Erica Waasdorp will show you how important recurring giving has become, and how best to bring them in – with minimal time and effort, but with the large focus these sustainable recurring donors deserve.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right, Erica. I got 2:00 Eastern. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Erica: Sounds good.

Steven: All right. Welcome, everybody. Good afternoon if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning, I should say, if you’re on the West Coast, just barely. And if you’re watching this as a recording, I hope you’re having a good day, no matter when and where you are. We’re here to talk about recurring donors, oh, yeah, best practices for unlocking the mystery that is recurring donors. I think after this presentation, you won’t think it’s so much of a mystery after all. So I’m excited, one of my favorite topics. And I’m just so happy to see a full room. I’m Steven. I’m over here at Bloomerang. And I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of quick housekeeping items, just want to let you all know that we are recording this session, and we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on today. You should already have the slides. I sent them out in a reminder email about an hour ago. But if I missed you, don’t worry, we will get you everything. We’ll give you all the goodies you can share with a friend, you can watch it later, and you can catch up if you get interrupted, got another meeting, or kid comes into your home office, something like that. Don’t worry, we’ll get that to you.

But most importantly, please feel free to chat in any questions or comments along the way. We love for these sessions to be interactive. And we’re going to save some time at the end for kind of a formal Q&A session. So don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. There’s a chat box and a Q&A box. You can use whatever one you want. I don’t care. I’ll keep an eye on both. That’s cool with me. But we’d love to hear from you. You can even send us a tweet. I’ll keep kind of half an eye on Twitter as well. But don’t be shy. We love to hear from you.

If this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to all of you first timers. We do these webinars every single Thursday. We’ve been doing them for the last about 10 years. We love it. It’s my favorite hour of the week by far. But if you’ve never heard of Bloomerang beyond these webinars, we are also a provider of donor management software. That’s what Boomerang is. So check that out. And if you are interested or just kind of want to see what we got going on, there’s all kinds of videos and stuff you can watch on our website. So check that out. But don’t do that right now. Wait about 59 minutes or so because we got one of my favorites joining us from beautiful Cape Cod, Massachusetts, Erica Waasdorp. Erica, what’s going on? How’s it going? You doing okay?

Erica: It’s pretty good. I’m really excited about, like, helping you provide some . . . or uncover some mysteries, if you will. So, yeah.

Steven: Yeah, this is great. Anytime somebody asks me about monthly donors, recurring donors, sustainers, whatever you want to call it, it’s like got to talk to Erica. She literally wrote the book on it, “Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant.” It’s behind me. It’s in one of those, somewhere there, over there somewhere. It’s awesome. I mean, it’s the book on monthly giving, so you’re going to want to get that. And she the queen of monthly giving. What can I say? She’s an AFP master trainer, is also the U.S. ambassador for IFC, which is pretty cool. I don’t think I knew . . . is that a new thing, Erica?

Erica: No. Actually, it’s an old thing. So I stopped doing that a couple of years ago. The last year obviously they did the . . .

Steven: Okay. You used to be.

Erica: But I’m Dutch, so it was a great way to go home and get involved with some international fundraising.

Steven: That’s awesome. Yeah, you’re all over the place. You’re speaking at conferences when we can. You’re doing webinars. You’ve done tons of webinars for Bloomerang. Thank you for that. And, yeah, they want to hear from you. So I’m going to put my pipe down. Nobody wants to hear from me. They want to hear about Erica’s monthly donor secret. So I will stop sharing my screen here.

Erica: Great. Okay, good. All right. Okay, I’ll share my screen now. And I do have subtitles as well because I am Dutch, so some of the words might have my Dutch accent coming through and stuff like that. When I used it before, it was really funny in some cases. So don’t hang me up on it. But, yeah, so I’m really excited to talk to you about, you know, some best practice solutions for recurring donor acquisition mysteries. All right. So thanks so much, Steven. And I just want to show you, there is the cover of the brand new book that I am hoping to send the final edits to my designer next week. So it’s coming out this summer, really, really excited about that. And it’s supposed to make monthly giving easier than ever before because it’s not that hard.

So what I’m going to talk to you about today is, you know, how important that recurring giving is, especially I mean you saw that, like, last year during COVID, how do you bring those recurring donors in with minimal time and effort because it doesn’t have to be hard. It doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Of course, you can put more time into it. The more time you put into it, the better off you are. But it doesn’t have to be a lot of time because I know all of you are busy.

And then we’re really going to talk about like how that’s sustainable, recurring donors, how important those are and the focus on them as well. So let me start right away with a poll here. And I think, Steven, I can launch that as well, it looks like. So I’m just going to launch our first poll here. It’s, like, what’s the annual value of your recurring donors? Is it, like, less than 5,000 bucks? Is it between $5,000 and 25,000, between $25,000 and $100,000, or you’re not sure? So what’s the annual value of your recurring donors? Because that’s a really exciting statistic. And, Steven, you’re going to be keeping an eye on questions and answers in chat. I have a couple of polls today. So I might ask you and say, “Hey, what are some of the questions in the room?”

Okay, so it looks like . . . I’ll give you just like one more second there. All right. I’m going to end the polls and see what it looks like. All right. So, 36% have I think it’s less than $5,000. Then another third is between $5,000 and $25,000. And then, 17% says between $25,000 and $100,000. And then some of you are not sure. Great, awesome. Super. Because we’re going to talk about the importance of recurring giving. And again, I’ve been preaching this obviously, for a long time. And it’s taken a long time to get to this stage. But they are really, really important. So just think about it. I mean, even if you’re getting $5,000 from them now, what if you could improve your number of recurring donors. Just think about, like, how many do you have now? What’s the value? And then what if you could get 200 monthly donors?

Now, on average, we’re seeing about $24 a month. That’s $288 a year. So that’s almost $29,000 a year is what you could be getting from 100 monthly donors. And I’d love to . . . if you want to chat how many monthly donors you have now, just let me know. And, Steven, you might shout that out when you get some responses. But if you could go from 50 to 100, if you could go from 100 to 200 monthly donors, that’s like almost $60,000. So it’s really, really very powerful. And the reason why it’s so important is you can plan on the money being there. Who would have thought we were in the middle still of a pandemic? I mean, we’re used to hurricanes, tornadoes, you know, fires, wildfires. But pandemic, nobody could have ever thought about it. But the money kept coming in from those recurring donors you had. And also, last year, a lot of organizations were able to bring in new recurring donors for their organization.

So people ask me this all the time, like, what percentage of donors can you expect to convert? It depends on a couple of things. One, of course, is, like, how many donors you have now? How many email addresses you have now? What have you done to get there? And then, of course, how much focus can you give to grow it? But this is a study that Steven did a while back, looking at Bloomerang customers. And you see here that those organizations that have, if you look into number three there, those organizations that had between 15,000 and 25,000 donors in their database, they saw an average of 9% of donors giving monthly. The bigger organizations, interestingly enough, those 25,000 plus, they saw smaller percentages of donors giving monthly. So those are just a couple of, like, goals, if you will, that you can say, “Hey, it looks like I’m an organization that has less than 5,000 donors overall, the average is getting 8% of donors are giving monthly. Well, what can I do to get there right now?” because, again, this is a good statistic.

I hear other studies that are showing about 15% of donors are giving monthly. But again, it all depends. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight. But just some things, if you say, “Hey, I want to have a goal. What can I strive to?” So Steven, did you have any numbers from some of the folks on the webinar?

Steven: Yeah, pretty wide variety, from single digits to triple digits, even somebody had over 7,000. So, good job to them.

Erica: Wow, that’s awesome. That’s awesome. Great. So you could be teaching that webinar today. So that would be great. Awesome. All right. So one of the things to people, you know, why does it take so long sometimes for organizations to jump on the monthly donor bandwagon? If you see these statistics, you really say, “Wow, I got to get going.” So monthly donors, they give more money. So if you look at the fact that if you’re sending out appeals, you might get on average $58, on average, the gifts were $58 from appeal donors. If they give online, and again, obviously, a lot of direct mail is going to get people online, but it’s still about 12% of donors that are going online, so a lot of money still comes in offline. But if you get them online, typically that gift is a little bit higher, between $96 and $111, depending upon which study you look at. But if you can get them to give monthly, well, that varies. I mean, I’ve seen studies like going from like $261 a year to $612 a year. It all depends on what you’re seeing in your organization. But it’s double, quintuple, quadruple the value of your one-time gifts. And that’s the key.

The other piece is just because somebody becomes a monthly donor, recurring donor doesn’t mean that they’re not going to give additional gifts. So that’s a really important thing. In the old days, when I started in monthly giving, like, 28 years ago, it was all about like, “Well, once we get somebody to give monthly, we’re going to keep them updated a little bit, but we’re not going to ask them for additional gifts.” Well, that has totally changed because they are really, really loyal.

And if you have monthly donors, you segment them out in your email, you segment them out in your mailing, and then you can track to see how they’re responding. And what I’ve seen so far, every time monthly donors get an email, the open rates go up, the click-through rates go up. So just because they become a monthly donor doesn’t mean that they’re not going to give additional gift. So that’s even more powerful. So this is just looking at what if they gave monthly gifts.

The other thing is the retention rates go up. If you see the fact that, on average the retention rate is still about 46%. If you can get somebody to give monthly, they’re going to stay with you for a much longer period of time. That retention rate goes to 90% or even higher, if you can get them to give by electronic funds transfer, ACH.

So the other piece is, like, recurring giving is really all about caring about the donor. It allows the donors no matter where they are in their lifecycle, whether they’re younger, they’re older, they’re single, they’re married, have kids, they have grandkids, they have pets. So gifts fit their budget. It’s easy to make. It doesn’t matter where they are. They can do it on their, you know, desktop, on their phone, mail, tablet, wherever you are. But it’s really very donor-centric. So recurring giving cares about the donor. And more donors can give. Fifty percent of baby boomers are giving monthly. Sixty percent of younger donors are on some type of subscription model, whether it’s Netflix, or a meal service, or whatever it is. So they’re interested in giving monthly gifts, but they cannot write the big checks. So that’s why recurring gifts is so powerful.

So I’m going to do another poll here. Let’s see here. Let’s see how we’re getting to the next one. All right. So which recurring gift acquisition mystery would you like to solve today? Because that’s the key with this webinar today. So is it how many asks should I consider? How much time should I assign to focus on it? Which channels should I use? Other? So what recurring gift acquisition mystery would you like to solve? And, Steven, while people are filling out the poll, any questions from the audience today?

Steven: There are a couple, but I think you’re going to cover them. So I’ll come back for sure.

Erica: Okay. Great. All right. So it looks like pretty much everybody is voting. I like this polling thing. I can see it. This is great. All right. Okay, let’s see. Thirty percent says, hey, how many ask should I consider? Twelve percent, oh, that’s pretty good, how much time should I assign? And then 51% says which channel should I use, and then some other. Awesome, great. Cool. We got to move that to the side here.

All right. So the key with growing your recurring giving program is you want to put somebody in charge. Somebody’s got to be the driver. Like this dog, you’ve got to drive those results. Now, it doesn’t mean that you have to do everything yourself. But you need to track it. You need to say I want to move this forward. So the fact that you’re on this webinar today is great because that probably mean that you’re going to be in charge or you’re going to assign somebody to be in charge. If you don’t have somebody in charge, stuff will fall through the cracks, stuff will become like an idea, but then it doesn’t get implemented. So it’s really important that you have somebody driving. And as you’re growing, you will be more motivated. I mean, the person who had 7,000 monthly donors, you’re probably really, really motivated. But you started at some point. So you need somebody in charge, really, really important.

One hour a week can go very far. I mean, I coined the phrase monthly donor Monday. So what if every Monday, you’re sitting down and you say, “One hour, I’m going to focus on how did my email do last week? Can I create another email? What am I doing? How is my trends? What can I do to keep my monthly donors going?” So one hour, we can go very, very far. But of course, more is always welcome. But I’m just saying, like, if nothing else, take that Monday morning and say, “I’m going to focus on it, get it out of the way,” because I know fundraisers are busy. They wear multiple hats. I get it. But you don’t need a lot of stuff anymore.

When I started monthly giving, a lot of these tools didn’t exist. Online didn’t exist. It was all mail and phone. Now, you have online giving tools. You have a donor base. You have thank you processes. So it’s a matter of like tweaking what you have and customizing it. Your systems can handle recurring gifts, whatever system you have. And I’d love to . . . again, you can use your chat and see what systems are you using. Is it Bloomerang, DonorPerfect, Blackbaud, Little Green Light, Salesforce? There’s so many, many systems out there. But every single one can handle monthly giving now. So that’s really, really exciting. When I first wrote the book, that was not the case.

So all of these systems had some type of way that you can have an email thank you, and an email landing page, like the minute somebody hits submit on your online form, they get a thank you. So make sure that your thank yous are what you want them to be, that they are customized, and that they are as warm fuzzy as you can get away with within your system because, again, every single system is different. Some have a lot of space. Some look more like a receipt. Some have really tiny space. But make sure that it really says thank you for your monthly gift, or thank you for your quarterly gift, depending upon what type of recurring frequency you’re offering. I always recommend monthly as the major focus because that’s typically what people do and they actually give more money if you give them monthly. But some systems have other frequencies as well. So make your emails thank you.

The other piece is set up what I call a monthly only page. You want to drive people to that monthly only page, again, if your system allows this. So if you can’t create a monthly only page, then we’ll deal with that and we’ll show you that in a minute. But if you can accommodate a monthly only page, that’s great because you’re not going to distract people from that when you start driving people to go there. So create a monthly only page.

And then if you have a one-time giving option plus a monthly gift, which typically is the case for 99.9% of donation pages now, try to see if you can find a spot near your online form that adds a little nudge. In some cases, it may be right on the form, like you see this example in some cases. You may have to build it in on the website that the page sit on. So if you have a one-time giving page plus monthly, you want to add a little nudge. Some people call this like social proof, but it’s that extra push that says, “Your monthly support prepares us for every challenge and lets us plan for the future.” So people will look at that. So add a monthly giving nudge, if you haven’t done that already.

The other piece is, again, and it all depends on your system, of course, again, but if you have a monthly option and a one-time option, you want to try to make sure that the monthly giving amounts are different from the one-time amounts, typically 1/3 lower. So if your one-time form asks for $100, your monthly form could start with $25 a month. And then always include the lowest amount possible. In some cases, that will be $5 a month. In other cases, that will be $10 a month. That’s typically what I’m seeing for the different systems. But if you can do it, offer the monthly giving amounts be lower because $100 a donor, they’re just not going to give $100 a month. So you don’t want to sound too greedy. Remember, you want to give the donor the feeling that they can make a difference within an amount that they’re comfortable with. So start low and get a high response. So offer lower amounts.

Then the other thing is, again . . . and I know some consultants might say, “Well, you want to pre-populate the monthly giving option on at once. So if you have a one-time giving page with the monthly option on there, some people say, “Oh, you want to pre-populate, pre-tick the monthly option.” I frankly disagree with that. I always think that you really want the monthly donor to choose, to be very deliberate about making that monthly gift because you don’t want them having a bad donor experience. So I recommend, if you have a one-time giving page plus a monthly option on it, just pre-populate the one-time option and let the donor choose to make it monthly because, I mean, I’ve done it, where it’s like, “Oh, shoot. I wasn’t meaning to make a monthly gift right now.” You have to call. You have to e-mail. You have to stop it. That’s not great. So you really want people to commit to making a recurring gift. But I know, again, there’s other consultants that are saying something differently. And, yes, it might generate some higher numbers of monthly gifts, but you also might have more refunds and all of that stuff. So I would not recommend that. You really want the donor to know what they’re doing.

Then, of course, if your form allows it, do add this, what I call like the electronic funds transfer, ACH, direct debit, automatic bank withdrawal. Add that to your form because then you’re totally golden. Again, I’m from the Netherlands, and I saw another person who was also Dutch, well, we’re used to giving our bank account information everywhere. But that’s not the case here. But it is growing. The number of people that are making gifts via electronic funds transfer, especially younger people, is growing. So on average, I’m seeing about 5% of monthly donors giving via EFT. And like I said, it is absolutely growing. And donors, they might change a bank account maybe every 12 to 14 years, if at all. So it’s absolutely an option if you have that built in. So take a look at your system. Then sometimes, you may have set up a form a year ago, and things have changed. So a lot of these, like the Bloomerangs of the world, they’re always trying to, you know, improve things. So find out what you can do now with your forms.

But, while we all want everybody to go straight online, give donors the option to complete a form, download a form, and send it in. Some donors will want to do that. Some doors are just not comfortable clicking that submit button. So having a form somewhere is great. So definitely, offer that option on your website, download a form.

Some systems will allow you to consider a lightbox for a one-time gift checkout. Now, this is an example of something that I definitely agree with. I think it works really, really well. And the donor is very committed. They know typically what they are doing. So here’s how it works. When somebody makes a one-time gift on your website, they hit submit, and then this little box pops up, “Thank you. Before we process, would you consider making it go further. Make a monthly gift?” “Yes, please process my monthly gift of $20,” and you see there that that is close to 1/3 of the one-time gift amount that the donor was going to make, and then you say, “Oh, yes, I’m going to do that,” you can change the amount, or, “No, thanks. Complete my one-time $50 gift.”

This is a technique that works really, really well. And, again, I’m seeing more and more of this what they call lightboxes or modals that can sit over your one-time giving amount. And from the studies I’ve seen, it doesn’t seem to negatively impact the number of people that are going to continue their one-time gift, but it does increase the number of monthly gifts that you’re generating as well. And, again, donors are very committed doing this. So they know exactly what they’re doing when they hit submit.

All right, so those are just a couple of things that you can look at right now and say, “Hey, is that something I can do and test?” But the other piece is like you don’t need a lot of resources yet. Start small. Start with low hanging fruit. I recommend that you start, obviously, if you’re not already, you become a monthly donor to your program. You may want to become a monthly donor to a couple of other programs as well of organizations that are similar to yours, maybe some big national organization that you can just say, “Hey, let me see what they’re doing.” I mean, I support some 40-plus organizations monthly just to kind of, like, see what they’re all doing.

So start with yourself, invite your board. Some organizations have board members that are just not big check writers per se. And you may say, “Well, I would like every board member to make $1,000 gift.” Well, you can ask them to consider $85 a month. So that’s $1,000 a year. So that might work for some of you board members. Your volunteers may want to support you in that way. Staffers may want to support you in that way. So start with some low-hanging fruit and that’s a great starting point. And then whomever is giving monthly will become, you know, like a supporter and advocate to reach out to other people to also become a monthly donor.

Okay, we’re in the middle of pandemic. And I know people are like, “Well, I don’t know if I should be asking for recurring gifts right now,” and the answer is absolutely, you should not be afraid. If nothing else, now is a really, really good time to try some new things. And what do you got to lose by doing an email here or there doing a couple of things?

So the good news is that online monthly donors are absolutely growing. So if we look at some of the most recent statistics here, last year, in 2020, 18% of online donors were making monthly gifts. So that’s even higher than that 8% I showed earlier. So 18% of donors are making monthly gift. So how do you get there? Well, again, I said start with that low hanging fruit. So if you and maybe a board member and maybe a couple of your existing monthly donors ask them to give you a testimonial, “Why are you giving monthly?” and then use that, have them type it up, have them say it on video, and do a Zoom call with them and say, “Why are you giving monthly?” and then say, “Can I use that to reach out to other potential monthly donors?” Video is really, really powerful. We see it all the time. So if somebody says, “Here is why I give monthly,” then why would I not want to consider that? So that’s a really great way to get a testimonial and then start inviting other people. And you see there, I put the link in there so you can actually go to the YouTube site and listen to this particular video.

But how about taking over your homepage? Maybe the month of May, maybe [inaudible 00:29:29], maybe the month of July. I mean, some of the bigger organizations, like I knew Sierra Club, every July is their big sustainer drive month. So everything is focused on monthly giving, on their recurring giving program. So take over your homepage, talk to whomever is doing your website and say, “I really, really want to focus on this.” So that’s one way you can say you can start planting the seed about monthly gifts. And of course, if you have that monthly only page set up, you’re linking to that particular page. So it’s really, really clear that the donor wants to give monthly.

But use your e-mails. Add one email a month. This organization, in the middle of COVID, they said, “Let’s add another button,” and every email that they send now has two buttons in it, “Will you give monthly?” is the first ask, and then, “Yes, I’ll make an emergency gift,” is the second gift. Every time they do this, they generate new monthly donors. It’s one e-mail. So, again, add that into the emails that you’re sending. What do you have to lose by asking about it? You might pick up a few here or there.

Add an extra button. This organization has like . . . how do you say that, septupled their number of monthly donors just by adding an extra button every time they send an email. It’s just on the bottom, “Make a one-time donation,” “Become a monthly donor.” Again, it’s an extra button. It doesn’t cost you much to do at all. And it’s in there.

And then of course, send some specific emails. The more the merrier. Again, you want to grow your monthly donors, so how about if you’re sending out an e-newsletter a month and, like, maybe two emails or maybe sending an email a week? Well, how about sending one email a month to really say, “I want to throw my trailblazers for my organization?” That’s the name of this particular organization’s monthly donor groups. So send some recurring specific e-mails. It’s one email, right? One email a month. It’s not a lot, but you’re going to pick up some donors that are going to become monthly. So you have nothing to lose by doing that.

Now, you can get a match. Matches are magical. There’s something about it. It works everywhere in fundraising. And monthly giving, recurring gifts, it’s not an exception. So how about saying, “Well, I would like to generate 50 new monthly donors by this deadline date.” So you might have taken over the home page in September, and then you say, “I want to grow so many new monthly donors by the end of September. Here’s a match. I found a donor. I found a group of donor. I found a board member. That’s going to give me $5,000, or $10,000 if we reach this goal.” Guess what, you’re going to reach that goal.

And of course, the match email, I’m just showing you the first one here, but it’s a series of e-mails. It’s like you launch the match, you send the match saying, “Hey, we’re this close. We have to generate so many more new monthly donors.” And then, you know, like, the week before, and then the day before, and then maybe one more on the day of, say, “Hey, we’re this close. Can you help us like get to the finish line and go break through the 50 monthly donors?” So there’s something about matches. So if you’re considering getting matches for Giving Tuesday or a Giving Day that’s in your area for your organization, consider getting a match for monthly donors as well. Some of the big guys, that’s what they do once a year or twice a year. They have a big match drive, and it works.

But don’t forget, if you have an e-newsletter, absolutely put a little testimonial in there every month. Put a moat notice in there. You want to plant the seeds. And, again, this doesn’t cost you anything. I mean, you’re already sending this email newsletter, so just make sure that you’ll always be planting the seeds about recurring gifts. But how about adding to your email signature? Every time you communicate with somebody inside your organization or outside your organization, they see this message, “Become a rock star.” So you can support that, you know, organization with $10 a month. And then of course, you’re clicking right through to your monthly donor only page.

Now, I’d love to find out too from you if you’re using welcome email series. So, again, the earlier you can get people to give monthly, the longer they’re going to stay with you, the more retention you’re going to improve. So that’s why welcome email series are great. So if you have an automated series that goes through your MailChimp or Constant Contact, make sure that you give the opportunity in, like, say the second or third of your emails to say, “Hey, you know, welcome. But will you please consider a monthly donation?” It’s a welcome email. So, again, the sooner you can get them to do it, the better off you are. So use your welcome email if you have that welcome email. And, Steven, I don’t know if anybody is, like, set that they have those, that they are using welcome e-mails?

Steven: Yeah, a couple of people. And a couple people have also said they’re doing some of the other things you suggested, like the dedicated page. So, yeah, it seems like it’s resonating.

Erica: Great, awesome. Okay, so social media is also great. So, again, obviously, when you’re sending out emails, you can share it through social media. But also consider some special messaging. Video works great. So if you have this video with somebody, like giving a testimonial about why they give monthly, put that on social media as well. The key with anything to do with social media is, that I recommend to keep you sane, is link to your monthly only page on your website. So I don’t want you going through Facebook Giving, or any kind of other social media platform, or crowdfunding platform, but go to your monthly donor page. It all feeds into that same pool, if you will, all feeds into the same system because otherwise you go utterly crazy. But, yeah, use your social media.

I mean, this particular Perkins example, they had a series of emails that they send, and then they also had it all on social media. So it all had the same look and feel. So think about that. Like, make sure that kind of fits, like, “Oh, yeah, I just got that email. And now, I’m seeing it on Facebook as well.” So use your social media and share the message to go to make a monthly gift. If you have Google ads, if you have Google Ad grants, like also consider creating some monthly donor ads as well, and, again, link right through to your monthly only page. So absolutely use whatever you have.

Now, if you’re an organization that’s an advocacy organization, maybe occasionally you do, like, ask people to sign a petition on your social media. Well, that’s a great opportunity to say, “Sign the pledge, sign the petition,” and then as a thank you after the donor has signed that petition, you say, “Thank you so much. We really love what you just did. But could you help just a little bit more? Could you step up your gift? Could you step up your support by making a monthly donor?” And again, it doesn’t cost you much at all. It’s a thank you email that comes after they signed the petition. So those are just a couple of things. And you can do the same thing. You can ask a question, “Are you a cat lover? Are you a dog lover?” if you’re an animal organization. Say yes or no to a question, and then the donor goes to a page where they get a thank you for saying yes or no and then you ask them to make a monthly gift.

So it’s really all about just not being afraid. There are so many opportunities right now. You have the tools. You just got to start asking for it. What’s the worst that can happen? Somebody signs up to become a recurrent donor. So you just don’t want to be afraid to do that. And especially now where donors might say, “Well, I’m a little worried about, like, how much money I’ll have to give,” well, monthly giving, recurring gifts are a great way for them to support your organization. Donors want to help, and recurring gifts are great ways that they can do it in a way that fits their budget. So just don’t be afraid. Just go do something.

Now, a couple of other things that you may consider that, again, don’t cost you much at all, again, it’s all about planting the seeds and keep asking. I mean, monthly giving is not something that you say, “Well, I’ll just do it in January,” and then nothing the rest of the year. You want to keep plugging at it.

So if you have a print newsletter, have a message about make an ongoing gift in there. If you have that testimonial, great. Pop it in your print newsletter as well. So it’s okay to repurpose. I cannot repeat that enough. It is okay to repurpose. So if you get a testimonial using an email, it’s okay to put it in your print newsletter. No donor is going to say, “Well, that’s the same testimonial you just used over there.” So you can absolutely repurpose what you are using somewhere else.

You might do a little ad. Some of you might have a magazine. So put a little ad in there, “Sign me up. I want to be an ocean partner.” So make it easy for the donor to find. Make it easy for the donor to respond. So again, there’s literally no end to what you can do.

If you have a welcome letter, or a thank you letter to donors that you send out in the mail, consider asking for a monthly gift in your welcome letter. Just like what we just talked about with welcome e-mails, early on is great. I mean, I worked with the organizations, and they are getting the highest number of monthly donors from their thank you letters. So it’s just amazing. Every time they send a thank you letter, they have some signups from monthly, from recurring gifts. So, again, if you’re sending a welcome thank you letter, absolutely. Build in the option for them to consider it.

And if you say, “Well, I don’t know if I want to be as direct about it,” well, maybe you want to do like a little insert, like a buck slip in there to just kind of start planting the seed. But the more in your face, if you will, you’re about it, the better off you are. So you really want to consider all of the options. But having a little lift note or buck slip will help as well. And, again, keep the amounts low. That’s really key. But I love this particular one as well.

And then, of course, use your appeal reply form. This is pretty much become, like, best practice now that every time you send an appeal to your donors, you want to plant the seed and give the door the option to say, “Please charge my monthly gift. Yes, I will become a monthly donor. Yes, here is . . . so please . . . I would like to give monthly from my credit card. See below.” This particular organization is very in your face about it again. They put it in every appeal reply form because they really want to grow their monthly donors. So the more direct you are about it, the more monthly donors you’re going to generate. So just something to bear in mind.

Now, of course, if somebody already is a monthly donor, you would not be sending them this version. So this is where with laser printing, we can do so much. So if somebody is already a monthly donor, you can send them an appeal. You can say, “Thank you for your monthly gift,” and then you would only give them the, “Yes, I’ll make an extra gift option.” But you would of course not ask them to become a monthly donor. So that’s just something to bear in mind when you’re talking about your segmentation for your appeals. But appeal reply forms, again, I’m not saying you’re going to get oodles, and oodles, and oodles of monthly donors, but you will get some. And it doesn’t cost you much more to do it. It could be a laser version. You can test it. I’ve tested it for organization. So use that. Here, it is, even more specific. And Heifer has been doing this for a while, so, “Yes, I will help lift with a monthly gift,” “Yes, I will do a one-time gift.” So, again, the more specific you are about it, the better off you are.

If you have room in your communication schedule, add a special appeal. But you want it to be targeted. So I would not recommend that you send this to your whole donor base, but rather send it to those donors who gave most recently, who gave two times or more, who gave, like, $10 or more, and then ask them to consider a monthly gift. The beauty of this is you will pick up some monthly donors and you will also get some one-time donations from those donors who are just not totally ready yet. But what we’ve seen is if you send them a special appeal, and then you send them some email follow ups, eventually they’ll say, “Hey, you know what, I thought about it. I’m going to do it.” So these are all a couple of different things that you can consider for your organization. And why are they doing this? Because it works.

Now, finally, phone calls are great. I’m not saying it works for every organization, but a lot of donors, they love hearing from you. So say, if you are making thank you calls for your donors, that’s an opportunity to have a conversation, especially like last year, a lot of donors were home. And a lot of organization says, “Yes, now might be a really good time to call and say thank you.” And a lot of times donor says, “Yeah, you know, I could do more.” Those are magical words. That’s when you say, “Well, as a matter of fact, would you consider a monthly gift?” And the donor might say, “Oh, yeah, you know, I saw that in the newsletter. And, yeah, I’ve been thinking about it. Yeah, I’m going to do it.” So, you know, you have nothing to lose by asking.

And again, text giving, texting is becoming more and more common and more and more popular as well. So as long as the donor gave you permission that you can send them text, that could be another opportunity. And, I mean, we just came off, obviously, a whole election season last year. And if you look at what some of the political organizations were doing, you know, more donors have become more comfortable with text asks as well. So just consider that. Make it part of your overall campaign.

All right, so going to launch another poll here. All right, let me see here, what is the thing you will do next to grow your recurring donors? So I’ve given you a whole bunch of ideas, what are you going to do next? Are you going to spend one hour a week? Are you going to set a goal? Are you going to create a plan and stick to it? Are you going to do some other things? What are you planning to do? And, Steven, while people are filling up the poll, do you have a question for me?

Steven: Yeah, we got a lot of questions here, Erica. So if you’re ready to roll into Q&A, that’s cool with me. But we got a lot of good ones here, and probably about 10 minutes to get to them. So if you haven’t asked a question, now is the time because, yeah, we got an expert here, obviously.

Erica: Okay. All right. So let’s see, I’m going to end it. It looks like pretty much everybody voted. I’m going to give you . . . if you say, well, other, just type in the chat too what those other things are. All right, I’m going to end the poll here. Okay. All right. So 20% says, “Well, I’m going to spend one hour a week.” And then 20% says, “I’m setting a goal.” And then 52% says, “Create a plan and stick to it.” I love that. I really, really love that. And then 7% says other. Okay, great. Okay. So really it is all about you. The next step is up to you. What are you going to do? Set some goals, and then create a plan, stick to it, all of these things. If nothing else, just the commitment to say, “I’m going to spend one hour a week to look at my program and make it grow.” That is really, really the key because the reality is the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago, the second best time is now. So that’s what you’re doing with recurring gifts. So I absolutely love this quote. I mean, it’s even on my book. So I really, like, really love it because that’s what recurring giving is.

And that’s it for me. I’m going to open it up for questions. But if you had any . . . I know there was a couple of folks that had some questions early on, send me an email. I’m very responsive in the e-mail. No obligation there whatsoever. So just send me an e-mail, and I’ll respond right back at you. And go to my website and download some of these monthly donor recurring roadmaps and lots and lots of resources there. So, yeah, Steven, I’m going to open it up for questions.

Steven: Well, first, thanks, Erica. This was awesome. There were so many good little nuggets there, like little tweaks and just real actionable stuff, which I always love. So thank you. Thank you. Yeah, we’ve gotten some good chats here too. So, dang, there’s a lot of questions, probably more than we’re going to be able to get to. So I’m not playing favorites, folks. I promise. I’m just going to kind of grab things. It’s that to me. But do connect with Erica. Email her. Follow her on Twitter. Good follow there for sure if you’re a Twitter type person.

Erica: I’m not a big Twitter person, but, yeah. So I post some of the . . . I just want you to know that . . .

Steven: You got some good stuff occasionally.

Erica: I’m more of an email person, but, yeah, definitely . . . again, if we’re not getting to a question, feel free to ask me after, so.

Steven: And we are going to send the slides and recording too. I know a lot of you’ve asked that. So a lot of questions about the board, Erica. What’s the connection here? It seems like board members becoming monthly donors is a good thing for a lot of reasons. It’s equitable in case they don’t have as much capacity as maybe another person. It would be easier on their budget. And it seems like a little bit less of a friction point than making a big one-time gift. Have you seen that be successful?

Erica: Yeah, I mean, I’ve seen like . . . especially like, you know . . . obviously, like, you have some organizations who are lucky and happy to have board members who are willing and able to write the big checks. But I see so many boards that are, like, made up of program focused people. They really care about the program, they really care about the mission, but they’re not the big check writers. Obviously, every organization should be aiming for 100% board giving, and making a monthly gift may be just the way they can do that. Again, they may just not be able to write the $1,000 check, you might want them to do that, but they say, “Look, I’m here to help you with some of these other things that you need. I’m willing to give my time. But I can make an $85 a month gift.” So that’s coming up to $1,000. So give them that option to support you in that way. I mean, I’ve heard of organizations that, like, some board members are making $1,000 a month. So it all depends. But it’s another way that they can make a considerable gift as well.

Steven: I love it.

Erica: It’s an investment in the organization, and they committed to the organization. So it’s just one more way that you can take away that fear, like, “Oh, I can’t write the big checks.” “Well, you can make a monthly gift.”

Steven: And 85 bucks a month is . . .

Erica: Especially if they’re still working, have kids, grandkids, and all that.

Steven: Yes. I love it. What about planned giving, Erica? It seems like there’s a connection. I feel like I’ve seen research where most planned givers were also monthly donors prior to that. Is that true? Is that something you’ve seen?

Erica: Yeah. And I’ve talked to some of my friends in the UK, especially where they’ve had monthly giving programs for much longer. And the research there show . . . they actually research, they can track every single will that’s being made. And they know how many organizations they have in the will and all of that stuff. And they can share that information, obviously not highlighted per se which organization are in the will, but just like, “Hey, the average person has, like, seven organization in their will, and the average bequest is this. And oh, by the way,” then they can see where that those donors come from. And the monthly donors are six times more likely to leave you in their will.

Steven: Wow.

Erica: Again, they’re small donors now, but they’re committed. They’re invested in the organization, and they’re going to leave you in their will. I mean, obviously, this is not a planned giving session, but here’s what I recommend you do, especially if that organization has 7,000 monthly donors, so look at those . . . the legacy gifts that you’ve received, what was their first gift? What was your last gift? When was it? How many gifts did they make? And you see that a lot of times they were multiple givers, but smaller donations over time. And for those organizations that had monthly giving for a longer period of time, that some of the organizations I’ve been working with, they saw that like one organization, they had 70% of their legacy income last year, came from monthly donors. So, again, they’re the $10, $15, $20 gifts, and they care, and they’ve been giving for a long time. They’ve been giving multiple gifts, and then they leave you in their will.

Steven: It makes sense. They’re committed.

Erica: Again, they’re not necessarily your big check writers.

Steven: No. It’s the fact that they’re giving monthly is a way stronger signal than the dollar amount. That’s kind of what I’m hearing you say.

Erica: Yup.

Steven: That makes sense.

Erica: Yeah, great question.

Steven: How much time do you think should they be a monthly donor before you start to bring up those things? It seems like you wouldn’t want to do that but . . .

Erica: I mean, a couple things, and obviously, again, we’re just talking about acquisition today. But you want to upgrade your monthly donors at least once a year. So if they’re giving monthly for 9 to 10 months, go and reach out to ask them for an upgrade. It doesn’t have to be high, so, again, maybe like $2, $3 a month, something like that. Some donors will say, “No, I can’t do that.” But other donors will say, “Yeah, I will do that.” So 12% of monthly donors upgrades, and then about 6% make at least one extra gift a year. But do both. So, again, they’re committed, they care about you. If you keep them up to date, and again, we’re not talking about cultivation and stewardship today, but if you keep them up to date in the right way, you say thank you, you’re grateful, then they will consider an upgrade as well because stuff gets more expensive. So they get that. So you just get to make the case for that.

But, yeah, so upgrades are good. And then I recommend that rather than sending out a monthly donor thank you letter every time, you don’t want to send monthly donor thank yous on an ongoing basis, but you want to send them like a thank you letter when they join. And in that, you’re going to tell them that they’re going to get a tax letter in January. As part of that tax letter in January, you could put in a little buck slip, or if you have a legacy brochure, you can pop in the legacy brochure, in that tax receipt, where it’s like, “Oh, yeah,” it’s like a planting of the seed. In your newsletter, in your print newsletter, your email newsletter, you’re going to talk about planned giving and legacy gifts as well. So as you’re reaching out to your monthly donors as well with all those tools, plant the seeds for the next step. And, again, it’s all about planting the seeds really.

Steven: Yeah. I love that and the upgrade thing. I’ve been given the same dollar amount monthly to organizations for years and years, and I know I should go in and bump it up. But if they ask me, I’d do it, $2 more, $7 more.

Erica: You certainly don’t want to do it automatically. I just wrote a blog about that. Do not. Do not do an automatic. If somebody talked you into that, no. So you want to ask the donor to consider a monthly upgrade, but they get to choose what that amount is and when they do it, so.

Steven: Yeah, we aren’t the cable company here.

Erica: Yes, no.

Steven: I love it. You mentioned that the giving people lots of different ways. I love that downloadable form. Have you seen . . . and I don’t mean to stereotype folks, but is there kind of an age difference between monthly donors where a lot of . . . and the reason I asked is there are some questions about here that maybe older donors don’t feel secure in giving that credit card information. Have you seen that borne out in the data?

Erica: Yeah, I mean, it’s really . . . the problem is that there’s not a lot of statistics on monthly giving yet. It’s sort of like built into a lot of other stuff. So I mean, on my website, actually, if you type in statistics, there’s a web page that has pretty much every statistic I have found about monthly giving is on there. And I know there’s a couple of new stats coming out very, very soon. But it will be on there. But, yeah, I mean, if you look at the fact that . . . right now, the average donor is about 64 years old. But we are seeing that monthly gifts are in a trend younger, so from like a recent Data Axle study. So younger people are just totally comfortable doing everything on their phone. They’re totally comfortable giving out their card and their bank account information. Older donors, I mean, I’m looking at even my own husband, he does not like to give his credit card information online. So a lot of times, I have to, “Okay, you do it.” But he would be comfortable printing out a form and sending it in.

Steven: So give people the option.

Erica: My husband is a bit older than I am. So, yeah, yeah. So, again, give them all of the options. It also depends a little bit on the type of organization that you are. Like, animal welfare organizations tend to be a little bit older. Religious organizations tend to be a little bit older. So they have found that having that extra downloadable form is simply a way that they’re more comfortable doing that. But obviously, COVID has really pushed more people online.

Steven: Good point.

Erica: But, again, if you look at the fact that still, two years ago, 8% of donations came in online. Last year, 2020, 12% of donations came in online. So that still means that there’s still a lot of money coming in offline. And mail still works. I mean, COVID has proven that as well, so.

Steven: Yeah, I love it. I feel like we could talk about this all day. But there’s so much. Erica, this is awesome having you. People should reach out. That’s cool with you?

Erica: Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Like I said, if you have questions and I didn’t answer it yet, just send me an email and I’d be happy to respond to it. So, yeah.

Steven: Awesome. Well, we’ll email everybody the slides and the recording. So be on the lookout from that for me. I’ll do that here right when we conclude. And we got some cool webinars coming up. I’m just going to highlight next week’s real quick. Our buddy, Chad Barger, is going to join us for a good, old-fashioned donor acquisition presentation. Oh, yeah, this is a good dovetail from Erica’s. So same time, same place next Thursday, exactly one week and minus one hour from now. Totally free. Chad is a great guy.

Erica: Yes.

Steven: And yeah. And we got lots of other cool topics on our webinars. There’s really diverse stuff coming up. So check it out. We’d love to see you on another webinar. If you can come back every single week, I would love that. So hopefully, we’ll see you next week. But if not, have a good rest of your Thursday. Have a good weekend. Stay safe. Stay healthy, please. We need all of you out there doing all your good work. And we will talk to you again soon.

Erica: Great.

Steven: Bye now.

Erica: Thanks.

Steven: See 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.
Kristen Hay