One-time donations are great, but nothing beats the ongoing positive impact of monthly giving. Why? Because monthly donations provide your nonprofit with access to reliable, sustainable funding all year round. These donations can help you continue working toward your mission even during times when you receive fewer one-time donations.
Online monthly giving has grown by 40% in recent years as recurring donation options become increasingly popular among donors. Your organization can take advantage of this effective fundraising opportunity by encouraging more of your donors to become recurring contributors.
In this guide, we’ll cover tips for developing and implementing a strategic approach to securing recurring donations. We’ll highlight:
- Benefits of creating a monthly giving program
- How to ask for monthly donations
- 6 best practices for your monthly giving program
- 5 monthly giving program examples to inspire you
Benefits of creating a monthly giving program
Benefits for your organization
Your monthly donation program can offer your nonprofit:
- A reliable, predictable source of ongoing fundraising revenue. Your monthly donations can fund everything from ongoing projects to unexpected expenses.
- A pool of planned and major gift prospects. Since monthly donors give consistently, they have the potential to offer a greater lifetime value to your nonprofit than one-time or occasional donors. You can conduct prospect research within your monthly donor pool to identify planned and major gift prospects.
- A higher donor lifetime value. Since monthly donors give consistently, they have the potential to offer a greater lifetime value than one-time, occasional donors. With effective donor stewardship strategies in place, you can boost your monthly donors’ lifetime value even more and encourage them to continue supporting your cause for the long term.
Benefits for your donors
There are also several reasons why making a recurring donation is beneficial for your donors. These include:
- Convenience. Monthly donations are automatically processed, meaning donors don’t have to input their payment information or mail in their donations every time they want to give.
- Flexibility. Monthly donors can adjust their donation amount over time.
- Access to exclusive opportunities. You can offer donors additional benefits when they sign up for your monthly giving program, such as exclusive event access or free merchandise. This helps them feel more connected to your organization.
How to ask for monthly donations
Step 1: Identify prospective monthly donors.
You should highlight your monthly giving program on your website, donation page, social media platforms, and other marketing channels to reach a general audience. You should also ask certain donors directly if they’d like to participate in your monthly giving program. Use the information stored in your donor management software or constituent relationship management software and other prospecting tools to identify prospective monthly donors.
Your best prospects are current donors, especially those who:
- Have made at least two gifts within the past year. This indicates that the supporters are willing to give more than once within a year.
- Are new or recent. These donors may not be familiar with your monthly giving program, so it’s crucial that you send them information about the program and its impact.
- Give through multiple channels. For example, a donor who gives using your online donation page, direct mail, and at events might appreciate being able to give regularly through just one channel—your monthly giving program.
Once you identify these donors, create an email marketing campaign or other outreach strategies to introduce these donors to your monthly giving program. Your campaign should highlight its impact and donor benefits.
Step 2: Include suggested monthly donation amounts.
When creating your monthly giving program, make sure you include suggested giving amounts. Usually, nonprofits list three suggested donation amounts in addition to the field that lets donors input their own donation amount.
For prospective new donors, experts recommend figuring out your average donation amount and dividing it by three to determine your entry-level monthly donation request. So, if your average donation amount is $30, your monthly donation request would start at $10/month.
If you’re requesting monthly donations from current donors, personalize your request using each donor’s past giving history as a reference. For instance, if a certain donor has contributed three donations of $30, $45, and $50 over the past year, you might request a recurring donation of $14/month (which is roughly the average of their past donations divided by three). You can connect with donors directly using your email, text, and other communication platforms to request these personalized monthly donations.
Step 3: Use multiple channels to promote your program.
Once you’ve established the basics of your monthly giving program, connect with your prospects to encourage them to sign up. Here are a few channels you can use:
- Your online donation form. Include an option for donors to turn their one-time gifts into recurring monthly donations.
- Your website. Spotlight your program by creating a web page explaining the purpose of the program, the benefits donors will receive from participating, and a link to sign up.
- Social media. Create a monthly giving program video to share on social media. Use direct messages to connect with the prospective donors you identified.
- Email. Reach out to prospective monthly donors via an email marketing campaign.
- Direct mail. If you have supporters’ home addresses, you can send them letters encouraging them to participate in the monthly giving program.
- Texts. Send information about your monthly giving program via text.
- At events. Invite prospective monthly donors to events and highlight your giving program.
- During phone calls or face-to-face meetings. Present monthly giving as a great option for smaller or mid-tier donors to make an even greater impact on your mission.
Make your monthly giving program a prominent giving option that you present to donors on a regular basis alongside your other giving opportunities.
6 best practices for your monthly giving program
As you carry out the steps listed above, incorporate best practices for making your monthly giving program more effective.
1. Set program goals.
Set goals for your monthly giving program that are SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-sensitive. When you set goals, you’ll know which tools you’ll need and which strategies to use to meet those goals.
Here are a few examples of goals you could set:
- We want to expand our monthly giving program by adding 50 new supporters by the end of the year.
- We want to boost our monthly giving program revenue by $5,000 over the next six months.
- We want to increase our monthly giving program retention rate by at least 20% by the end of the year.
These goals give your team an objective to strive for and offer a benchmark that will determine the success of your fundraising strategies.
2. Connect the program to a direct impact.
In your monthly giving program marketing materials, describe how monthly donations allow your organization to work more effectively toward your mission.
For instance, if your organization facilitates local volunteer efforts, you might explain that your monthly giving program funds tools needed for a specific community project.
3. Collect donations with a secure payment processor.
You’ll need a secure payment processing system to quickly and easily process monthly donations. Look for a payment processor that:
- Gives donors the option to cover processing fees
- Accepts both one-time and recurring credit and debit card payments
- Offers best-in-class data security that keeps donor information safe
4. Brand your monthly giving program.
Make your monthly giving program stand out by giving it a unique tagline or name that communicates the purpose of the program. This will help you foster a strong sense of community for donors, making them feel like members of a special club. You can find examples of monthly program names in the last section of this post.
5. Offer incentives to join.
Many donors will be happy to join your monthly giving program because of the impact they can have on your mission. Another way to entice them to join is to offer incentives that give donors something tangible in return for their support.
Offer monthly donors incentives such as:
- Free merchandise
- Free event access or discounted tickets
- Exclusive access to educational resources, such as members-only publications or webinars
- Having their name on your digital or physical donor wall
These benefits can help influence donors who might be on the fence about joining your program to get involved.
6. Develop a monthly donor acknowledgment plan.
Just like your other donors, you must create a donor stewardship strategy to build relationships with monthly donors. This helps increase your program’s retention rate and gives donors a more fulfilling experience.
For example, you might send a welcome package to new donors and a letter each month letting them know about their impact and thanking them for being a member of the program. Create a communications calendar of year-round message ideas and engagement opportunities, like volunteer opportunities and events.
5 monthly giving program examples to inspire you
Looking for inspiration for your monthly giving program? See what other nonprofits are doing with their programs. Here are five inspiring nonprofit monthly giving programs to check out:
charity: water: The Spring
The mission of charity: water is to provide global access to clean water. The organization’s monthly giving program, The Spring, brings together a group of dedicated donors focused on solving the water crisis.
The donation form explains that a $40/month donation provides clean water for 12 people for a year and that 100% of donations go toward water projects. This lets donors know the real impact of their recurring donation and reassures them that their funds will be used for critical needs.
World Wildlife Fund: WWF Heroes
World Wildlife Fund (WWF) seeks to protect endangered species and conserve natural resources.
WWF’s monthly donors are called WWF Heroes. These donors enjoy benefits such as a quarterly magazine, an annual calendar, and exclusive members-only emails. Monthly donors can also select a thank you gift, such as a set of tote bags or a pair of socks.
Donors who make a monthly contribution of $85 or more become Partners in Conservation. These donors earn special access and benefits, such as direct phone or email access to a personal staff liaison and invitations to exclusive webinars and events.
Doctors Without Borders: Field Partners
Doctors Without Borders is committed to delivering lifesaving medical care to people in need around the world. The organization’s monthly donors are called Field Partners, which positions the donor as someone who is just as integral to the success of the mission as a Doctors Without Borders employee who is working on the ground.
The Field Partners web page offers an extensive explanation of why supporters should become monthly donors, how recurring giving works, and the benefits of joining the program. It also provides a succinct reason to join, saying, “No matter the amount, your recurring donation has a serious impact: knowing we can count on receiving your recurring gift makes it easier for us to be prepared for whatever emergency or crisis we respond to next.”
The Field Partners page also includes this infographic that highlights the impact of giving at different levels.
(Source: Doctors Without Borders)
The organization also allows donors to join the program online, by phone, or via direct mail, giving more flexibility in how supporters can sign up.
The Nature Conservancy: Conservation Champions
The Nature Conservancy is dedicated to conservation, improving biodiversity, and tackling climate change. When supporters donate to the organization’s monthly giving program, they become Conservation Champions.
The monthly giving web page explains the benefits of becoming a Conservation Champion, such as the flexibility and convenience of the program. Plus, members receive special benefits such as news and update emails, an award-winning magazine, and an annual calendar.
CARE: Partners for Change
CARE works in more than 100 countries to fight hunger and malnutrition, support health initiatives, eradicate poverty, and provide other forms of humanitarian aid. Donors who join CARE’s monthly giving program are called Partners for Change.
The program’s web page offers suggested donation options and describes the impact of each monthly donation amount. For example, a $43 donation can provide a family of six with nutritious meals for 30 days, a hygiene kit, and six months of water treatment.
The page also breaks down the monthly giving process in three easy steps:
- Donors choose a donation amount.
- Donors are charged every month.
- Donors join a strong community of Partners for Change, receiving benefits such as a car decal, world report, and monthly impact stories.
Finally, the page also highlights how the organization allocates expenses, emphasizing the fact that 90% of donations are used to fund program activities, while 10% goes to support services and fundraising activities.
Take some time to explore the monthly giving pages of these organizations and other nonprofits to choose the elements that you’d like to incorporate into your own program.
Monthly giving is a convenient way for donors to increase their level of financial support and get more involved in your mission. Plus, monthly donations can give your organization a stronger source of revenue, allowing you to plan for what your organization would like to do in the coming months and years.
For more information, check out these additional resources:
- How to Upgrade Nonprofit Donors Using Suggested Donations. Providing suggested donation amounts can make it easier for donors to choose their monthly contribution level. Use this post to understand the best strategies for choosing suggested donations.
- Online Fundraising | Ultimate Success Guide + Tips and Ideas. Interested in expanding your online fundraising strategy to include more campaign types and platforms? This guide offers information on building a strong online fundraising approach.
- The Ultimate Donor Engagement Guide + Top Strategies. Ongoing donor engagement is key to growing loyalty among monthly donors. This guide offers effective donor engagement strategies to try.