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Monthly Giving: It’s Not Rocket Science

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A few months ago, I taught the “Recurring Revolution” training for members of The Fundraisingology Lab, by Moceanic. It was a lot of fun. Several members responded to a question about how best to keep their monthly donors.

One of those members was Natalie Lanoville from Jewish Family Services  in Vancouver, Canada. I was impressed with her response. I talked with her some more so I can share some of her great experiences and approach.

Natalie joined Jewish Family Services in Vancouver in April 2018. JFS does a lot of direct and indirect work, including providing food through a food bank, housing assistance, and supporting Holocaust survivors with different services.

When Natalie came to JFS, she noticed that the organization had a nice number of recurring donors, but that the program was on a slow decline due to an obvious reason: Many were giving by credit card and their payments had stopped. Only 50% of the monthly donors in the Raiser’s Edge database were still active at the time.

The average monthly gift was $36, understandable because many monthly donors give a multiple of $18, a significant number in the Jewish faith.

Many of the monthly donors had been acquired using a monthly donor tick box on the annual appeals. At the time when Natalie started working on the program, none of the monthly donors were giving via Pre-authorized Debits (PADs as they call them in Canada, also known as EFT/ACH/Direct debits/automatic bank withdrawals).

Natalie saw the opportunity and took action right away. With the help of a database expert, Natalie sifted through the database, and implemented standardized rules and best practices to better track and grow their monthly donors and improve stewardship to them — and all donors for that matter!

While they were working on this, Natalie picked up the phone, making some two calls a day. And she simply wouldn’t (and still doesn’t) give up. If at first, donors didn’t respond, she’d call them back the next month and then the next, until she had spoken with all recurring donors who had lapsed.

Through this process, Natalie not only reactivated monthly donors, but she was able to implement Pre-authorized Debits. Now 10% of all JFS monthly donors are giving that way. This is great, because there are no more expiring credit cards.

Because JFS does not have an automatic credit card updater system in place, Natalie started calling monthly donors before their credit cards expire to remind them to update. This too was very successful.

Natalie also implemented a survey of existing monthly donors, that generated a 35% to 40% response rate, generating new information, quotes and donor appreciation.

Natalie never gives up on lapsing monthly donors.

If a donor’s payment doesn’t come in, she immediately calls. Then she sends an email including a form to switch to PAD. She makes several phone calls and she sends a letter, everything needed to get the donors to respond and provide an update.

The results are astounding: Over the past 18 months since she started, no monthly donors have lapsed because of an expiring or declining credit card. Some may have indicated they couldn’t continue at the level they were giving before, but the keep rate of the monthly donors was tremendous.

The annualized value of Natalie’s monthly donor program grew from $60,000 to $86,000 with only re-activation phone calls, diligent follow-up of missed donations, a newsletter article about a monthly donor, and some tweaking of their annual appeal messaging.

Never give up on monthly donors!

But wait, you may say: ‘I’m way too busy to do all of this’. The reality is that Natalie doesn’t just work on monthly donors. Like many fundraisers in small shops, she is busy, and she wears many hats.

But Natalie knows that if she doesn’t take action, these recurring givers will lapse. She’s determined that doesn’t happen on her watch!

Natalie has simply made the commitment to call a few people a day. If they say no, she records their response. If their circumstances have changed, she makes a note in the database.

She has created six different kinds of emails and letters for different circumstances, and they go out right away.

She uses social proof of other monthly donor’s support and uses that when she talks to monthly donors.

On monthly donors’ anniversaries, she calls them to say thank you for their continued monthly support. This often results in an upgrade.

Natalie says: “Keeping monthly donors is not rocket science. You just have to do the work. You have to look at the details. You have to love people and love data. Monthly donors don’t take up a lot of time, but if you realize that they have twice the lifetime value of other donors, it helps. Simple things can help prevent things from going by the waste side.”

I give Natalie the highest praise. She’s holding the Recurring Revolution torch high and the results for her organization show. You can do it too!

Natalie is a member of The Fundraisingology Lab by Moceanic. Find out how you can join her and other smart fundraisers who are transforming their organizations!

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