing to give monthly, indefinitely (please do not time bound your monthly giving) gets you donors who retain at much higher rates than single givers. And their annual value is higher than the average single givers.
My number three reason you should have a Monthly Giving program is the heart beyond the numbers. A Monthly Giving program will help you develop an engaged and strategically diversified audience and give you an opportunity to demonstrate the impact a donor can have, consistently, over time on outcomes they care about.
Here is your opportunity to help a donor be part of the story (solution and impact) every month. You can help them feel part of a community who share the same values.
By becoming part of a Monthly Giving program with you, a donor should be able to see and experience the cumulative effect their own ongoing support, and the impact their support, combined with a community of Monthly Givers just like them, has.
Jeff Brooks puts it best, “Your donors don’t give because the problem is big. They give because the problem is solvable.” Monthly Giving offers the opportunity for you to show donors, again and again, that they are part of a long-term solution.
Monthly Giving can also diversify your giving audience. Let me make it clear that I’m not talking about the often-expressed need to “replace” that population of “dying” older donors with much younger ones. That’s not it. The younger the donor the less they give, the shorter they stay, and the lower the Life Time Value they deliver. Older is better on so many fronts in fundraising … Monthly Giving is no different.
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Monthly Givers can range from 20 to 100 years old. How you approach recruitment impacts this and there are ways to strategically ensure you are growing your Monthly Giving community sustainably, focusing on getting quality givers as opposed to lots of younger ones is the best place to start.
Some Monthly Giving recruitment approaches, like face-to-face (street) fundraising and digital lead conversion, attract new monthly donors who are much younger than our traditional 65+ audience. But the value from these activities comes from the older recruits (those over 45) who are the most likely to:
- Upgrade their monthly gift (with a decent proportion going up into our Middle Donor giving levels).
- Give for longer (you will lose the majority of donors under the age of 40 within two years of sign up).
- Consider a gift in their Wills.
I’ve been involved in the setup, review, development, and expansion of many, many monthly giving programs. Let me give you a few reasons you should not use when recruiting monthly donors because they don’t motivate donors to give, and they aren’t actually good reasons for having monthly donors anyway:
- It helps us plan our finances. A Monthly Giving program should do this well when managed, measured and monitored appropriately. But this is not a motivating factor for donors. Donors give to solve a problem, to promote their own values, to feel good. They don’t give to help you budget and plan their finances. Please do not use this in your donor facing communications!
- It reduces our administration costs. The reality is if you service these donors appropriately your administration costs may not be lower … they should be appropriate for the donors needs and experience. Suggesting that implementing Monthly Giving will bring down your expenditure is a risky expectation to set internally. And reducing administration costs is not a motivator for donors to give.
- We will contact you less. Telling donors a benefit of signing up to a Monthly Gift will be reduced communications is basically saying “We don’t like what we send you, we are pretty sure you don’t either, so keep giving and we will make the painful stuff go away.” Monthly Donors need to hear from you, it is how you will maximise retention, upgrades and additional giving.
- Giving is easier for the donor. Monthly Giving does indeed make giving easier for donors. But like any fundraising, the most important reason they give is because of what their giving does. Your offer for Monthly Giving will be most effective when it is focused first on a call to action.
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I love Monthly Giving programs because they are not one size fits all – you can start small and grow or you can go big fast — or be somewhere in the middle. More importantly, you can create something unique for your donors to be part of, you can leverage what you have to get going and adjust and optimise as you learn from testing. And that’s how you can grow – income, donor numbers, and an engaged and committed community of givers.
PS: Monthly Giving should not be undertaken in the absence of Bequest and Middle Value donor programs … Monthly Giving programs should return net income over a three year period (anything longer than this and you have to consider whether there are other, more profitable ways you could invest your time and money). Giving your engaged, longer-term Monthly Givers the opportunity to have even more impact via higher level giving (middle and major gifts and/or a gift in their Will) is where the greatest return from any donor program comes and Monthly Giving is no different.
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