Strong Monthly Giving Program
BooksMonthly Giving

How to Build a Strong Monthly-Giving Program in Less Than One Afternoon

Book Review: How to Create Lifelong Donors through Monthly Giving by Harvey McKinnon

The most important thing you need to know about fundraising is this:

Everything you do is about finding and stewarding three types of donors:

  1. Major (and mid-value) donors.
  2. Bequest donors.
  3. Recurring (mainly monthly) donors.

If you aren’t actively helping donors join one (or more) of those categories, your fundraising program is almost certainly unsustainable.

Of those three types, major giving and bequest giving are a challenge, because only a small percentage of donors can or want to do those things.

But any donor can become a recurring donor, and the percentage of donors who are open to it is much greater than the other two groups.

But don’t get the idea that getting recurring donors is easy. It’s not.

That’s why you need to read Harvey McKinnon’s latest book.

It is a simple, fact-based, no-nonsense guide, from one of our industry greats. Harvey knows what he’s talking about!

This book is a quick read — you can get through the whole book in one sitting — there are 40 chapters, but most of them are two or three pages long. But that doesn’t mean the book is thin on details. It has everything you need to know to launch a successful monthly giving program:

  • Want to know what should you name your monthly giving program?
  • Want to know how much should you ask people to give each month?
  • Looking for the best ways to find and recruit those monthly donors?
  • Can you ask monthly donors to give even more?
  • How should you collect those monthly donations?

Just as important, Harvey equips you to make the case to sometimes-skeptical bosses or boards for why you should create (or improve) your monthly giving program:

  • We will raise more money — significantly more.
  • We will develop a more positive relationship with our donors.
  • Our monthly donors will stay with us, giving for four years longer than other donors.
  • We can rely on sustainers to keep income flowing in year-round and year after year.
  • We’ll lower our cost of fundraising.
  • Our income will grow over time.

Reading this book could change the financial future of your organization.

Whether you’re just starting to consider monthly giving for the first time, or a long-time veteran and you want to up your game, read this book!

When you join The Fundraisingology Lab, you get access to Harvey McKinnon’s powerful online course, How to Raise Money AND Change the World. You also can take our popular online workshop Matched Giving Magic, taught by Erica Waasdorp. And that’s just the beginning of what you’ll have available. Check out membership now!

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Monthly Giving

Monthly Giving: It’s Not Rocket Science

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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Monthly Giving

Should My Monthly Giving Program Have a Name?

Giving your monthly giving program a name is a smart move.

Unless it isn’t smart.

If trying to come up with a name delays starting your Monthly Giving program, don’t name it! Also don’t name it if it becomes a replacement for an actual Monthly Giving proposition.

A name is not compulsory – because the name is not the program. Nor does a name mean the difference between success and failure. And my friends who recruit new Monthly Givers over the phone or in the street tell me that as a sales tool, a name is often a distraction, not an aide. Particularly when it lacks relevance and meaning.

Naming your Monthly Giving program should be a strategic decision, not a tactical fancy or the starting point for the development of your program.

Your Monthly Giving messaging should be much more than just a name … built from your Monthly Giving proposition, it may include a tagline, a mission, possibly values directly related to your program, maybe a logo, and key messaging. And these are used consistently.

Sometimes a name is obvious, a no-brainer. Sometimes I see really bland, without meaning, names used … you’d be better with no name or bringing in a name later than forcing something weak, unrelated, or that has the potential to quickly date your program.

Strong Monthly Giving propositions don’t reflect on your entire mission. They provide a unique solution to an identified need. It’s your opportunity to focus. 

Like Australia for UNHCR, whose Monthly Giving program gives the donor the opportunity to ensure those in the field have the resources to respond to Emergencies when they happen. UNHCR’s primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. They do this in a variety of ways, one of which is delivering emergency support during humanitarian crises. And this is what I support by being an Emergency Response Team Member – the proposition of the program is focused on the emergency needs of refugees not all the needs. This name is effective. It helps create a sense of community and a simple shortcut … but it also allows UNHCR to differentiate Monthly Giving support from other ways a donor might give. 

Here are some more benefits of naming your monthly giving program:

  • It can help you create a sense of community, a way for donors to see themselves as part of something greater than just themselves. I have been a Médecins Sans Frontieres Field Partner for many years. I recognise myself as a Field Partner and part of a group of like-minded people who are also Field Partners.
  • It can become a brand in its own right, like Amnesty International’s Human Rights Defenders – which can help with acquisition, upgrade approaches, reactivation approaches … but only if it is recognised, remembered and related to your Monthly Giving proposition.
  • Donors like named programs, because they like to be part of something they can talk about easily.
  • It can help you personalise your communications with meaning. For example: “Fiona, I would like to thank you for being a Field Partner for the last five years, your support along with that of other Field Partners has …” which is much more compelling than “Fiona thank you for being a monthly donor …”  

If you decide to name your program, here are a few things to consider:

  • You have to use it for it to have value and meaning. In several Monthly Giving program audits I’ve run I discovered the Monthly Giving program name by accident, hidden in some communications, not present in others. Which begs the question: Why have a name?
  • Consider if it has longevity … changing it is hard and confusing for donors. Can you sustain its use over time?
  • Make sure it has a meaning related to what donors are doing by giving monthly. Circle of Friends could be any organisation. The Spring, Charity: Water’s monthly giving program is more connected.
  • Will your donors identify with it? Is it language they identify with? Would they be proud to call themselves part of it?
  • Does it provide differentiation from the other ways the donor can support you? If not, why?

Finally, your monthly giving name is probably more important as a donor retention tactic than as an acquisition tool. Telling donors they are part of the name and using it to create community when you connect with donors may be where you get the best value from a name, not at the point of acquisition.

Check out these other useful posts about monthly giving:

Top 3 Reasons You Need A Monthly Giving Program Right Now
Monthly Giving Hemispheric Showdown! US vs Australia and New Zealand
VIDEO: Why Your Donors Want to Give Every Month

Discover how you can connect more with your donors, grow your fundraising income, and master your career. Join The Fundraisingology Lab and you join the thousands of smart fundraisers who are becoming EXTRAORDINARY FUNDRAISERS. Check it out.

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Monthly Giving

VIDEO: Why Your Donors Want to Give Every Month

Fundraisingologists Fiona McPhee and Jeff Brooks talk about what does — and what does not — motivate donors to be monthly donors.

Looking back decades of experience and testing donor communications, they’ll show you some surprising truths about monthly donors, including:

  • The “reason” most nonprofits give when recruiting monthly givers that donors don’t care about at all.
  • How you can make the magic of monthly giving even better.
  • Some wacky but interesting test results!

You might also enjoy:

Top 3 Reasons You Need A Monthly Giving Program Right Now
Should My Monthly Giving Program Have A Name?

Discover how you can connect more with your donors, grow your fundraising income, and master your career. Join The Fundraisingology Lab and you join the thousands of smart fundraisers who are becoming EXTRAORDINARY FUNDRAISERS. Check it out.

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Monthly Giving

VIDEO: Monthly Giving Hemispheric Showdown! US vs Australia and New Zealand

Monthly giving is the “sleeping giant” of fundraising. It can help transform your fundraising program into a virtual money machine.

We brought together two monthly giving experts: US-based Erica Waasdorp, and Australia/New Zealand-based Fiona McPhee to talk about monthly giving in their areas. There are some important differences that can help you improve (or startup) your monthly giving program, no matter where in the world you are based.

Don’t miss these posts on monthly giving:

The Amazing “New” Way to Bring in Younger, More Committed Donors

The Easy Way to Make Your Monthly Giving Program Even Better

Get more training about monthly giving… members-only training is available at The Fundraisingology Lab. Check it out.


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Monthly Giving

Top 3 Things You Must Have Before You Start Your Monthly Giving Program

So you have the go-ahead to launch a Monthly Giving program. Excellent!

Starting from scratch can feel daunting. That’s why knowing the Must Haves for your new Monthly Giving program can help you prioritise your efforts and ensure the exciting times ahead are not fraught with “why is this not working?” or “what am I missing?”.

I’m assuming you already have a long-term budget and strategy in place. There’s no point starting without these. It’s a big mistake to turn monthly giving off and on – it simply will not provide positive returns for you. You also cannot leave Monthly Donors as a “set and forget” — whilst the giving is automated, these donors need and deserve your attention and care or you will lose more than you should. (For more on this, read Harvey McKinnon’s excellent post, The Surprisingly Effective Way to Up Your Fundraising Game and Find Your Most Devoted Donors).

Here are my top 3 must-haves for Monthly Giving.

#1 Must Have: Get your backend in order

I know admin is not sexy, but being able to efficiently process monthly gifts (via credit card and direct debit/EFT) is critical to your new program. And then being able to identify and respond to the inevitable declines (as in advice on which accounts have been closed, credit cards have expired, accounts that had insufficient funds and so on) you will receive back from your bank each month.

Check in with your bank on how they will advise and what the different categories will be so you can start planning to proactively follow up these donors (this is the number one way you will lose Monthly Givers, but you can recover a large proportion of them with a combination of reprocessing, calling, emailing, SMS … the mix will vary depending on your banking system, how you’ve recruited your Monthly Givers, and their communications preferences). You will need resources to manage the administration side and the donor interaction side.

Work out how you are going to process each month (and ideally this will be on multiple dates) and ensure you have adequate capacity to do so. It’s simply not an option to not process on the dates you’ve indicated to donors. Document all of this … it’s risk management to ensure others can pick this up should your usual resource not be available.

Keep your database coding clean for your Monthly Givers, ensure you can identify who a Monthly Giver is easily, what the status of their Monthly Gift is (e.g. active, cancelled, on hold), and keep the income clearly identifiable as being from Monthly Giving (easiest is to ensure your appeal / campaign / transaction codes for Monthly Giving have only Monthly Giving income going into them).

#2 Must Have: A Monthly Giving Proposition

It’s important to show donors why giving monthly is critical. Your Monthly Giving opportunity should not be the same as your ‘give now, urgent opportunity’, your ‘consider a gift in your Will for visionary future impact’ opportunity or your ‘stay the course’ membership opportunity.

Just as with any other fundraising, the thing that makes all the difference is the offer — also called the call to action or the proposition. Nail this, and your fundraising will always do better. And that includes Monthly Giving.

The original, and still one of the most powerful Monthly Giving propositions ever, was born from Child Sponsorship, which creates a personal connection between sponsor and child. Most of us don’t have this opportunity, but so many different causes have done a great job at developing Monthly Giving propositions that present a compelling need with a solution that requires commitment from donors to see impact. This could be the cumulative impact of:

  • Many people making small, ongoing gifts.
  • An individual committing to a solution that requires time and dedication.
  • Funds being available for a solution to inevitable crisis.

Your Monthly Giving proposition will need to express why the commitment is needed and what the reward for that is.

A note on reward: I often see Monthly Giving pitched as the benefits or incentives a donor will receive by joining. “Join our program and you will receive a special newsletter, event invitations, etc.” This is not your proposition. And I’d love to see fundraisers not do this – donors do not give to receive a newsletter or event invitation. They give to have an impact. They give to realise their own values. Benefits or incentives should never be part of your proposition or offer. In fact, you are better off letting your donors experience your Monthly Giving communications and deciding for themselves what is a benefit.

Related Post: Jeff Brooks and Lynne Boardman talk about what makes a great proposition in this short Vlog: How To Make Fundraising Work: Nail The Offer.

#3 Must Have: Dedicated Donor Service

In a world distracted by AI, chat bots and online service agents, real humans who are empowered to help your Monthly Givers will have a greater impact on your Monthly Giver satisfaction and retention than anything else. Yes, all the beautiful, well planned, and executed communications you create have less impact than the humans who interact with your Monthly Givers.

Having humans genuinely available for your Monthly Givers will allow you to:

  1. Manage inbound cancellations with a Donor Save program – and those doing well here in Australia are saving upwards of 20% of inbound cancellations.
  2. Respond to bank declines in the most effective manner.
  3. Deliver genuine donor love – both reactive and proactive.

Check out Jeff’s blog for one idea on how to help retain your Monthly Givers: The Easy Way to Make Your Monthly Giving Program Even Better.

Discover how you can connect more with your donors, grow your fundraising income, and master your career. Join The Fundraisingology Lab and you join the thousands of smart fundraisers who are becoming EXTRAORDINARY FUNDRAISERS. Check it out.

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FundraisingMonthly Giving

Top 3 Reasons You Need a Monthly Giving Program Right Now

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.

Related Blog: What Millennials Can Do for Your Organisation

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:

  1. 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!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Related Blog: How to Make Fundraising Work: Nail the Offer

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.

Discover how you can connect more with your donors, grow your fundraising income, and master your career. Join The Fundraisingology Lab and you join the thousands of smart fundraisers who are becoming EXTRAORDINARY FUNDRAISERS. Check it out.

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Bequests and LegaciesMajor and Mid Value DonorsMonthly Giving

Here’s One Easy Tool That Transforms Your Fundraising

Suppose I told you there’s a fundraising tool you (yes you!) can put to work that will do these things:

  • Gather information on what motivates your best donors to give, so you can speak more personally and relevantly to them.
  • Meaningfully increase your number of monthly donors.
  • Help you find and upgrade mid-value and major donors who’ve been “hiding” among your general donors.
  • Find donors who are ready to put your organization in their Wills — resulting in a revenue windfall that will play out for years to come.

You might think I was selling a certain bridge over the East River in New York.

But what I’m talking about is 100% real. And you can do it now.

It’s not even all that difficult to create.

It’s called the Supporter Connection Survey. It’s a very specific type of survey that can be fielded by direct mail or email (preferable both!) to find out what individual donors think about your organization and the cause you share.

Connecting with individual donors is the key. This is not a research survey to uncover what “the file” knows and believes. You will not get meaningful statistically valid findings about your donor file with a Supporter Connection Survey! In fact, you will almost surely lead yourself astray if you try to use it to get valid research. (Real research is hard. If you need to do some research, get professional help if you want to do it right!)

It’s also not a fundraising “push” survey. You know that kind that basically gets the reader to agree with your values, leading up to a fundraising ask. These work well for some organizations, but they are not at all what we’re talking about here!

Here are the types of questions in a Supporter Connection Survey:

Questions about their connection with you and their motivations for donating. These questions are highly qualitative and aimed at giving you specific insight into that donor — why she cares and what matters most to her. Her answers arm you to speak back to her later with super-focused communication.

  • A question about being a high-level donor — sometimes more than one. This helps uncover donors with a desire and capacity to give at a higher level than they have before. It almost always finds “hidden gold” in your file.
  • A question about being a monthly donor. This one helps you find donors who are ready to make the leap into this high-value group.
  • A question about bequests. This is the “money” question because it surfaces bequest leads, which can result in huge revenue in the coming years.
  • A question about the donor’s “loyalty” – highly tested to find donors who feel most connected with you, regardless of their current giving level. This helps you find people who you might want to concentrate on more than you have.
  • Donor facts that help you build a better relationship, like email and phone number (if they’re willing to share); mailing address, in case you have it wrong; birthdate and other demographics that can help you connect with them more.

In case you’re thinking, “There’s no way we could field such a complex survey” … I have good news for you. You can do a Supporter Connection Survey.

We’ve worked through Supporter Connection Surveys with fundraisers at every level of experience.

We’ve done it with very small organizations, huge global organizations, and everything in between.

We’ve done it with all types of causes.

And we’ve done them in every part of the world. Supporter Connection Surveys are quite common in Australia and New Zealand, but less so elsewhere. They are especially new to North America — so if you’re in the western hemisphere, you can benefit from “first mover” advantage!

If you aren’t doing Supporter Connection Surveys now, chances are you eventually will … ideas this good tend to spread!

So why not start now?

Discover the success your own Supporter Connection Survey will have, take our online course The Most Powerful Communication Tool: The Supporter Connection Survey. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab and will show you how to raise more funds for your cause from every channel! 

More blog posts about Supporter Connection Surveys:

Have you done a Supporter Connection Survey? Please share your experience by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

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Monthly Giving

The Amazing “New” Way to Bring in Younger, More Committed Donors

Face-to-Face Sustainer Asks Are Growing in the US

This week’s guest blogger, Erica Waasdorp, is President of A Direct Solution and is author to the book, Monthly Giving—The Sleeping Giant.

In the US, Face-to-Face fundraising often means personal asking, as in meeting a donor and asking for a big gift.

The Face-to-Face (F2F) I’m discussing today is different (at least for the US market). It’s known as canvassing, street fundraising, or door-to-door fundraising. It’s typically focused on generating monthly donors (sustainers) in well-trafficked areas, street corners, shopping malls, and other busy places.

When I was managing a big monthly giving program for an international animal organization, I was not a fan of Face-to-Face fundraising to generate sustainers at all. I had heard from other organizations that F2F retention rate was low, which concerned me. And frankly, our organization was quite successful in bringing in new sustainers — and they stayed longer if we just used direct mail and phone.

Then the internet and social media came into the picture. The ability to reach donors by phone has become harder … but F2F has picked up the ball! In the past few years, F2F (and door-to-door) counts of new monthly donors has grown by 42%! Median sustainer revenue has grown by 54%!

One big reason F2F has become more popular is because you’re bringing in new donors making monthly gifts to your organization right away!

We used to try to convert donors to give monthly later, but now organizations are starting to generate new monthly donors right off the bat. They bring in more loyal donors right away. You can see here that while the percentage of new straight-to-monthly donors is going up, the share of single-gift donors who become monthly is going down:


Virtually all organizations that are doing F2F in the US only ask for monthly gifts. Some still accept one-time donations, but others don’t — they really want to generate as many long-term donors as possible and that one-time gift option deters that goal. It’s a matter of testing what works best for your organization.

The second reason F2F is growing is it brings in younger donors. Isn’t that what everybody is looking for? And the average monthly gift is on par with other donor acquisition channels.

F2F is not for everybody. It takes a committed organization and committed canvassing organizations that are willing to work with you. Not on just the front-end in bringing new monthly donors in but is also willing to work with you on improving the retention.

The less siloed you are as an organization, and the more all departments and fundraisers can work together, the better off you are.

Sustainer Retention Rates grow as organizations stay with it

The average retention rate for F2F monthly donors is 33% (2017). That’s the lowest for monthly donors of all channels. But it’s nearly twice that of new one-time donors brought in by direct mail — which is currently 19%.

As you’re looking at this, don’t be too shocked. It’s important to remember two things:

  1. As new organizations are starting to get their feet wet with this F2F, they’re still trying to figure out what to do next to improve retention. This lowers the median trend percentage.
  2. Those organizations who have been running F2F programs for a longer period are seeing much higher retention rates. They’ve ‘cracked the code’ on sustainer retention. The top F2F monthly donor organizations are retaining these donors at better than 80%!

Another issue is that the US still lags behind in the acceptance of Electronic Funds Transfer (also called ACH or direct debit). The bulk of monthly gifts here come in from credit or debit cards. But EFT is growing and slow and steady wins the race. Just take a look at the current retention rates by type of payment.


A systematic conversion program once the sustainer is on board is the name of the game. It’s up to you to welcome the donor the right away and in the most personal way possible: Videos and welcome calls, and providing impact and engagement right away, while also working on improving retention.

Most canvassing agencies will help you. They have great systems. They’ll work with you and ensure immediate follow up with donors about any missing or wrong info. They’ll work to prevent future drop offs.

F2F still has plenty of room for growth

F2F is easiest if you have an enticing mission that’s easy to explain. And as competition grows and as more organizations are jumping on the F2F bandwagon, you can imagine that it’s harder to find spots where it’s just you canvassing the streets for new potential monthly donors.

Thanks to the sharing within The Professional Face to Face Fundraisers Association, there will be better regulations and guidelines for canvassing locations, help with sustainer acquisition and back-end and retention. We are all still learning in this area and I don’t think that will ever stop!

There’s clearly a spot for F2F fundraising in the US. And everybody — agencies and nonprofits alike — are actively collaborating to increase sustainer sign up AND retention rates.

And it’s starting to work. Because who doesn’t want committed donors?

Read also:

Learn more about the often-surprising ways we connect with donors by taking our most popular online course, Irresistible Communications for Great Nonprofits. It’s available for members of The Fundraisingology Lab.

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Get more from your monthly giving program
Monthly Giving

The Easy Way to Make Your Monthly Giving Program Even Better

Congratulations! You have a monthly giving program. Donors are joining it, and your organization is reaping the benefits of increased giving and amazing donor retention.

There’s something else you can do to make it even more amazing. And I bet you’re afraid to do it.

It’s this: send extra appeals to your monthly donors.

You might think that sending extra appeals will violate an unwritten contract with pledgers, who give what they’re going to give and shouldn’t be asked to do any more than that. You’re afraid breaking that contract will cause your monthly donors to leave you in disgust. As if you killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

Sounds reasonable. But it’s not.

In fact, it’s a myth.

I’ve tested it. And when you send extra appeals to monthly givers, you improve retention rates  for those monthly donors. Now they already have retention rates above 90%, so there’s not a huge amount of room for improvement, but improvement happens. Meaning that so far from causing donors to abandon you in disgust, the extra asking helps improve an already superb relationship.

And you raise extra money for the cause you and your donors love.

It’s a classic win-win.

I’m not the only one who has tested this. Large, sophisticated fundraisers with great monthly giving programs know this too, and generally send extra appeals to those donors.

Up to four extra appeals a year. (I haven’t seen more than four, so it may be there’s some negative impact if you send more than that.)

There are two types of monthly donors with whom this does not work: Those who joined by face-to-face (“street” fundraising) and those who were converted from online lead generation. With these groups, extra appeals have not had this same positive impact. So proceed with caution.

But for other monthly donors, you can think of it this way: asking donors to donate is kind of like asking fish to swim or birds to sing. It’s what they do. It’s what they want to do. Giving them the opportunity is not a rude and hurtful intrusion.

The most successful fundraisers are those who are in tune with the fundamental reality that donors want to donate. Fundraisers who see asking for donations as negative miss the whole point — and end up under-serving their donors and under-funding their mission.

Approach fundraising as the life-changing blessing for donors that it is. Then you won’t be afraid to send extra appeals to monthly donors. And you’ll raise more funds from more-dedicated donors.

Don’t miss this related post: The Surprisingly Effective Way to Up Your Fundraising Game and Find Your Most Devoted Donors

Please share your experience with monthly giving by leaving your reply below. We’d love to learn from your experience.

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