In this webinar, Erica Waasdorp will show you the best approaches to keep your monthly donors giving for years on end, using tools you already have in place.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Erica, my watch just hit two o’clock eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Erica: Go for it.

Steven: All right, awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you are on the East Coast and good morning if you’re out on the West Coast. Thanks so much for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Five Ways to Keep your Monthly Donors.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the chief engagement officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. I got a little bit of a sinus infection, so I apologize for my baritone, but you’re not going to have to hear from me for very long, so don’t worry too much about that.

Just a couple of housekeeping items for you today. Just want to let you all know that we’re recording this session and we’ll be sending out the slides and the recording later on this afternoon. In case if you already missed the slides, you’ll get them again as well as the recording. So if you have to leave early, if you have to bounce out for a meeting or something else is going on, don’t worry, we’ll get you all the materials today and you’ll be able to share that and relive the content.

Most importantly, if you have a question or comment throughout the hour or so today, please feel free to send that through on the chat box right there on your screen. We’re going to save some time for Q&A. We’ll be watching it throughout the whole hour. We love for these sessions to be interactive. So don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. I’ll also keep an eye on the Twitter feed, if you want to tweet us your questions or comments. We’ll collect those as well. So don’t be shy.

And if you have any trouble with your computer speaker audio, we find that the audio by telephone is usually a lot more solid than the computer audio. If you have any audio difficulties, any technical difficulties and you have a phone that you don’t mind dialing into if that’ll be comfortable for you and maybe not disturb a co-worker, try that before you totally give up on us. Just check in the email confirmation you got from ReadyTalk and it’ll have a phone number you can dial into for much better audio typically.

And if this is your first Bloomerang Thursday webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to you folks. We do these webinars just about every Thursday. We literally only miss a couple weeks out of the year. Bring on great guests like today’s speaker is no exception at all. Educational presentation, you know, no sales pitches.

But in addition to that, we are a provider of donor management software. So just for context, that’s who Bloomerang is. If you want to learn more about us, check out the website. You can even get a quick video demo and see the software in action.

But don’t do that right now, because you all are in for a real treat. We have one of my favorite people of all time, and I do not say that lightly. I see Erica at conferences a lot, and I’ve been begging her to come on the webinar series. I feel bad that she hasn’t sooner than this, but we’ve got Erica Waasdorp here joining us from beautiful Cape Cod. How’s it going, Erica? Thanks for being here. I really appreciate it. Are you doing okay?

Erica: Good, thank you. Yes, I’m doing okay.

Steven: If you all don’t know Erica, I’m not going to read her whole bio, she says going to talk a little bit about herself, but she is who I consider to be literally the queen of monthly giving. When I hear monthly giving, I think of Erica immediately, anytime anyone asks me a question about monthly giving, I say, “Check out Erica, read her book, buy her book, read her blog.” She is to me, the undisputed expert in monthly giving. She has a great book on the subject, like I said, “Monthly Giving the Sleeping Giant,” which all of you should buy. I don’t get a kickback or a commission on that. I don’t mind giving a little commercial for it.

She’s a master trainer for AFP. She is also really cool. She’s a U.S. ambassador for the IFC event that happens over in Europe, which is a great event if you can get over there and get to it. And like I said, she writes a lot, speaks a lot, gives webinars. Definitely check out her sessions if you ever see her on a conference schedule, but I have already taken away way too much time from Erica. She’s got a lot of good tips for you on monthly giving. So, Erica, the floor is yours. Take it away, my friend.

Erica: Great. Awesome. Thanks so much, Steve. So, and this is actually a brand new webinar. I have not presented this before. So you’re in for a treat, I hope so. And, you know, we’re going to talk about five ways to keep your monthly donors, because a lot of you have now started a monthly giving program.

So let’s start off with a poll as to just to get a feel for who’s in the room, like, how many monthly donors do you have now? And I see that’s the wrong poll. So how many monthly donors do you have? You want to go and see where that one went. So we literally just did this [stuff 00:04:35] for . . .

Steven: I’m sorry, Erica. I put in the wrong one there.

Erica: Yeah, this is the wrong poll.

Steven: [inaudible 00:04:37] real quick.

Erica: Sorry about that.

Steven: That was my bad. Here we go. It’s going to be in there in just a second. Here we go.

Erica: Steve’s like, okay, here we go.

Steven: Okay. There we go.

Erica: Okay. All right. How many monthly donors . . . Yeah. How many monthly donors do you have? Is it fewer than 25, between 25 and 100, more than 100, or you’re not sure? And I see like several of you, some people are not actually filling in the poll there. Some of you are more than 100. Some of you have like 25, 19, 4, 52. So it seems it’s all over the map. Okay. So let me see. I think pretty much everybody has filled it in, right, Steve? So let me just get the results.

Steven: Yeah, looks like most people are fewer than 25.

Erica: Okay. All right. So 45% fewer than 25, and then, you know, 26% is between 25 and 100. And then 25% is more than 100. So that’s great. That’s awesome. That’s a great starting point. Super. Okay.

All right. Just a quick refresher why, you know, why is Steve so excited about monthly giving? Why am I so excited about monthly giving? Why should everybody really be excited about monthly giving? It’s because of the tremendous value, right? So right now we’re seeing that the average monthly gift is $24 a month. So that’s $288 a year. I always recommend that whenever you talk about monthly giving, even if you only have like five or seven or 10 monthly donors right now is always annualize the value. Say look, I have so many givers that give to $288 a year. So that’s really, really powerful, right?

So if you compare that to like people, when they give to an appeal, or when they give them online, they might be giving like $58, maybe $100, maybe $125 as a one-time donation, right? But if you can convert them to give monthly, they’re going to be giving you $288 a year at a minimum. So that’s number one.

The second piece is, and again, I know Bloomerang has done a lot of work and studies on donor retention is, that the donor retention rates for monthly givers can go up to 90%, in some cases even higher, right?

So if you look at the fact that the current donor retention rate is about 45%, so that means you had 100 donors last year, 45 donors are going to give again this year unless you convert them to give monthly, right? So because then you can get them to give 90, to stay with you at 90% retention rate or higher.

It does differ a little bit by how you have brought them in. So some of you and I’d love to know actually, if some of you are still offering the check statement option, the check reminder. A lot of religious organizations, a lot of organizations that started out with monthly giving many, many years ago, accept people who send in checks on a regular basis. Some send reminders, some send [six 00:08:04] envelops at a time, some send like 12 envelopes for the year, but the bulk of the folks are sending check reminders. That retention rate is about 75%.

If you can get monthly donors to give by credit card, that retention rate goes up to 87% right now. And if you can get them to give by electronic funds transfer, direct debit, ACH through their bank account, that retention rate goes up to 95%. And I see like some of you are indeed sending out postage paid envelopes.

So again, those are the three main ways that people can typically give monthly. So you see that once you get somebody to give by electronic funds transfer through a bank account that goes up to 95%. People just don’t change their bank account much at all ever. They might change banks once a lifetime, something like that.

So that’s the big thing. These are the reasons why monthly giving has really, really grown. So the first way to really keep your monthly donors is to set expectations. You really want to make sure that the monthly donor knows what they can expect. And where does that start? It sounds silly, but it actually starts with this. You want one person in charge of the program. It doesn’t mean that that person has to do everything.

In fact, as your program grows, hopefully, you can get staff and assistance with the whole process. You can outsource certain parts of the program, but you always want to have one person who’s looking at all of the moving parts, so that you can always know that you’re actually going in the right direction. So have one person in charge, very important. I mean, I come in and look at the organization’s programs. And a lot of times things fall through the cracks if there’s not one person in charge. Again, it sounds really silly, but this is a key element to keeping your monthly donors, is make sure that one person is accountable and in charge of the program.

The other thing is, and I mentioned it, is you want to tell the monthly donors what they can expect. So this permeates, basically, everything you do, wherever you post things and provide information about monthly giving. Whenever you start promoting your monthly giving program and really trying to grow it, you want to make sure that the donors know exactly what they can expect, because then they’re not going to be disappointed, right?

So what I also recommend is because I know a lot of organizations are small, it’s really important that whatever you communicate about what the monthly donor can expect, I call them the monthly donor promises. Whatever you communicate, keep it as simple as possible. In other words, you’re better off saying you will continue to receive updates rather than saying you will receive an email newsletter every week, and a quarterly print newsletter for example, right? So keep it very simple.

And you see this here, as your partner, as [they join the 00:11:42] True Neighbors, you can get news about our local progress, right? So it’s very vague. It’s something that you can commit to even if this means two emails a year or whatever it is, right. So just make sure that you be very simple and succinct. And also this is something that you can actually totally commit to, really, really important. It’s always okay to do something surprising, but don’t tell the donors that they’re going to get something and then you can follow through on it, really important.

The other thing is, and I don’t see this too much, but occasionally, I do see it where if you have a system that processes your monthly gifts, some of those systems that are in the marketplace, and no, it’s not Bloomerang, but some of the systems that are there actually have an end date on your monthly giving form. So when somebody joins rather than just saying we’ll start on the first of the month, it actually shows this end date option there, that is definitely a big no, no. Take it off, you can untick that box in the system. You never ever want to ask the donor to set an end date because they really don’t know what you want them to say there, right?

So monthly giving, unlike specific, timely pledges, monthly giving is ongoing until they stop or until basically, they pass away. So it’s going to give . . . go on, could go on forever or as long as they live. So don’t put an end date there. And again, that will help you with your retention rate.

I mean, I was working with an organization and they had about 5000 monthly donors and they were actually losing a thousand monthly donors over a couple of months because they had this end date option on there. The minute we took it off, they really started growing their monthly giving program again. So never have an end date on it.

And that same applies when you’re sending out a mailing. Here’s an example, please charge my credit card for so much a month for so many months. And again, I see this with some like arts organizations, cultural organizations, also some religious organizations, like if you want to say, “Please charge my credit card X amount per month,” and then just take off the for so many months because monthly giving is ongoing. No end date, really important.

The other thing is, and again, this sounds silly, but it just like it can ruin a lot of relationships that you might have with monthly gift . . . monthly donors is make sure that you test making a call to your organization. Again, if you’re very small and you have a small number of people answering the phone, I’m sure you’re doing a wonderful job, but the minute you start being a bigger organization, people don’t necessarily know what donors mean when they’re asking about monthly giving. So really make sure that whomever is answering the phone knows about your monthly giving program is aware of it and also knows exactly who to transfer the call to if there is a question, because these monthly donors are really committed. They care about your organization. They will have questions. So make sure that you can answer their questions, absolutely crucial.

And then the other thing is, like the minute somebody joins as a monthly donor, I recommend that you send them a hard copy thank you. I know that everybody wants to save money. And I know that everybody says, “Well, a lot of our monthly donors coming in online and isn’t the online thank you enough?” The answer is when they join just that first time, make sure that you send them something that they can hold on to, that has your contact information in it, that has an email address in it, that they know exactly what they can expect. So very important to send that hard copy thank you.

So the second piece when it comes to keep your monthly donors is that you want to say thank you over and over again, really important. So how does that little flowchart look like? Well, again, you ask them to join your monthly giving program. You say thank you, you engage them. And always in that engagement, you want to make sure that you say thank you because that helps retain those monthly donors.

So the thing that is really, really bad is unless somebody has specifically told you that they don’t want to hear from you, really keep them in your communication stream. But we’re going to look at what that communication stream looks like. Right? So do not say, “Oh, they just became a monthly donor, I have to stop communicating with them.” No, these are your loyal donors. They care about your organization. They’re committed to you, so make sure that you keep them engaged and communicate with them.

So what do you need to do, though, to make that happen? Create separate segments in your email program in your database, whether it’s an attribute or flag or group. Again, every donor base system is different, right? So, but create a separate segments so that way you can communicate with those monthly donors in a special way. You also know that there’s no overlap with other activities that you do. So create those separate segments.

Then also, make sure that if you do a thank-a-thon, that occasionally, you include these monthly donors in the mix, even if they give like $10 a month or $20 a month, it’s worth it to give the list of monthly donors to your volunteers to say thank you. Nothing beats a thank you call and even a thank you message, right? So it’s okay to leave a thank you message. So keep them in there.

So now we’re going to do this poll, is like how often do you communicate with your monthly donors? Is it twice a year, four times a year, eight times a year, monthly or never?

So let me see. And thanks, Steven. I think there’s call. Oh, sorry. I’m looking at a couple of questions while you’re filling in the poll here, is Holly says, “Who’s that person in charge of, just stewardship communications and also solicitations?” So that’s a great question, Holly. So basically, I recommend that that person is in charge of absolutely everything to do with the monthly giving. So it’s stewardship, it’s solicitations, it’s tracking, it’s system, it’s everything. So you’re basically in charge of like saying, “Yes, I’m a monthly donor manager or director,” or however you want to call it, but you’re totally in charge because you have so many moving parts.

And monthly giving is . . . you know, I ran huge monthly donor programs, right? So it permeates the whole organization. It does touch all of these pieces, right? So again, that’s why it’s important when you say, “Look, I’m in charge. I know how many monthly donors I have. I know when they drop off. I know what they’re going to get.

To give an example, I worked with a big organization recently and they had one person in charge of the solicitations generating new monthly donors. And the [CT 00:20:14] now we’re seeing a little bit of a decline and a year [anecdotes 00:20:19] that retention rate is going down. So my first question to them was okay, what is a thank you letter look like and they didn’t know. That person just had like a portion of it. So it’s really important to look at all of the pieces that you know what that thank you letter looks like, that you know what those monthly donors get. But that’s a great question. So let’s see, and keep those questions coming, right?

So I’m going to skip to the results now. Let’s see here. So how often do you communicate with your monthly donors? So 24% says twice a year, 28% says four times a year, 13% says eight times a year, and then 30% says monthly and only 6% says never. Okay, all right. I love it, how this like poll always seems to continue to be moving whenever I’ve post it. So all right, so that’s . . . so you see again, it’s all over the map, right? And again, the answer is, it does depend on what your donors are used to and what you can do in your communication schedule, right? But at least I don’t see as much, never. So that’s really good.

Let me go there. So the first thing is I mentioned when a monthly donor joins, you send a hard copy thank you letter. What I don’t recommend you do is send just a standard thank you letter in the mail every month, that would defeat the purpose. And again, this becomes part of your promises when you send the first thank you to the monthly donor saying, “Yes. From now on, you’re not going to receive monthly thank you letters but we are going to send you a letter, a tax letter in January that will have an overview of all of your donations.”

Again, you set the expectations. They know they don’t have to keep track of all their gifts, you’re doing that for them. And in January you send them a tax letter in the mail, that just gives them the total overview of the amount, the total amount. You don’t have to break it out.

Now, I know some systems will only allow you to provide a breakdown, like broken up by month. But if you cannot send that and just like have one total amount, that’s really all the donor needs. Of course, the more personal you can be, the better off you are.

Now again, as you’re growing your monthly donors, that might become a little bit more complicated. But nowadays, with lasering and you can do a lot that looks like personal notes. And, you know, you can even like print things that look like personal notes on it. But if you could send a pen, write a little personal note on it, like this example here. That’s wonderful, right? So again, you’ve taken a little bit of extra time to make it personal. And it’s still all about that personal connection and feeling that the monthly donor needs have of feeling special. Even if it’s 10 bucks a month like in this example. I’m feeling really, really special, right? And, you know, so that’s the one step but you want to definitely send that tax letter in January.

And then you can send what we call like an impact report or a newsletter, right? So and again, this impact report, this newsletter could be the same newsletter you’re sending to all your donors. So until you have like a thousand monthly donors, I don’t recommend that you start creating a totally separate impact report just for your monthly donors. I recommend creating a newsletter or impact report that you’re already sending out to all your donors.

And the only difference is again, you might put something special in there, you might put in a little post-it note on the inside. You might, you know, laser something special on the outside, for example, saying thank you so much for being a member of the community of hope. Thank you for being a partner for children in this example. So you can do a lot with laser printing or with post-it notes or with handwritten personal notes on it. That again, you know who those people are because you’ve isolated them as a separate segment earlier, right?

So impact reports, newsletters, you know, like donor updates, you know, however you call it, but those are really, really great. And again, don’t go out of your way to create a brand new, totally separate piece for that purpose.

But then maybe during the year you could do something really special, especially if you have a number of volunteers that can help you. Here’s an example of an organization that I visited and I started a month of . . . $5 a month gift and they sent me this heart in the mail last week. I mean, it’s just a simple like hand-cut heart that I got in the mail. There was nothing else in it, and I was like, wow, this is pretty special, right? So that’s the surprise, they didn’t tell me I was going to get it. But like, yeah, I’m part of this organization. Wow, this is pretty wonderful, right? Or send a special update. “Congratulations being a member for one year, you’ve reached that that benchmark,” right? “And here’s how it’s helped.” Again, it’s a personal note makes me feel really special.

So look at some of the things that you’re doing or could be doing. Engage some of your volunteers or maybe even your board members and say, “Look, we’re going to do a little like, thank-a-thon or we’re going to sit down and hand write some personal notes that we send out to our monthly donors because they’ve earned it,” right? So you don’t have to do all of this yourself. You can engage your other people in your organization.

And maybe if you’re a little bit bigger, you may have somebody in the major gifts department that’s already doing special recognition. So see if you can borrow some of their activities. Because remember, these are mid-level donors. They give to $288 a year. So it might be worth saying, “Hey, they’re already doing that. Let me just like update it,” and the only difference is saying thank you so much for being a monthly partner, rather than making $1,000 gift.

Because remember, $85 a month is $1,000 donor, right? So think about how you can work in some of the things you’re already doing to make these monthly donors feel special. Tell stories, really important, and use some of the monthly donors that you may have interviewed over time or go out and interview some of your monthly donors, say, “Why am I giving monthly?” Very powerful. It will help not only make them feel special, it also makes the existing monthly donors feel special. “Yes. Oh, I’m a champion. Yes, I do this and I have a different reason maybe, but I belong to this group,” right? So again, just like you some of the things that you may already be doing.

Always keep confirming that you as the monthly donor made the right decision. So what does that mean? You can have a newsletter. This is a standard newsletter that every donor gets. And it also has a invitation to become a Red Cross champion in it and it’s like, “Oh yeah, I’m already a Red Cross champion. This is great. And oh, here it is. These are the life-saving differences I make.” So it’s another way to confirm that I made the right decision, right? And you’re using something you’re already doing.

And then again, this is another surprise—a photo card, a volunteer with one of the clients with a little handwritten note that comes in out of the blue. I didn’t promise this donor that they were going to get this, but all of a sudden it comes in the mail. So really, really powerful.

So look at your communication plan and see what you’re doing now, and then create a special plan for your monthly donors. So for example, if you’re only communicating with your donors twice a year, you can communicate with your monthly donors twice a year. If you’re communicating with the monthly e-news update, you can send a monthly e-news update to your monthly donors. If you’re creating a quarterly newsletter or bi-annual newsletter, that’s totally fine to send to your monthly donors.

If you are mailing a number of appeals during the year, take a look at which ones are either very special or are really, really appreciated. Like I know some organizations they might have a calendar. Monthly donors will do love to get that calendar, right? So don’t exclude them from that unless of course, they’ve said that that’s what they want, right. But if you’re sending out a support [a 00:30:30] card or you’re sending going to match appeal, a challenge, right? Those are great appeals to send out to your monthly donors.

In that message, you all . . . in that letter though, because you’ve isolated them as a separate segment. You always want to have a special thank you message in the appeal letter or on top of the appeal letter that says, “Thank you so much for being a champion. I wanted to send you this match update, perhaps you’re interested in making another gift.”

And believe it or not, a lot of those monthly donors will actually make a 13th gift to you. So again, look at your best house file appeals, your donor appeals that you’re sending out and at least include that in the mix. We’ve talked about a tax letter, definitely send a tax letter. And also we’re going to be looking at asking monthly donors to upgrade. So that’s an additional approach that we’re going to add to the mix.

But again, every organization is different. So look at what you’re doing. Look at what your monthly donors might want to receive. If you’re not sure, you can ask them. “Well, hey, we have these cards or we have this special thing.” Just remembering that it would be great the more surprising, the more wonderful you can make them feel, the better off you are.

And again, it depends a little bit on the type of organizations as well. I work with a lot of animal organizations and a lot of religious organizations. You can’t come up with enough stories. I mean, these, you know, donors love to hear the stories. So it’s okay. I mean some of them actually send like monthly updates to their monthly donors and it’s there. They’re the best performing groups. They love hearing from it. They love responding. They love making extra gifts. And always we have that special thank you message in the mix so people know that they don’t have to, but they want to. So do give them the opportunities to continue to make a difference to your organization.

So, another piece of a way to find out what a monthly donor might want and how often they may want to hear from you is by doing a survey. So I recommend that you do at least one survey a year. And it could be just a very simple one, two, three questions. So one of the main questions would be, why are you giving monthly? And then ask them to fill that in a survey question. And then you can say, “Wow, I love what this donor wrote. I’m going to ask them for permission to use that in my communications to try to persuade other donors to become a monthly donor.”

So here’s an example of one of those quotes. And even better if you can talk to the donor, if you have an opportunity, ask them to put it on video. Video is so powerful, as I’m sure you know.

And again, this particular example, this is a young woman so again, we’re trying to generate younger donors, right? With monthly giving especially and they’re really taking us up on that. If you can have a younger donor, this is at a $5 a month former client actually of this particular organization and I put there the YouTube link so you can watch it on YouTube as well. So again, she’s just saying why she’s giving monthly and again, you can use that everywhere possible to reach out to bring in new monthly donors but also by inviting her to make this happen, it makes her feel really special as well.

And it’s okay, as I mentioned, to send additional appeals but you want to make sure you have that special message in there. This is St. Jude, they mail me monthly. I’m a monthly giver via an electronic funds transfer and yet I still get an update, I still get a picture, I still get a story every month and they ask me for a special gift and occasionally I do.

So here it is, thank you for being a Partner In Hope. Partners look like you, the progress we’ve made wouldn’t be possible without friends like you. Thank you. Just a very short message. And again, it works like a charm. It makes me feel special. It doesn’t make me feel like an ATM machine at all because it’s done in such a great, positive way.

And as I mentioned earlier, upgrades are absolutely possible. I recommend as you’re growing your monthly donor program upgrade at least once a year. January, February is usually a really good time. You stayed away from heavy appeal season. People have paid off their credit card bills for Christmas, right? So now you can say, “Well, everything has become more expensive. Would you be willing to upgrade your gift with just one or two or $3 more a month?” And you can do that in an mail, you can do it in email but as long as you do it.

Now, I would not recommend that you do this too soon. You want to wait at least six months, ideally even like 9 to 12 months so just before they’ve been giving for a year, a full year. That’s a good time to ask for an upgrade. Donors will then understand that things have become more expensive, right? But if you do it when they just join, that’s too greedy. If you do it after three months even, that’s too greedy, right? But upgrading allows you to also get the updated credit card information as well. So really, really powerful. So upgrades work really, really well.

And then occasionally throw in the request to put the organization in [their 00:36:52] will. Monthly donors are six times more likely to leave you in their will. So you need to start planting the seeds. So build that into your newsletters as well. Make sure that people start having that option that they can think about it.

So the next piece is that tracking and following up. This is really, really important, very crucial. So I’m going to do another poll here. I don’t see it so I hope it’s there.

Steven: Here, Erica. I’ll pop it in here really quickly.

Erica: Yes, pop it in there.

Steven: Okay. Here it comes.

Erica: I don’t know where it went. Yeah, okay, here we go.

Steven: There you go.

Erica: Which system are you using to manage your monthly donors? Is it Blackbaud or Raiser’s Edge product or Donor Perfect/Weblink and Bloomerang, Salesforce or other? Let’s see. I’m going to look at the questions while you’re doing that.

Susan says, “We include our monthly donors in our Giving Tuesday campaign. Many gave an extra gift at that time.” Great point, Susan. This is actually something that, Steve, you wrote a whole blog post about that, right?

Steven: Yeah.

Erica: So where nobody was actually including the monthly donors in the Giving Tuesday campaign so, Susan, you were one of the few that did that.

Steven: Good job.

Erica: So absolutely. Giving Tuesday is a great opportunity. A match is a great opportunity and email appeals are always great opportunities as well. All right, I’m going to skip to results. All right. Let’s see. So it looks like some of you 22% Blackboard, 22% Bloomerang and some 9% Salesforce and then some others like Neon I see, eTapestry, Salesforce. Okay. All right. It’s great. Okay. Thank you so much.

And the reason why I asked that question is because it determines a little bit of what you can and cannot do necessarily in terms of like how soon you can see which people were your hard cancels or your soft cancels. So when it comes to tracking and following up, this is really, really crucial. There was a study done recently where a colleague of ours had done like a, had raised 106 monthly gifts and found that 47% of the organizations were not following up when the monthly gift declined. Forty-seven percent were not following up. So you’re not going to be that 47%, right? You are going to follow up. And it’s key that you follow up right away and repeat and repeat, repeat. Do not give up on these monthly donors that stop.

Now there is a distinction. I make a distinction between what I would call like a hard cancel and a soft cancel. A hard cancel is a donor who calls you or writes to you and says, “I want to stop my monthly gift.” Now if they call you, they care, they really care. So find out why they cancel. Don’t just take their information and say, “Well, we’re going to make that happen.” No, find out what was it that made them cancel. And then some people say, “Well, I just lost my job or, you know, like my financial situation has changed.” Well, you can negotiate at that point and say, “Well, would it be possible to do a lower amount or maybe less frequent? Can we put a payments drop in?” So you have that opportunity when they call, right? And some people say, “Oh, I didn’t know I could do that.” “Yes, absolutely.” “I give you $5 a month, right?” So you’ve just kept that monthly donor, right?

And then also when you talk to them ask them if they continue to want to receive updates from you. So just because they said I don’t want to be giving monthly anymore because I can’t do it right now, they may still want to hear from you so you can get them back at some future point. But if they call, they care so try to find out what happened.

And then, of course, you do need to stop them right away and in some cases then maybe you’d say, “Well, we already did something in the mail that comes to you, just disregard that,” for example, right? If there’s a reminder that you might have sent out by the time that you get them on the phone, that could happen, right? So there’s always a little bit of that timing issue. So hard cancels, donors want to stop, that’s going to be the smallest amount that you have.

Soft cancels, donors want to continue but something happened where their card expired or declined, right? So bringing it back to the point of saying, “Look, one person in charge.” If they pick a date in the month that’s ideally the day after you process most of your monthly donors and that’s when you sit down and you might pull in your finance person and say, “Hey, was there anybody that didn’t go through.” So that’s a really important thing to say, “Okay, I want to at least pick one day a month that I’m going to look at all of those expiration and declines and I’m going to follow up,” right?

And then look at your system. And this is an example of a Bloomerang example. Every system is different. Some will allow you to see the cards that are about to expire so you can actually take action before it happens. Other cases like this, it says your card was declined, right? So now you can take action.

Look at this payment system alert that you can set up so again it makes it even easier for you, right? And then you can, in this case, you can change the amount right in screen or you can change the frequency right in the screen. You can get the updated information and update it so it keeps on processing, right? So really important to look at those payment system alerts if you can get them or get the information from your finance folks or whoever is looking at the processes of monthly gifts.

Some systems will ask you to edit your recurring contribution yourself. Now, it’s not the ideal situation but sometimes that’s what your system does so that’s what you have to do. So in other words, then you have to invite the donor and this happens with PayPal as well. You have to basically tell the donor, “It looks like your payment didn’t go through. Can you please go into your PayPal account and provide your updated credit card information?” The good news is that the minute one organization got to a PayPal monthly donor, it will update it for all recurring donations that that donor has, right? So that’s the good news. So if you can get this, do this right away, then you might actually help other organizations as well because you’ve just updated the credit card information for all, for everybody. So don’t ever give up.

Now I recommend that you also don’t wait too long and also don’t wait till one thing has happened. So what I recommend is you send a letter right away, you send an email right away, you call anybody that you have a phone number for and you leave a message. Do all three things at the same time because sometimes you can’t get to that person with the phone. And you know, again, I realize everybody’s very busy so do try to get this, like get as much support as possible for this. Try to say, “Look, on the day that my . . . ,” and again, especially as you’re growing your monthly donors, right? So try to maybe say, “Okay, on the day that I’m looking at my payments, I might have an extra volunteer come in who can help me make some phone calls or can help me send those letters out or can help me send out some emails.”

Try to make the emails be as personal as possible. So here’s what I recommend is not using your typical email header but make it come from a person in the organization. And then ask. And then again, it depends a little bit on the system. In some cases, you cannot lay it to a special page that asked for updated information so you’ll have to ask the donor to call, right? So that’s the first option. So have an email that asks the donor to call right away.

And then as the call again, make sure that every email is also mobile responsive because you know, 40 to 50% of donors opens their emails now on their phones so make sure that it’s easy to read. Have that call number right in there. But better yet, if you have a link to a special page that you know that anybody that goes to that page is always just there to update their information, that actually increases your retention with 50%. So just having that link to that page will increase your retention rate. So have an email with the link to that update page and it will make it so much easier for the donor to do it.

They can do it at 10 o’clock at night, right? They don’t have to wait till 9 o’clock till you’re open to make a phone call. As I mentioned, make it personal. Thank you. Thank you is always important. It appears you changed cards, please call my number. Do everything or go directly to the page here to set it back up.

But please, please, please, please, this is a huge organization. I mean this particular example is from 2017. Believe it or not, I’m still getting this standard email. They haven’t done anything different so I’m just not going to respond to it. I’m literally just seeing how long it takes them to do it. So this is really, really bad. Very, very system focused, right?

And as I mentioned, also send out some letters. And I’m actually going to . . . I’m happy just to share some like a monthly donor retention playbook that has all of these letters and emails and scripts right in it so you can customize it for your organization. So send a letter out right away. Include a reply form so that all the donor has to do is update their information. You know who they are and make sure you send out a reply envelope as well. So have it right in there, make it easy for the donor.

And then please make the . . . if your system has to confirm that the, you know, you tried charging them three times in a row and if, you know, this is the last one, I’m going to cancel you, right? So systems sometimes do this cancellation process, make that a little bit more warm and fuzzy. This is such a system-focused email. Again, you know, just if you can suppress these system-focused emails and make them your own, it’s going to help you with your retention rate because your donors are going to be opening them much sooner than something that’s so system focused.

And then again, you might consider a postcard. We need your support. We miss you. We tried reaching you. Is this really goodbye? And they send this out like six months after the donor stopped giving. So they’re really trying everything to make that gift keep coming in.

As a credit card updater system and I think, Steven, you’re working on adding that in now, right, for Bloomerang? Yeah, so some systems have it already built in. It’s a game changer for so many organizations and really, really helps in keeping your monthly donors. And again ask your system if they have the option to add credit card updater in the mix. And they may be able to do it or they may or may have already done it and forgot to tell you.

So this catches around 25 to 40% of cards that expire or decline so it’s not failsafe yet. A lot of it has to do with the timing. So that’s why again, it’s like it’s still important to if you run the credit card updater and they can’t find updated information for your monthly donor, that you call, email and mail right away. So really do everything possible in your power. And again, make your call, it’s all about thanking them. You’re doing them a service. They want to continue to give to you. Really important to remember. They did not mean to stop. They just forgot that their card expired, right? So give them that courtesy. Leave a message, talk to them if you can and then, you know, like thank them with the monthly gift.

And one of the trends that I see more and more of is for example, because of the credit card expirations is that if you can talk to somebody on the phone or if you send them a letter, you can also try to convert them to electronic funds transfer and that will really help you with those card expirations and really help you with your retention.

And as I mentioned, phone scripts. Make sure that you have a little guideline that you can give to somebody who can help you make some calls. People will like it. Now, if you have permission to text your donor, then a short text message would be great. Don’t overdo it but just like, you know, like if you’ve tried sending emails, then follow up with a text message. Again, I recommend that you can only do this if you have that link to the monthly giving reactivation page, if you will. You want to make it as easy as possible and monthly donors will do that.

So never ever give up on your monthly donors. So let me do one more poll, what’s the annual value of your monthly donors that you lose? So again, if you look at your program, how many, how much money do you think you lose every year by these cards that expire or decline? Is it less than 1,000? Is it between 1,000 and 5,000? More than 5000 or you’re not sure?

And okay. So, let’s see. Just looking at some questions here. Yeah, so Christy says we have the option to repost errors which is really helpful in recharging credit cards. And that’s definitely . . . Like I mean, most organizations try to charge credit cards at least like two months in a row, some even three, some even six. So again, it depends a little bit on what you can do in your organization. But yeah, sometimes it’s a matter of like, again, it’s a timing issue. Like my card expires next month. Well, in the beginning of the month I might not have gotten the updated card but at the end of the month, I will have. So again, that’s really important. That’s a great way to try charging them again.

All right, let me see. Pretty much everybody probably filled out the poll here. All right, so less than 1,000 bucks. People think between $1,000 and $5,000 annual is what they’re losing and then they’re not sure. So again, if you are the person in charge of your monthly giving program, you know how many donors didn’t make their gift last month, right? So you know what that annual value is. And the reason why it’s so important to do this because it will make you really take action and say, “Oh, okay, I’m now at a stage where I [have my 00:53:56] the monthly donors, well, if I lose 20 monthly donors, then the value is going to be x.” So it’s worth it to bring in an extra volunteer. It’s worth it to send a couple of letters, right? And again, as your program grows, it will become even more powerful to put some time and effort into keeping these monthly donors.

So always try to annualize that value and you’ll be like, “Oh, wow. Oh, it’s not just like 10 donors I’m losing. I’m losing this amount of money, right?” So it’s like, “Oh, wow. That’s really, really crucial.” So very important. As I mentioned, annualize. So if you have 10 monthly donors, they give you 24 bucks a month, that’s 3000 bucks, right? That you can make some phone calls for, right? So send out a couple letters, right? It’s worth it. It’s worth a lot of money.

So as I mentioned, don’t ever give up, right? It is okay. You can go back to these lapsed monthly donors. They did not tell you, “I want to stop,” right? Their card expired, right? So six months from now, put them back in an email and do a special message to them saying, “You know, would you want to come back and restart?” Okay? So even if you tried it the first or second month after their card expired, well, start again six months from now and see what happens. And just do another appeal as well.

Include them as a special segment in your monthly donor appeals if you’re sending out letters, right? And it works like a charm. “We miss you. Would you like to come back?” And you’ll be amazed at how many people say, “Oh, yeah, I used to do that. Yeah, yeah, I forgot that.” You know, because a lot of times, people don’t necessarily remember what they do anymore, right? And then we can have a call.

I had stopped a card for an organization and nine months after a woman calls me to say, “Hey, I just started new and I’m looking at, you know, like the partners program and I see that you stopped giving a while ago and would you like to come back?” I said, “Sure, I didn’t even remember that I stopped,” right? So again, it’s totally all right to get them back and bring them back again.

So the fifth way that you can keep your monthly donors, and I alluded to that a little bit already, is you want to convert them to give by electronic funds transfer. This is an area, again, I’m European. I grew up with giving through my bank account. That’s very, very common. It is definitely growing. More and more systems are offering it online, right? So use that option because it, number one, is going to like save you a lot of money but it also will increase your retention rate for monthly donors.

So ask them to consider it in say your impact report or your newsletter that you’re sending out, in your email that you’re sending out to your monthly donors. So start planting seeds. “Hey, I didn’t think I could do that.” Those folks that you have on envelopes, right? Ask them to become an EFT monthly donor and give them that option on the reply form. Here it is. So always have that option on your form and people will start taking you up on it. Ask them to convert or as again, as you’re growing, you can consider a special appeal to ask them to convert to electronic funds transfer. I’ll make the switch. Here’s the reason why. More money will go to support your children, animals, whomever you’re supporting, right? And donors love that. They say, “Oh yeah, I want my gift to go further. I’m willing to do this through electronic funds transfer,” and it will help you with those pesky little credit card expirations.

So how would you keep your monthly donors? Here is my challenge for you. Just do these three things. Say thank you and thank you and engage your monthly donors during the year, track your payments at least once a month so that you can be on top of it and then follow up, follow up, follow up and see how you’re doing with your credit card and your monthly donor retention after a year. And email me your results if you want to or email me if you have any questions whatsoever because it’s not how much we give but how much love we put into giving. And this is a Mother Teresa quote. And it’s again, we’re giving to our monthly donors. They’re giving to us but we’re giving them, we’re loving them as well. And the more we love them, the more they will give and the longer they will give. And that’s all that matters, right?

So if you have any questions, here’s my email address and my phone number and my website to download any kind of lots of like resources and tools. And I think we have like three minutes left, Steve, to answer questions. But again, feel free to send me questions after. I’m always happy to answer them.

Steven: Yeah, thanks for offering that, Erica. I know you answered a lot of questions as we went along. But yeah, do reach out to Erica if we didn’t get to yours. Maybe a good way to end it, Erica, for those folks that are listening in who don’t really have a monthly giving program what’s the number one thing you think they could do today to get things going?

Erica: Yeah, I mean, they could go to my website or send me an email and download that monthly donor roadmap. That’s a free resource that’s all the steps right there that they can use. Of course, you’re welcome to buy my book too but that’s . . . the monthly donor roadmap and lots of other resources is there. And again, we’ll do some follow up as well.

Steven: Okay. Sweet. Well, this is awesome, Erica. This was definitely as good as I knew it would be so thanks for taking the time out of your day and your schedule to be here with us. This was really awesome.

Erica: And I just want to finish up with [a gift 01:00:22] . . . Yeah, I just want to finish up. Sarah just sent a really cool thing. She says that she had a friend who’s a monthly donor at her organization text her during the webinar because she got a thank you call from a board member and it made her day. Wow. Cool, right?

Steven: This stuff really works. I love it. Thanks for sharing that, Sarah. Well good. We’ll call it a day there since it’s three o’clock eastern. I don’t want to keep people from the rest of their day if they haven’t had lunch yet but we’ve got some good webinars planned out into the future. We’ve got a really interesting one coming up next week. If you have ever considered becoming a consultant, so if you are interested in making that jump from working for a nonprofit to maybe the consulting side, we’ve got a session for you. This is the top five questions that aspiring consultants ask. We’ve got Susan Schaefer whose done webinars for us. She’s really awesome. She’s going to be joined by a colleague to talk about this topic. So if that’s interesting to you, you can register.

You can register anonymously, for sure. We won’t tell your current employer that maybe you’re interested in that. But we’d love to see you on that session if you’re interested. And we’ve got lots of other topics coming up throughout the rest of the year. We’re already scheduled out to May, I believe it is. So lots of opportunity to hang out with us on a Thursday afternoon or late Thursday morning.

So we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email for you with the recording and the slides. We’ll get that to you this afternoon I promise and hopefully we’ll see you again next week. So have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a safe and warm weekend and we’ll talk to you again soon.

Erica: Thank you.

Kristen Hay

Kristen Hay

Marketing Manager at Bloomerang
Kristen Hay is the Marketing Manager at Bloomerang. From 2018 - 2020, she served as the Director of Communications for the Public Relations Society of America's local Hoosier chapter. Prior to that she served on several different committees and in committee chair roles.