In this webinar, Erica Waasdorp will show you how to cultivate and recognize monthly donors — and how best to steward them.

Full Transcript:

Steven: Okay, Erica, is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

Erica: Yep.

Steven: Awesome. Well, good afternoon, everyone. Good morning if you’re on the East Coast or on the West Coast, I should say. Thanks for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Best Practices on Engaging and Keeping Your Monthly Donors.” I’m Steven from Bloomerang. I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always. And thanks for being here.

Just a couple of housekeeping items real quick. Just want to let you all know that we are recording this session and we’ll be sending the recording and the slides later on to you. So if you get interrupted, if you’re at home, like me, and a kid runs in here and interrupts you and you miss a nugget from Erica, don’t worry we’ll get all that stuff to you this afternoon. I’ll email it to you.

But most importantly, please chat in any questions or comments you have throughout the hour. We’re going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A. So don’t be shy, we’d love to answer questions live as many as we can before 3 o’clock Eastern. You can also do that on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed for questions there. But don’t be shy, don’t sit on those hands.

And if this is your first Bloomerang webinar, just want to say an extra special welcome to all you folks. We do these webinars usually on Thursdays throughout the week, but we’ve been doing more webinars given all the things that are going on out in the world with fundraising and nonprofits, I think you know what I’m talking about. So we love doing them. We got some great sessions coming up even this week.

But what we are most known for is our donor management software. So if you’re interested in that, maybe thinking about switching or just kind of want to check us out if you’re curious, just visit our website you can watch a video demo and see everything in action. But don’t do that right now because we got Erica Waasdorp here. Erica, how are you doing. You doing okay?

Erica: I’m good.

Steven: This is awesome.

Erica: Hello, everybody.

Steven: I’m so excited. Erica is the monthly giving queen. Anytime I see a question about monthly giving, I’m like talk to Erica. She’s the only go-to in my mind for monthly giving. She literally wrote the book on it and lots of other books too. And she’s joining us from beautiful Cape Cod, my homeland, another reason why I love Erica. And we planned this webinar a few months ago I think it’s been a while and obviously things have changed a lot. And Erica and I were talking last week and we thought should we still do this? And we both decided, yeah, this is still timely and may even be more relevant, given all that sustaining support that monthly donors can give you. So that’s why she’s here.

So, Erica, I’m going to go ahead and stop my screen share, and I’ll let you pull up the slides. I’m going to stop my video too because nobody needs to see me anymore. So let you find that share button.

Erica: Sure share, okay.

Steven: There you go.

Erica: Here we go, all right.

Steven: I think it’s working.

Erica: It’s working. Okay, great, awesome. All right and I’m going to just like, say hi, and then I’m going to like take down my video as well so you’re not going to have any distractions on the PowerPoint there. So, all right, I’ll be back later.

All right, so we’re going to talk about best practice on engaging and keeping your monthly donors. And, you know, like, Steven has already introduced me, so I’m not going to talk about that too much. I did throw in a couple of slides about bringing in new monthly donors and the reality is, especially now, right, you know.

So monthly donors are really, really important and if people don’t have a lot of money, they can still give to you by making a small monthly gift. But of course, it’s really important that you ask. So it’s all about making some small changes to what you’re doing right now that can generate big results. But let me just like, think about like, what if you had so many monthly donors, right.

And I’d love to know in the chat too, like how many monthly donors you have now. I didn’t do any polls, I just like . . . so if you want to just like chat in saying how many monthly donors do you have now. But whenever it comes to monthly donors, people don’t necessarily realize the tremendous value of it.

So if you look at this chart, if you had 100 monthly donors and say the average monthly gift is about 24 bucks, that’s $288 a year that’s $28,000. If you had 200 monthly donors, that’s almost $60,000. If you had 500 monthly donors, that’s $144,000. So whenever you talk about monthly donor results, always annualize it, and people are going to be blown away because it’s always been like sort of like a challenge to get people to do it. So I’m going to show you a couple of examples that actually we did just last week, asking for a monthly gift as part of a COVID-19 coronavirus message, right.

So this organization they actually had two buttons in their email. One was focused on will you give monthly to support us during this critical time? And then the second option was the one-time gift, yes, I’ll make an emergency gift. And the results were fantastic. So just like making a tiny change to an email that you’re probably already considering, could make a difference when it comes to bringing in monthly donors, right. Because again, you’ve done all the . . . I mean, you have the tools, you have done all of the backend stuff. I mean, you have your monthly giving page like for people to come on and make a gift, right.

So just put it right out there this is what you want people to do, you want them to give monthly. Or just like anytime you send an email try an extra button, “Make a one-time donation,” “Become a monthly donor.” This organization has really tripled their number of monthly gifts by just adding this button in every email they do. It doesn’t cost anything. It’s a very simple change, right. And again, this organization just did an emergency appeal and they brought in a number of nice, new monthly gifts. So again, you have nothing to lose by trying this, right.

And then also like every time you reach out to your donors, especially now when you are like giving them updates or just asking them how are they doing, in your PS or in like the bottom of your email signature that they can join with a monthly gift, right. So those are just three little things you can do that will help you grow your monthly gift right.

Now, the other thing is, if you have monthly donors now, now is also a good time to say, hey, maybe I have a little bit of extra time to get back to some of my monthly donors who have lapsed who have dropped out. Or maybe I can ask for an extra gift especially now to those existing monthly donors. The piece of cultivation, retention, extra gifts, upgrades, it all goes hand in hand. So if nothing else, now is a good time to pick up the phone and say thank you. If you’ve never said thank you to your monthly donors, now is a good time to say, “Hey, I want to just like tell you how much we appreciate your ongoing support.” So engage everybody that can possibly help you with that, right. So a thank-a-thon you know, like thanking a monthly donor, a new monthly donor during the year it’s always a good idea.

The other thing is like . . . what I typically recommend is that you don’t have a monthly thank you letter in the mail but that in January, you send out a tax letter. As part of the follow-up to today’s webinar, you’re going to get a tax letter template that you could customize for your organization. So those are a couple of things to cultivate.

And then, of course, you want to make them feel special, right. So if there’s something exciting, something positive, that you can share, by all means, share that with your monthly donors, right. So I always recommend that you have like a special segment in your email program and you, of course, have a special segment in your donor base. So that way, you can always select them and say, hey, I’m going to do something special for all my donors, but for the monthly donors, this is one I want to add in. Fred is walking, right, you know. And of course, the other donors are getting this as well but it’s just a great way to make your monthly donors feel special.

And there’s lots and lots and lots of other ideas, obviously for cultivating but I only have an hour, so I focused on some of these. So just kind of like think about what’s something special, what’s something surprising, what’s something positive, that you can share with your existing monthly donors right now that will make them feel good and confirm that they’ve made the right decision to help you with the monthly gift. That’s really what it’s all about.

The other thing . . . and I know like people sometimes worry about this, it’s like, “Well, you know like does it take a lot of time to keep these monthly donors? How do I do it?” You know, so the reality is, yes, you’re going to have to track your monthly donors. You have to follow-up on them if their card stops, if their payment doesn’t come in, right because it’s all about retention. I mean, there was a study done like about a year and a half ago now that said that 47% of organizations did not follow-up.

So if you’re on this webinar, you’re not going to be one of those 47%, right, you know that you absolutely have to follow-up. And now again, is a good time to say, hey, there may have been some monthly donors who dropped out, for whatever reason, maybe you don’t even know why they dropped out, maybe they simply stopped giving. And it now might be a good time to reach out to them and say, can you come back we really need you, right. So again, it’s all about that retention. Because keeping your monthly donors is a process and you’re going to actually get a process flow from me that you can customize for your organization what is it now, what could it be?

So a couple of parts of that process, you want to look at what I call hard cancels. So hard cancels, are those donors who call you, or email you, or write you and say, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” There’s a way that you can possibly save them. Soft cancels are those donors . . . and those are probably the bulk of those lapsed monthly donors that you have. Soft cancels are those donors whose payment doesn’t come in, but they did not tell you that they wanted to stop. They really want to continue, right. So look at that, like make sure that you have a tracker in your database, in your system somewhere that you know those donors who actually called you and said, “No, I don’t want to do this anymore,” as opposed to those other monthly donors.

And then we’re going to look at having a call script to bring them back, that you send out some emails and maybe more than one email. That you send out a letter and it may be more than one letter. And then the key thing with this too is like can you be amazed if you start doing this if you haven’t already, the tremendous value of taking a little bit of time to reactivate your monthly donors.

Okay, so you’re getting this process flow. It’s literally just a little simple PowerPoint tool that you can plug in what you are doing right now. It sounds silly, but I’ve done this with like some big organization, some midsize organizations. And a lot of times it’s like if you write down the process, you can see exactly where the holes are, you can also see who does what. And you know you can sometimes see some things that are not happening where you thought they were happening, right.

So here’s an example if the credit card declines or rejects so the payment doesn’t come in, right. Pick a day, pick one day a month where you sit down and look at that. And say, okay, let’s hear from the finance person or your accountant or your bookkeeper, or whatever you call that person and saying, okay, hey, these are the people whose payment didn’t come in.

I recommend you send an email that exact same day. And then you want to send a letter within the first 48 hours. And you want to try to call them within the first 48 hours. You really want to do all of those things at the same time. Don’t wait, because what happens is you wait, stuff fall through the cracks, right. And again, right now, people are getting their mail, people are getting their emails and people are home so a good time to call, right. And then if they don’t respond within, say, 10 days, you can make a second call and then you might make a second email, right. So just like map out what your current process is, and then we can talk through it and see if there are ways that you can make some tweaks to it, right.

I mentioned already so if you have a hard cancel, that means if a donor calls you and says, “I don’t want to do this anymore,” they care about your organization. They really don’t want to stop. It’s almost like they call you to have you convince them otherwise, right. So find out why they cancel and see what they say. In some cases, it may be financial, well, maybe there’s a way that they can lower their monthly gift. Maybe they were giving $24 a month, and maybe they can go to $5 a month. It’s still 60 bucks a year, right. So it’s still worth it. They might say, “Hey, you know, I never thought about that yes, I can do $5 a month, right.” Or maybe in some cases, they might say, “Well, I can’t do it monthly, but I could do quarterly or yearly.”

So if you have that conversation with them, you can see what they want. Because again, they care about you, right, they want to support you but just this way, it’s not something that they can do right now. But the other part of that having that conversation is that you can ask them if they want to continue to receive updates from you. If they say, “Well, I’m so upset, I don’t want to receive anything anymore” well, then you probably pretty much lost them.

But in most cases, they say, “Oh, yeah, I’d love to continue to receive updates.” And oh, you know, like, maybe there’s a way you can even offer a pause, you know, and say, can I call you in six months, maybe your situation has changed, right. Because again, we’re all human beings and we have stuff going on in our lives. And again, these donors want to support you so give them some options to do that.

I typically like, say it would be good to have what we call a save option. So you know, again find out why they want to stop and then you know, thank them. Again, everything you do on the phone when they call you is all about like, yes, the gratitude, I mean, we know you’re really making a difference as a monthly donor. We’re so grateful even if they want to continue to . . . you know, if they continue to say no, I don’t want to do this anymore, right. And then make sure that you know, you really listen to what they want to do, and then follow those directions. So this is an example script that you can use to try to save them.

If the donor’s payment just simply stops, that’s a soft cancel. Again, they did not contact you to stop. They want to keep giving, right. They just weren’t aware that the credit card changed or that the credit card was compromised. They got a new one forgot to think about you as an organization. I mean, I’m personally a monthly donor to I don’t even know how many organizations a lot, right? And I wouldn’t necessarily think about all of those organizations to let them know what’s happening. In fact, I’m probably mean and figure out what they’re going to do to see if they can get my updated information. Again, the donor wants to continue to give. They just forgot, right.

So, as I mentioned, pick a day a month where you look at your soft cancels. Now in some cases, you may have a system where you can actually see ahead of time that a donor’s credit card is about to expire. So you can take action even before that happened, right. But in most cases, you may not get the information until it actually happens. So look at your system and then you can take action right away.

So I recommend one day a month and I know like some organizations have charges that are being done on a daily basis. So if somebody signs up on the 24th, they get charged every 24th of the month. If they get charged on the 15th, they get charged every 15th of the month after that. But other systems they do it on the 15th of the month or the 20th of the month or the first of the month, depending upon how you set that up in the beginning, right. So still no matter what system, pick one day where you sit down and think, how am I doing? It doesn’t have to take long but just sit down and think, how am I doing? Okay, I need to take action to get these monthly donors back.

Then, take a look and say, how many monthly donors am I losing or about to lose? Well, what if that’s 10? And say they’re $24 a month, right so that’s $288 a year. So this month, your number of monthly donors at risk is 10 for a total value of almost $3,000. So that’s worth it to take a little bit of time and effort, right. So if you look at it that way, this is a group of $3,000 value donors that you could be losing unless you take action.

Again some of these little tips, if you will, I find really make a difference in like, you know, talking to your boss and say hey, I need to kind of, you know, spend a little bit of time in trying to bring them back.

The other thing . . . Again, and people tell me they say, “Oh, you know, I don’t want to be a nag.” The reality is you’re not a nag. Remember the donor wants to support you. They did not want to stop, right. So in essence, what you’re doing is you’re providing a service to the donor. You’re being very courteous and saying, “Hey, you know, it looks like your payment didn’t come in this month, maybe your card has changed. Can you please give me your updated information?” That’s totally fine. In fact, again, you know, they want to support you, right. So just think about it that way. It’s not a nag, it’s a courtesy, it’s a service. You love your donors. They love you back because you’re doing this.

So you don’t want to wait, you want to combine all of it. You want to send an email, you want to send a letter, you even want to call people and if you have their permission to send you a text message, you can even send them a text message. And then finally, you can set up what we call like the credit card updater system as well for some systems that’s a great game-changer. And then you want to repeat.

Right now, I don’t see a general consensus in nonprofit world as to when they stop doing this. Some organizations they keep like, reminding donors like three months in a row, others they remind them four months or five months in a row. So again, you don’t want to give up too soon. Because again, we’re all humans, right we have stuff going on in our lives. And maybe you left a message and I was meaning to call you back but then, you know, I got busy with the kids, whatever, right. So just like keep at it until you get that updated information.

So send an email, ideally with a link to a special update page. Again, we’re all busy. I might get that email at 5 o’clock and at 10 o’clock I’m sitting down and saying, oh, let me just like, update that information. Having a link to a form where I can type in my updated information is ideal because I can do it at any time. If I have to wait till I call you well, I’m working during the day, so I can’t get to you, right. So make it easy for the donor to update.

So I recommend that you just make a copy of your monthly giving page and earmark that for the update. So you know that anybody with that URL is an update as opposed to a new monthly donor. So definitely consider a link in your email directly to that monthly donor update page, that’s the best thing. Then also send a letter and again, you’re actually going to get like a monthly donor retention playbook from me that you can customize all of these letters, scripts, emails, for your organization. So there’s a lot in that.

So here’s an example of a letter again, you can obviously call the organization and that’s in there as well. But have that letter go out at about the same time you’re sending that email as well. Make sure there’s like, a reply form. You have the donor’s information on there. And of course, there’s going to be a reply or envelope with it, right. And in this case, you could even consider asking the donor to upgrade their gift. And you’d be amazed sometimes donors are willing to do that.

And finally, you could consider a postcard. So you’ve sent a letter, you’ve sent a couple of emails, you’ve tried making some calls. Maybe like, postcard is a way to say, “Hey, is this really goodbye. We hope you’re still with us.” And again, it’s that final push that like people say, “Oh, yeah, I was meaning to do this. I keep forgetting it.” Now let me give them a call out and let me go online and do it, right. So literally, you want to pull out all of the stops.

As mentioned, make that courtesy call. Thank the monthly donor in your message or live, right. And again, in the monthly donor retention playbook, there is a couple of scripts, one for a live call with a donor and one for leaving a message. Again, have a solution if you’re talking to the monthly donor. Maybe they changed cards, maybe you can even ask them to give you their bank account information if you have that option. I’m going to show you a couple of examples there. So again, if you have that question conversation, it’s a courtesy call, right. Always have that thank you in there and then ask for the updated information. And as mentioned, the script will be in there as well and again, you can leave a message.

Now, depending upon what donor base system or what payment processor you’re using, find out if they have a credit card updater, account updater, credit card recycler, all the same terminology for a system that works in the backend. It’s totally PCI compliant. And it’s been a game-changer, especially for organizations that have like bigger size programs. And of course, you’re looking to grow, right. So definitely ask your donor base or your payment processing, “Hey, can you offer this? Do you have this in place?”

And then the way it works is the card doesn’t go through, the payment doesn’t go through, it looks in this huge database that you will never see, right. It’s totally in the backend. And you know, it will find the updated information and then process the gift. Or it says, “Hey, no, it’s not updated yet,” so you still will have to take action. So right now, what I’m hearing from organizations is that on average, they’re getting about 30% of updated information from these monthly donors. So you still have 70% of people who you have to call, email, and send a letter to, but it’s, you know, still obviously, 30% fewer people that you don’t have to contact and their payment just keeps ongoing.

I also mentioned like again, you know, like text messages like, has a 90% open rate right now. So if you make it very personal, and very short and sweet, and you have that link for the update right in there, and your phone number, then that’s the way to go. And of course, you want to make sure that you have permission. So if you’ve used something like a MobileCause or some other text program that you’re offering to get your monthly donors, then you have their information and their permission to send them a text message as well. So this is a great opportunity to do it.

So, after this, let’s take a look and say, okay, are you going to change something? Maybe you are already doing it perfect, right. I mean, you know, some of you may have already been doing it perfectly great. But if you didn’t, how are you going to change your process flow? What are you going to add in and then see what happens, right? Because it’s all about how many more monthly donors you can keep, and how much money you’re going to keep at the end of the day, right. Because remember, every month, you could possibly be losing monthly donors, because credit cards expire, right. About 5% of credit cards expire every month, right. So you could possibly be losing 5% of your monthly donors if you don’t do something. So that’s why this is a really, really crucial piece.

Now, even if they stopped giving a couple of months ago, again, now is a really good time to reach back out to say, “Hey, you used to give to us, would you consider coming back? You never really want to give up on them, right. So how about putting your lapsed monthly donors in that special email that you’re going to send out right now. Have the link to the monthly giving page right in there and see if you can bring them back.

And if you have like a separate segment, you can then track how they are doing, right. So you can have like your active donors, your lapsed monthly donors and see what the difference is and how they’re responding and see how many monthly donors you might bring back. Even if it’s a few, that’s still more than zero, right. So just think about it, you’ve done all the hard work. It’s just a matter of like, bringing them back in the fold and adding that group to them.

And then if you’re sending out direct mail appeals to generate monthly donors, consider adding in your lapsed monthly donors as a special segment and then track it. The bigger organizations that have direct mail appeals, this is what they do. They’re always looking for new monthly donors, but they also go back to their lapsed monthly donors and see if they can bring them back because things change, right. And again, remember, these are your soft cancels that you’re talking about. These are those donors who for some reason their payment didn’t come in. They want to continue to give to you, right.

So I was actually talking to a wonderful woman in Canada a while back and I interviewed her for a blog post and she started calling her lapsed monthly donors. And she said out of the 48 that she talked to 24 people reactivated, they came back. And as she mentioned, she said some of them they had stopped giving monthly five years ago. So again, that’s 50%, right, so that’s like a very, very powerful number. And again, it doesn’t take very long. She’s literally scheduling one call a day, and she stays half an hour late once a week, you know, so one day a month actually.

So it doesn’t take very much time and again, remember, it’s worth a lot of money if you can bring them back, right. And then also, it will allow you to have a conversation and find out what they like about your organization, what maybe they don’t like about your organization, maybe they weren’t treated right. You know, again, you’re now there and you’re going to do it, right. You know how to cultivate these monthly donors. But one call a day can do a lot, right. So it doesn’t have to take very much time and certainly doesn’t have to take very much money to keep them.

All right. I mentioned earlier like the big trend right now is to try to get monthly donors to give via electronic funds transfer, ACH, direct debit, automatic bank withdrawal, all the same, getting the donor’s bank account information. So that, you know, like that credit card doesn’t expire, because on average donors might change banks every 12 to 14 years, if at all, right. So once you get them to give via their bank account information, it’s really going to be even much higher in terms of retention rate.

Look at this statistic here. Some organizations are still sending out mail reminders, that’s called like check statements. So on average retention rate for that group is 62% because they get 12 check statements a year, and they’re not going to send a check into every single one of them. So about 62%. If you get them to give your credit card information, 87% on average is the retention rate for those folks, but if you can get them to give via electronic funds transfer ACH, you’re looking at 94% retention.

Now, right now, based on the most recent Blackbaud’s or like last few years Blackbaud’s Sustainer Benchmarking, on average 5% of monthly donors give via electronic funds transfer, but it is growing because again, it’s so much easier to set it up now. So again, if you can offer it, absolutely add it to the mix. So, if you can reach out to your existing monthly donors and find out like well, maybe you know, would you consider switching, because it will save us money, it will be cheaper, it will be safer, right you know. So consider a special appeal you may even send it out like in-house and see what happens, right. You just want to get their bank account information.

You can use the phone. Again, if you’re talking to them, asking them to update their information, you can also consider asking them to make automatic payments from your bank account. So use the phone, have that negotiation, right. And then the other thing is if you can offer EFT on your online form, then when you’re asking the donor to update their information, again, it will be that much easier to do. So again, it’s all about savings for your organization, more money goes to help the animals, the children, the clients you serve, right, and again, it’s also easier for your donor.

The next thing that I want to talk about is it is absolutely possible to upgrade your monthly donors. And I know people ask me this all the time, “Oh, you know, I’m worried. I don’t want to get new monthly donors that only give me $5 a month. I really want more money, right.” And it’s like, okay, well, it may be better to bring them in at $5 or $10 a month, because you can upgrade them later. But you can also consider an extra gift. And you can ask them to leave you in their will. Ideally, you want to do it all, right, because monthly donors, the big reason why they support you is because they want to help.

The ease of giving monthly is a secondary thing. They want to help you, right, and monthly giving is just a good way to do it. So they’re interested in giving extra gifts. They’re interested in upgrading. They’re interested in leaving you in their will, but you do have to ask for it, right.

So if you look at the statistics, on average 6% of monthly donors made at least one additional gift. And this is like data that I’m waiting for the latest statistics actually from last year. But 6% of donors make at least one extra gift. I have organizations that get, you know, two, or three, or four extra gifts from their monthly donors, in some cases, they’re the best responding group every time they send an appeal.

Twelve percent of monthly donors are interested in upgrading and some of them are doing both. So again, you have nothing to lose by asking. Of course, you don’t want to be too greedy, right, so in other words, you don’t want to do this when they just came on board, right. I recommend typically wait . . . And again, you can do some testing yourself. It depends on the number of monthly donors you have but I recommend at least waiting half a year. You don’t have to wait a whole year but anywhere between that 6 to 12-month timeframe is a good time to ask for an upgrade. And you can still consider some additional asks during the year. But you want to do it right.

So you always want to make sure that you incorporate in every ask for an extra gift or upgrade ask that you know that they’re already very generous, that you know they were very special to you. So you always want to say thank you for giving monthly, and then say I have a special opportunity. Because again, remember donors want to help so you just have to give them the opportunity to do that. So if you look at your schedule of appeals, every organization is different. Some you’re only sending two appeals a year, others you may be like two appeals and two e-newsletters. Others, again, are sending out 10 appeals a year, you know, so it’s all over the map, right.

So look at, you know, the number of appeals that you’re sending out and which ones are the ones that number one are the most successful when you send it to your donors. Those are going to be the most successful when you send it to your monthly donors as well. So what are the highest responsive appeals if you have to make some choices? What are special appeals like say, if you’re sending out a calendar, and a calendar would be something that a monthly donor would really appreciate. Or say if you’re doing something like a membership or support a card, that would be something that a monthly donor would really appreciate.

If you send a match appeal to your donors, that again is something that your monthly donors will appreciate. If you have a giving day or Giving Tuesday again, that is something that your monthly donors will appreciate and they will be likely to make an extra gift, right. So those are just a couple of tidbits to say, look at your plan, look at your overall number of appeals and emails, e-newsletters and say, what can I do? What makes most sense?

And you know what, it’s okay to ask your monthly donors what they would like to hear about, what type of updates they would like to see, right, and they will tell you. So pick the right appeals, and then, you know, get some more money in the door.

Now, I mentioned upgrades work well, but you got to do it right. So again, you got to recognize them. I’m a partner in Hope for St. Jude and I have been for a number of years, right and they send me an upgrade appeal. And you see here that they’re looking to upgrade my monthly pledge. I’m giving $5 a month right now. So they’re looking to upgrade 6, 7, 8, you know, and others, right. So you always want to give a couple of options. Again, they’re saying I’m thankful to you, right. It really drips from gratefulness, right. So that’s the key.

On your reply form, you want to make sure that you have the new amount on there because that’s the new amount I’m going to commit to when I upgrade. As mentioned, you want to indicate the new amounts. So in your letter, or in your email, you may say, “Would you consider an upgrade with $2, more, $3 more, or $5 more.” But then on the form, you want to make sure that the donor indicates what the new amount is. So that way you have that commitment and you basically have a record of that new upgrade amount, right.

The other thing is like, I always recommend . . . and this is sort of in general like, when you’re asking initially for new monthly donors, you want to ask low, get high response. When you’re asking for an upgrade, again, you don’t want to be too greedy but you also want to, you know, you kind of want to test a couple of different options. So my experience is that one-third of your current monthly gift is a good starting point. So say if you’re getting $4 a month, you could start with an upgrade of $8 a month. And again, you can test a little bit like what if I do just $2 a month, $4 a month you know what, have you.

Some organizations are very sophisticated in terms of what they can do with their forms and they can be very flexible in their ask amounts, others it may be a little bit more difficult. So you just have to have one online donation form in the backend that gives the amount that donors are most likely to upgrade with. Again, you can test some different forms but again, you want to keep it somewhat simple.

So I recommend like, start with like one-third, and then the two-third. And then the final is a three-third, right the same amount that they’re giving now to see if you can actually double their monthly gift. But if you’re in doubt, try like putting in your toe and saying, okay, what if I just start with $2 a month? Especially if you have a lot of monthly donors that maybe give you like $10 or $12 now. Especially a lot of religious organizations, a lot of animal organizations tend to have smaller monthly amounts. So obviously, that’s important as well, like, look at what you’re getting right now and then test some upgrades there. Because again, donors will self-identify if they can do more they will, right.

So how do you get some more money? How do you engage your monthly donors even more? Like I said, you want to ask for an additional gift, and you can also ask donors to consider leaving you in their will. So here’s an interesting email that again, it actually has multiple buttons, right. So in this case, it says, increase your existing gift, and it goes to like an upgrade page, or make an additional one-time gift and test that out, right. So you can test this out on one or two appeals and see what happens, right. So you can do a lot in your emails. So again, have multiple buttons. What do you have to lose, right?

As I said, additional appeals work as well. Again, you’re thanking me for being a partner in Hope, and then I want to give an extra gift this month. And they’re leaving it blank. They’ve done . . . I mean, St. Jude . . . some of these big guys I recommend that if you have a couple of dollars, join a couple of these bigger organizations that have substantial monthly donor programs like St. Jude, ASPCA, Habitat for Humanity just to name a couple of them, maybe a couple of the religious organizations. And again, lots of animal organizations at HSUS, they have bigger monthly donor programs, join them and see what they’re doing. They test a lot, right.

So we can just like, look at that and say, if they’re testing it, if they’re doing it, we know it works so how about stealing that idea, right. So that’s what we’re borrowing, let’s put it that way. We’re just borrowing that idea, right. So again, additional appeals work if you do it right.

And additional emails work as well, right. So I mentioned you can absolutely ask for Giving Tuesday or a match. And this organization they have like . . . they call them wildlife guardians. And they’re just like recognizing them as a wildlife guardian, and then asking them to give an additional gift. So again, they tell the donor that they know that they’re already giving monthly.

And then don’t be too afraid to put something in your newsletter, in your e-newsletter, have a buck slip in your tax letter. You know, have a little note, you know, on the bottom of your e-newsletter, just saying . . . planting the seed. Again, it’s all about planting the seeds, right, about like leaving the organization in your will, right.

One of the things I started doing with organizations recently is I asked them to look at those donors who left the organization in their will, what was their starting gift? How long ago was that? How many gifts did they make since then, what was the last gift, and when was the last gift? And again, if you do that, you’ll be amazed like the bulk of people who leave you in their will comes from these smaller donors.

One of my organizations has like about 30,000 monthly donors, and 75% of their legacy revenue came from monthly donors. So again, look at some of the things that you know, and you have in your database and let that drive you. So you don’t have to wait till they’re a big donor, you can again start planting the seeds, have a tick box and every appeal, right. Please send me information about leaving you in my will. So start planting the seeds. This is an ad in this organization’s magazine, right.

So with everything we do, asking for extra gifts, asking for upgrades, asking for new monthly donors, retaining monthly donors, cultivating monthly donors. The mail, phone, email, text, combination is the most powerful, right so it’s all about like trying to reach the donor where they’re at.

You never want to forget to say thank you. So I always recommend that you say thank you when they join in a hardcopy. You say thank you when they convert to EFT in a hardcopy. And say thank you when they upgrade in a hardcopy. And again, you can decide what you want that to look like, the more personal, the better off you are, right because you never want to forget to say thank you. And again, it’s okay to call the donor and say, thanks so much for your upgrade. Thanks so much for sending in your updated information. Thanks so much for converting to ACH, right. Because it will really make a difference to the animals, the children, the clients you serve, right.

So, I mean, we’re all in this together, right and the donor wants to be part of that. They want to help. The reality is you don’t earn loyalty in a day you earn loyalty day by day by just doing a couple of these things and keeping your monthly donors going for you for a very, very long time.

So that’s it for me. If you have any questions after today, I’m going to do one follow-up later this week probably, you know. I promise that we will only do one follow-up and then that’s it. But you can always reach out to me by phone, by email. You can go on my website and download some of the resources. And you’ll get some handouts after this as well. So that’s it for me. Steve, any questions?

Steven: Yeah, that was awesome. Erica, we got a lot of questions. But I just want to say thanks, this is awesome. I knew it would be chockfull of good stuff. And thanks for making a quick pivot for us because when we scheduled this, we didn’t anticipate a global pandemic that would disrupt fundraising sources. So really appreciate you still doing this for us. We got a lot of questions. So if you haven’t asked a question yet, now is the time. Angela here was wondering if you have a formula maybe for sort of crafting the right ask amount in terms of $1 amount per month. Is there a rule of thumb there? What do you think?

Erica: Yeah, so it’s also that one-third. So say somebody is giving you $35 in an appeal, you want to reach out to them, like start with one-third of that. So low is always better. So if you can get away with $5 a month or $10 a month, that’s great. But one-third is typical, and I’ve been doing this for like, more than 25 years, and it seems to still be sort of the golden formula. So start with like 15 bucks, you know, like 10 bucks a month and then $15 a month and then $20 and then go up. And always have the other right but the one-third is a good formula.

Steven: And that’s a massive increase in lifetime value, right? I mean one-third times 12. And then the retention rates are like 90% for monthly donors, right, so that’s not nothing. I love it. This is awesome. Linda, asking about workplace giving. So folks giving monthly at your workplace. Should you do anything different there than what you said? What do you think?

Erica: So typically the system is a little bit different in how you track it, right, and where it’s recorded, right, but you can absolutely recognize the workplace givers as part of your monthly donor program. So if you have a welcome letter, you know, if you do something special, you know, if you will have that special email that you send out. So you can consider them as part of your monthly giving program, but it’s typically tracked somewhere else. So that’s just something to remember. But always recognize your donors as special, right, you know, so that never hurts, right so absolutely, yeah.

Steven: Catherine works for an advocacy organization so should they . . .

Erica: Petitions are great.

Steven: Yeah, any differences in approach there?

Erica: So you actually have some . . . I don’t know if you’re doing petitions, but petitions are great. Or if you do surveys as part of your advocacy activities. So you actually have that beauty of like if say somebody, like, sent in a petition response, then as part of the thank you for signing a petition, you can say, “You know, it would be really helpful if you would consider giving monthly, click here.” And again, it gives you that free option to ask donors to give monthly, right. And I know some organizations that have great success by offering that on the backend as part of like, whatever they’re doing in their advocacy efforts.

Steven: Cool. Yeah, I love the petitions idea, you know, already doing a touchpoint. It seems like existing touchpoints are kind of the secret sauce here, right?

Erica: Yes.

Steven: Just kind of slipping in. Okay, that makes sense. Few questions just came in that I think are pretty related, but they’re not going to sound like it when I read them. So I’m going to combine them both. So Jessica’s wondering if . . . Amber, I’m sorry. Amber is wondering if . . . I hear this one a lot if reaching out to monthly donors’ semi-frequently may sort of remind them that that contribution is being made. And then there was another concern, this one was from Jessica, who said, I need to reach out to a monthly donor, but I’m not sure if now is a good time with what’s happening in the economy. What do you think about that whole . . . You know, it’s sort of like reminding them there’s a utility bill kind of in place. You know that kind of thing.

Erica: So a couple of things what some systems they have . . . like say if you have monthly donors who PayPal, right, you know. So PayPal automatically sends a receipt every month. You can’t suppress it, right, so they get reminded, right, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Other systems, you can suppress that and do something special. Where again, you can still say thank you so much for your continued monthly support, here’s an update of what’s happening, or here’s a great story, right. So here’s how your gifts are making a difference.

So if you do it where you’re confirming that they’re giving monthly, but it’s more than just a receipt, it’s really like, you know, the thanking and the reporting back on how the gifts are making a difference, I think you’re totally fine. And then to the other question is like, now is a good time to say I just wanted to reach out and say, thank you so much for your ongoing monthly support. You really make a difference. And if you have any questions, I’m here or is there’s any . . . you know, whatever it is. So it’s a good time to reach out. And also again, you can even say, I know you’re already giving monthly, but we’re really struggling right now with this pandemic like, you know, everybody. Could you consider an extra gift?

Steven: I love it.

Erica: I mean, if you do it right, including the thank you, you know . . . and again, if you’re sending on an appeal, say you’re sending on an urgent gram or something, you can have a little laser message on there or a handwritten note or something like that saying again, “Thank you for your ongoing monthly support, but I really need you right now. Would you consider an extra gift?” I mean, the donor can say no, but that’s okay. But they’re not necessarily going to cancel their monthly gift because of it.

Steven: Yeah, it seems like if all you send is 12 transactional receipts, yeah, they’re going to feel like it’s a utility bill that is disposable. I know utility bills aren’t disposable but that one could hit the chopping block. It’s funny you mentioned what you said about the second question because we did a webinar on Friday, it was off topic, but this came up. Where our guest mentioned that every business he’s ever transacted with is reaching out to him, but none of the nonprofits he supports has. And I echoed that I counted it up, I have 11 monthly contributions that the family gives . . . and that’s a little high for most normal households. I’m just kind of a philanthropy geek.

Erica: Yeah, I’m doing more of than that [inaudible 00:56:23].

Steven: But yeah, I haven’t heard from any of them. And a couple of them are human services and I’m kind of wondering like, what’s going on over there?

Erica: I got a great video from one of my monthly donor folks. You know, it’s actually in the Illinois area. So they just did a little video saying, “Because of you we’re able to do some of these things,” you know, thank you video.

Steven: It seems like that’d be one of the first groups I would reach out to. I don’t know if you feel that way but yeah. Here’s one from Chris. Is there value to converting monthly donors to multi-year pledge donors? Have you seen that conversion happen?

Erica: So pledge donors, there is an end date. So if you say, well, would you consider a pledge for three years, right, you know, so there’s an end date, as opposed to with monthly donors, there really is not an end date, right. You don’t want an end date, right. So if you have a special . . . I mean, I would only do that if you again reach out to your monthly donors and say, “Look, we’ve got some exciting capital campaign going on. We’re building this new building, whatever. We want you to participate. Can you make special extra gift? And you can pay that off over a couple of years, right. So would you consider a multi-year pledge?” So it becomes a second gift but other than that, I would not offer the pledge because again, there is an end date in that.

Steven: So in addition to not instead of?

Erica: Right.

Steven: And it seems like monthly donors would be a good prospect for that, right?

Erica: Well, again, you know, you got to look at obviously, like, typically, monthly donors are not your big check writers. But again, if you have a special project that you sort of like . . . if it’s at the end of your capital campaign, so you’re just going out to your general donors, you know, and say you have to reach a certain goal, then, by all means, it becomes like a match, right. Or it becomes like hi, you know, you want to give monthly donors the opportunity to participate, right. I mean, if I were a monthly donor, you didn’t offer me that opportunity, I would be upset. It’s like, “Oh, yeah, I wanted that, I want to have my name on that building, too, you know,” or whatever or on the plaque, you know. So I want to be in that library, you know.

Steven: Yeah, that makes sense. Here’s one from Maria. Maria just started a new job, just got there and she’s wondering how long is too long to reach out to those folks who soft cancel, who lapsed because maybe their credit card expired. So I assume she’s kind of going through the database and seeing these things but it’s been a while.

Erica: And it’s kind of interesting. I mean, it’s never too long, right. So it can’t hurt like to this example that I showed like this woman came in and she said, she started reaching out and some people hadn’t given in five years. So you have nothing to lose by reaching out to them and see if you can bring them back. A couple of years ago, I was mean and I started 25 new monthly gifts and I gave them a card that was expiring the next month, just to kind of see how they would respond, right. And it was pretty sad actually. This is a couple of years ago.

And one organization they reached out and the woman said, “Hey, I’m new in this thing, and I was just looking through the monthly donors and I saw your name on it and I wanted to see if you would come back.” And she reached me by phone and it was probably like, 14 months later, after I stopped. And I said, “Oh, yeah, of course, yeah.” So I’ve forgotten that my payment didn’t come through, right, you know. So you have nothing to lose by reaching out to those soft cancels.

Steven: And they probably didn’t even notice if it was a $7 or $12. I mean, I check my online banking, but if that stopped, I don’t know that I would check it.

Erica: Once a year I look at my tax and when I get ready for my tax stuff, and like, oh, yeah, I forgot about that you know, so yeah.

Steven: So what I’m hearing from you is kind of fortune favors the bold here in all these things, right? I love it.

Erica: Yeah.

Steven: Erica, this was awesome.

Erica: Great.

Steven: Thanks for doing this. You’re the best as always. How can folks get a hold of you? I got your contact info there but what should folks do?

Erica: Send me an email. I mean, call me. And definitely, you know, like I said, I’m going to do one follow-up, so you’ll get some of the handouts. And I know you’re going to send the slides and the recording as well and in the process flow. And sign up for my email. And I typically send one email a week, I was going to say a month, but a week with lots of tidbits and some case studies and you know, things like that.

Steven: Cool. Yeah, sign-up it’s good. And she doesn’t overdo it. It’s one of the good ones. I don’t think you’ll want to unsubscribe anytime soon. So yeah, like Erica said, I’ll get you the slides recording. She sent me a flow worksheet that she showed on her slides. I’ll get that to today I promise. This was awesome, Erica, thanks for being here.

Erica: Great. And let me know . . . I mean, I’m always looking for great case studies too so let me know what you’re doing as well, especially now. So see how many monthly donors you can bring in.

Steven: Yeah, we’d love to know. And we’re going to keep the conversation going. We got a webinar two days from now. We got Rachel. She’s been collecting emails, social media posts, all pertaining to what folks are saying about how they’re reaching out to donors, constituents, potential donors about what’s going on with the coronavirus. So she’s just going to share some of that stuff.

Again, a short notice one, she was willing to do it for us. I know you’re getting bombarded by COVID-19 stuff so if you can’t make it during that time period, we’re going to record it, no problem. It’ll be on our blog, as always, just like this one. So if you’re free on Thursday, at 2 p.m. Eastern, join us. It’s going to be a good one. But we’ll call it a day there. Thanks for being here. I know things are so hectic and I so appreciate so many of you hanging out for an hour or so. Hang in there. We’re thinking about you. Please stay safe and hopefully we will see you again in just a couple of days. So take care.

Erica: Thank you, bye.

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.