keep monthly donors longer

Steven Shattuck recently gave us an update on an experiment he did with monthly donors. He made a gift to ten different organizations and then saw if they received any special treatment on Giving Tuesday.

Spoiler alert: only one out of the ten did something special. Only one of them addressed Steven as a monthly donor.

Only two even asked their monthly donors for a Giving Tuesday gift.

How sad is that? Lots of money left on the table. But worse, you missed an opportunity for special engagement with your monthly donors.

If you’ve been converting donors or constituents to give monthly for some time, you know that most of them LOVE your organization. They’re always looking to hear your great stories and updates. They were perhaps giving single gifts for quite some time before giving monthly.

The last thing you want to do is stop the communication.

Make sure you continue to engage them. Make sure you recognize them as a monthly donor all the time. Do offer them some extra opportunities to give.

Giving Tuesday or any other special giving day that fits your organization could offer just that. If you have a match or challenge, your monthly donors will be interested in it. If you’re offering a calendar, a supporter card, a newsletter, your monthly donors would love to receive it.

Mind you: not everybody will give every time. Some may not give at all. But just the fact that you’re letting the donor know about it and the fact that you always build in a thank you will make the donor feel special.

When and how should you offer your monthly donors these engagement opportunities?

With flags, tags or groups in your donor base and your email program, engaging your monthly donors shouldn’t be that hard to do.  

Monthly donors WILL ABSOLUTELY LOVE the opportunity to give another gift when you ask them. But you do need to do Something Special. And you never want to overdo it.

So here are just a few ways you can engage and involve your monthly donors and make them part of your continued giving strategy. You’ll not only raise more money, but you’ll also keep your monthly donors longer. You’ll be able to upgrade them to higher levels.

But do remember, it’s all about donor intent. If someone told you they’d want to go on a reduced communication schedule, you should abide by it. And if someone ever complains, you’ll immediately adjust the donor’s flag and their email and mail frequency. Donors will self-identify. Donors LOVE you, so giving them the opportunity to make another gift while updating them on the latest story is not a bad combination at all.

Extra giving opportunities for monthly donors

So, how often is too much? How often is not enough? What are some of the ways you can engage your monthly donors?

Start by reviewing your communications calendar. If you’re only sending out two appeals a year, please include your monthly donors in those appeals. BUT, do something extra. Handwrite (or laser if your number of monthly donors is considerable) a personal note. Just a simple message like: “Thank you so much for your ongoing monthly gifts. You make a difference. Here’s just one example of how you help …. Thank you again!” your name

And there are different variations. You can take a post-it-note and have board members or volunteers write notes. You can laser your message with real pen technology, so it looks real. Or you can build the message into the letter itself.

Whatever you do, make sure to tell your monthly donor that you know that they’re already giving that way and how much you appreciate it. Perhaps you can borrow from your major giving recognition and cultivation playbook. Your monthly donors are not tiny, they’re basically mid-level donors. Please recognize them as such.

1. Newsletters Rock

If you’re sending out newsletters, you must absolutely include your monthly donors there. While they may not necessarily donate again, it’s a great way to engage and update them about the difference they’re making. It’s always good to include a monthly donor testimonial. It confirms to them what they’ve already done and why.

It’s just like why you notice more silver RAV 4’s on the road if you just bought one. This approach makes the donor feel GOOD!  

Some organizations create special newsletters for their monthly donors. I recommend not to worry about that until you have a significant number of monthly givers, typically at least 5,000, to make it worth your while. Instead you could consider a little lasered message on the outside of your regular newsletter (if you’re mailing it as a self mailer) or inside the piece in the letter (if you’re mailing it in an envelope).

2. Special Appeals Matter

If your organization mails something like an appreciation certificate or a supporter card, those are great to send to your monthly donors as well. If you have a calendar, wonderful, absolutely send it to your monthly donors. If you have a match appeal, include them. But incorporate that thank you in every appeal. You will not regret it.

If you’re mailing more than four times a year, do take a look at the number of appeals and types of appeals you’re sending and choose the 4 top ones. The ones that are most successful in generating donations. Incorporate your monthly donors in those with that special recognition message. You’ll not only raise more money but you’ll also make them feel special. It’s totally okay to give them a special opportunity to make an additional gift.

3. Annual Reports Provide Impact  

If you’re creating a nice donor-centric annual report, with lots of stories and pictures, absolutely send it to your monthly donors. But, if you still include a donor listing, make sure you include your monthly donors as a special group (and have a short explanation and description about monthly giving, and even that testimonial) there as well.

4. Thank-a-thons Can become Upgrade-a-thons  

If you’re organizing a thank-a-thon or a voice broadcast on a regular basis, absolutely do include your monthly donors. If you speak with them directly, make that the opportunity to ask why the donor gives monthly and if you have permission to send them text messages.  Now’s the time to get those permissions in place.

Also, as you grow your monthly donor program, start building in a thank you and upgrade call. You won’t regret it. You should be able to upgrade your monthly donors at least once a year. I wouldn’t do it more often than that to be honest. That would come across as too greedy otherwise. Everything you do should ‘drip’ of gratefulness and ‘invitation’ to continue to be special.

5. Emails can be Extra Engaging

A monthly email to your monthly donors is almost the very minimum. Again, because you have a special segment, you can easily address them and thank them in a special way. And then the match and giving day emails are great to add.

And don’t be afraid to send a Surprise message every now and then. Because you’ve created that special email group, you can simply use a version of the email you’re sending to all other donors and constituents so you really don’t have to recreate the wheel.

I also recommend sending a survey every now and then. Then, track the open and click through rates for the special group and you’ll see that monthly donors are more engaged and more likely to open your messages.  

6. Events offer great Opportunities

I’m a strong proponent of inviting monthly donors to events. They may not come but just the fact that you invited them will make them feel special. This of course depends a bit on the type of events you have but anything to do with recognition, annual meetings, casual events are great.

For gala events, you may wish to be a bit more targeted and only invite those who give $25 a month or more as you typically want people in the seats who are able to bid on auction items. If you can, do send an invite to all your monthly donors though. If the ticket price is $100 or more, the donors will self identify. They’ll come if they think they can afford it.

In short …

Don’t be afraid to engage your monthly donors and give them additional opportunities to support you. They’ll love you and become even more loyal than ever before. But do look at your communications schedule, don’t overdo it but don’t under do it either.

Erica Waasdorp
Erica Waasdorp is President of A Direct Solution, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. Erica lives and breathes direct response and fundraising and can be considered a Philanthropyholic. Erica published "Monthly Giving." "The Sleeping Giant," the "Monthly Donor Road Map" and many other resources on Monthly Giving. She blogs, presents in person and via webinars and she helps her clients with appeals, direct mail and monthly giving. She is a Master Trainer for the Association of Fundraising Professionals and she was the US Ambassador for the International Fundraising Congress (IFC) and she has planned numerous conferences and workshops. Erica loves traveling with her husband, playing golf, dancing, reading, barre classes and more. They have a little tuxedo cat Mientje, two boys and three grandkids.