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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

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

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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