Monthly giving rocks. You read about it in blogs, you hear about it at conferences. The data I look at for my clients shows me growth in countries like Canada and Australia and many other developed fundraising nations of 20% year on year. With no sign of stopping.
To put further credence to the argument, on average a monthly donor is usually worth four to six times as much over their lifetime as a 'onetime' cash supporter. Sometimes more.
But how do you get them, and how do you keep them?
Let's break it down.
1 Developing the right proposition. What works to get onetime cash donors won't necessarily work to find monthly donors.
Soliciting cash gifts is about 'the now', the 'give me $50 or the dog gets it' kind of pitch.
Asking someone to become a monthly supporter is about partnership. It's about being in it for the long haul, together. It's about ongoing, committed support. It's about sustainability. It's about seeing the forest from the trees.
This isn't downplaying the importance of onetime gifts, it's about articulating the difference.
Attempts to secure monthly gifts fail usually because the messaging is wrong.
2 Google is your friend.
Use tools like Google Insights for Search to help shape your messaging.
Why? Because this shows you exactly what people (online) are searching for. It will give you some clues as to what people are really searching for and interested in, not what you think they are.
3 Don't lose sleep trying to 'be creative'. Sell benefits.
Calling your monthly program 'Wings of Hope' or 'Project Discovery' might sound really cool, but it won't grow your monthly file.
Tell people how they will help you change the world.
The benefit of supporting world class medical research is that I am helping to protect myself and my loved ones by ensuring leading research is conducted and able to find cures for killed diseases like cancer.
The benefit is not joining a club with a fancy name or the two glossy newsletters I get.
4 Break it down.
Firstly, break down the ask into daily amounts. Psychologically 30 cents a day doesn't sound like a hell of a lot. I can manage that.
Secondly, tell me about the one person (cat/dog/tree) I am going to help. I want to know about little Boys like Tommy, not the thousands of kids I could save. The gravity of the problem in the latter sounds far too big if not broken down.
5 Kill off cognitive dissonance. Really quickly.
You know that horrible feeling you have when you question a decision you have just made? That's how donors feel when they have just walked away from the canvasser on the street, or put down the phone from that telefundraiser.
Don't let this fester, attend to it immediately. Make the most of the 'honeymoon period'. The first month after sign up, when both parties should still be madly in love with each other.
That means brilliant welcome calls/packages that reinforce the original decision. It may be an SMS the day after I join, perhaps a video message from someone in the field, or a beneficiary just saying thank you.
The honeymoon period is about regular communications playing back how we're helping make a difference.
6 Talk to them differently.
A donor recruited on the street (younger, average age around 30) looks and behaves a lot different to a donor recruited in the mail (older, different life stage, average age 60+).
It's roughly the difference between my mother and I. We look at things differently and we certainly behave differently.
This is the way you should view your communications streams. Acknowledge that different recruitment vehicles will bring you unique constituents. Acknowledging this is the first step to ensuring you talk to them differently.
Don't put them in the same 'bucket'. Test different communications streams/cohorts and determine the best way to look after them, delivering the most value to your donors, and ultimately your beneficiaries.
7 Upgrade them.
Go back to new monthly donors shortly after sign up (between 4 and 9 months, test this to find the optimum time). Ask them to increase their monthly contribution.
Three reasons why you should do this:
- You will generate more income.
- This is an opportunity to speak to your donors, tell them a story
- You will increase retention, regardless of the outcome (provided its a great call)
8 Understand their real value
Work out the net value to date of all monthly donors recruited by channel and year. In other words, take into account what it cost you to recruit and cultivate each monthly giving group.
This allows you to say things like "My direct mail monthly donors are worth an average of $250 net after three years, whereas my TV recruits are worth $400".
I can tell you, this will change the conversation you have with your boss or board member when asked "Why do we do street fundraising" or "Why are we calling people at 8pm when they are in the bath"?
Having this level of information helps you to know the success of various initiatives, budget for the future and tells you where you should be focusing your efforts.
Ongoing, monthly support really is the way to go.