The value of sustainer giving is exponentially valuable.
Not only do recurring donors give more over the course of a year, they also stick with you longer. According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project Report, 90% of monthly givers renew. This compares with just 19% of first-time single gift donors and 60% of recurring single gift donors. Nonprofit monthly giving programs are hands-down the best way I know to retain and upgrade supporters.
The return on your investment is huge!
So why don’t more nonprofits prioritize this giving strategy? Why is your own monthly giving program languishing?
Here’s the kicker: You can’t set up a monthly giving program and then forget it.
You do have to invest in your monthly giving program. It doesn’t take a lot, but you must commit time and resources. You need a written promotional and cultivation plan, and you need to dedicate yourself to ongoing implementation and evaluation. Just like with any other fundraising strategy, nothing comes from nothing.
Nonprofit Monthly Giving Programs Don’t Market Themselves
Creating awareness, developing interest, promoting engagement and implementing ongoing cultivation are crucial to any fundraising strategy. Monthly giving is no different.
In fact, arguably monthly donors are the folks who most love to hear from you on a regular basis. They’ve committed to engaging with you regularly, so they tend to be delighted to hear from you with regular updates about the outcomes of their philanthropy. They give/you give. They give/you give. They give/you give. And so on… times 12.
The very best way to communicate with both current and prospective monthly donors is through storytelling.
You can share a story every month, in fact. Some organizations share a new monthly video, either on their website or via email, but you don’t have to do anything elaborate. Photos with captions work well too. As do handwritten thank you notes or testimonials from people who’ve been helped.
Begin Your Monthly Giving Storytelling before Asking
The goal is to show folks how monthly donors, together, create a story with a happy ending. No matter how small any individual donor’s gift may be, through the power of joining your monthly giving community they are able to leverage their giving and help achieve outcomes greater than they could on their own.
EXAMPLE: Charity: water
You may as well borrow from the best, and Charity: water does an outstanding job of storytelling through their monthly giving community The Spring. The examples below all come from their home page. They switch the copy and photos up over time, so the messaging feels fresh. They have additional stories on “The Spring” donation landing page. Here are screenshots from three different moments in time.
The first tells a broad story about all the things clean water makes possible, getting specific when it comes to the outcomes $40/month creates.
The second is more succinct in narrative, includes a compelling photo, and again gets specific about the outcomes of the donor’s monthly commitment.
The third is very donor-centric, including a video, photos and little story vignettes in the form of captions. It’s also timely and relevant to what may be top of mind for potential supporters based on events in the news.
This example comes from their donation giving landing page, where they’ve set the default to monthly giving. They highlight one amount; then describe what this amount will accomplish.
Continue Your Monthly Giving Storytelling after Asking
Once folks have joined your program, don’t ignore them. While their retention rate is high, you still want to inspire them to (a) continue; (b) upgrade; (c) consider a legacy gift, and (d) tell their friends.
EXAMPLE: Vida Joven
Again, let’s borrow from the best. I recommend making a small monthly donation to Vida Joven for a Master Class in nurturing your monthly supporters. Every month they email supporters directly. The emails are super-personal, always addressing and thanking the donor by name multiple times. They’re also warm and homey, befitting a nonprofit that is a home for orphaned children. Some are long; some are short. They always include emotional images. And the images shared show and tell the impact of the donor’s generosity. It’s a whole lot of “feel good” going on.
Here is an example from an email sent in September:
Here is the top part of an email sent in October. The full email included two additional photos, both happy head shots, with captions like “Whether I’m sad, or silly, or serene, YOU CARE.”
Finally, here is a short email sent in June.
Heart-warming stuff that sets the stage to ask for an upgraded gift next year.
Tell Your Story and Make Your Case for Monthly Giving through Multiple Media
Besides the obvious strategies of making your case for monthly support on your website, and sustaining that case through emailed thank you letters, here are several other mediums for monthly giving messaging.
1. Share your story on social media.
Whatever platforms you use – e.g., Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube — consider them as ways to share the news about the wonderful impact monthly donors make. Include links to short videos on your website (here’s how to create a storytelling fundraising video just using your smartphone). You can also include links to gratitude videos that thank supporters and shine a light on outcomes accomplished – thanks to monthly supporters.
2. Share your monthly giving opportunity at events.
Whether holding events on-site or virtually, you can project a video telling the story of your monthly giving club or community. Focus primarily on the benefits to those in need, and the psychic rewards to the donors. Of course, you can also mention what everyone in your “club” receives (e.g., recognition on donor honor roll; special monthly giving news; invitation to exclusive event, and so forth), but mostly donors join for the warm glow. The benefits you deliver afterwards are largely a way to cement and grow the relationship you’re developing. If you’re in person, you can ask attendees to whip out their smart phones and text to give. If your event is online, it’s easy to also include a web link or even a QR Code people can use to take them directly to your donation page.
3. Ask other donors to share your stories, and monthly giving request, via peer-to-peer fundraising.
The king of this method of fundraising, again, is Charity: water, who practically invented the birthday campaign. This requires setting up do-it-yourself (DIY) fundraising pages on your website so folks can create their own fundraising pages to ask for donations from their personal networks. It’s a great way to turn someone who gives $25/month ($300/year) into someone who recruits 10 friends, also at $300/year, making them the equivalent of a $3,300 annual donor in terms of their value to you! And you’ll get 10 new monthly donors you’ll likely retain at an 80-90% rate, rather than the average new donor rate of 19%.
4. Send a dedicated mailed appeal inviting folks to join your monthly giving club.
Don‘t forget this most tried-and-true strategy! It’s not simply an add-on to your regular appeal, but a specific offer to become one of these special sustainers. There are a number of ways to accomplish this goal. You can send a special monthly giving appeal letter or email. You can even pick a month where you take over your homepage with a monthly giving campaign that links to the monthly giving landing page when donors click on it.
Be Proactive to Make the Magic Happen
Chances are you already have some sort of monthly giving initiative. But… is it the best it can be? Could it do more heavy lifting for you? Could it help you renew donors and sustain greater loyalty? Could it be a magical upgrading strategy that boosts the amount of support received from current donors?
The answer is YES!
Magic happens when you make it happen. Pick one of the strategies suggested here, and start upping your game. You’ll be glad you did.
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