In this webinar, John Haydon will show you how to start or refresh your monthly giving program and offerings, find new monthly donors right under your nose, and get them to join your program now, not later.

After you’ve watched this video, you may be hungry to conduct more research. For another great resource on key components of a successful monthly giving program, check out this article by our friends at CharityHowTo.

Full Transcript:

Steven: All right. John, my watch just struck my clock. Is it okay if I go ahead and get this party started?

John: Perfect. Go for it.

Steven: All right, cool. Well, good afternoon, everyone if you’re on the East Coast. Good morning, I should say, if you’re out on the West Coast. Thank you so much for being here for today’s Bloomerang webinar, “Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Monthly Giving Program.” And my name is Steven Shattuck, and I’m the chief engagement officer over here at Bloomerang, and I’ll be moderating today’s discussion as always.

And just a couple of housekeeping items before we get going here officially, just want to let you all know that we are recording this presentation. And we’ll be sending out the recording as well as the slides later on today. So, if you have to leave early or maybe you missed something and want to review it later, share it with a friend, or a boss, or a co-worker, don’t worry, I will get all that good stuff in your hand today, I promise.

Most importantly, though, if you’re listening today, please feel free to use that chat box right there on your webinar screen. We’re going to try to save some time at the end for Q&A. I’ll leave a nice, healthy, robust Q&A section on our webinar. So, we need you to send questions for that to happen. So, don’t be shy. Don’t sit on those hands. We would love to answer your questions live at the end. So, keep them coming throughout the hour. You can also do that on Twitter. I’ll keep an eye on the Twitter feed for questions and comments as well.

And then if you have any trouble with the audio through your computer speakers, we find that the audio by phone is usually a lot better and a lot more solid. So, if you don’t mind dialing it, if you can do that, if it will be comfortable for you. Try that before you totally give up on us and toss your computer out the window. Don’t do that. Just check the email from ReadyTalk that went out about an hour ago, there should be a phone number in there for you.

And if this would be your first Bloomerang webinar, I just want to say an extra special welcome to all of you folks who are joining us for the first time. We love having you here. We give you webinars every single Thursday, even though today is Wednesday. We made a special scheduling change due to my traveling. Pretty much every week, usually on Thursday, sometimes Wednesdays.

But we love it but that’s not the only thing we do here at Bloomerang. We also provide donor management software. So, if you’re on the market for that or maybe you are just kind of curious about what we have to offer, check out our website. You can even download a quick video demo and see the software in action. You don’t even have to talk to a salesperson if you don’t want to. But don’t do that right now. Wait at least an hour at least until you hear this awesome presentation that you’re about to get from my buddy, John Haydon, joining us from beautiful . . . you’re in Cambridge, right, John? Not quite in Boston, but you’re in Cambridge. Have I got that right?

John: Yes. I’m in Cambridge, Mass, and I’m not wearing this shirt today. I really should have worn this shirt today.

Steven: You should’ve worn the shirt. I should’ve worn it. That’s John on the right, by the way. It’s me on the left. He’s my buddy. He’s a fashion icon. I want to be John when I grow up actually, which is why I was so excited to have him on the webinar series.

And if you guys don’t know John, check him out. Awesome website, blog, newsletter. He’s got a great Facebook Live series. He really is my go-to for all things digital on the fundraising side. Any time someone asks me a question about, you know, Facebook marketing, email marketing, I’ve always think of John first and just say, “Go listen to John. You know, do what he says.” Check out his book. Speaking of Facebook, he wrote a great book on Facebook marketing, and he’s working on a new book about donor retention, which I love because I love donor retention from Bold & Bright Media. So, check that out in a few months. That’s going to come out I think this year, right, John, or maybe pretty soon? You’ll be able to get it . . .

John: Yeah. It will be later in the year. I’m like in the trenches right now of furiously typing away for the first draft.

Steven: It’s hard.

John: It is tough. It’s very [fruitful 00:03:47].

Steven: Everything they say about book writing is like it’s a slog, but it will be worth it. And speaking of being worth it, John, you’ve got some awesome advice for us on kind of marketing your monthly giving program. So, I’m going to turn things over to you. You should have control of the slide, so take it away, my friend.

John: All right. Thank you so much. So, again, welcome everybody. And today, we’re going to talk about “Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Monthly Giving Program.” Okay. Your brand, communicating the program, developing the program. And the agenda that we have today is pretty straightforward, pretty brief. My hope is that we’re going to actually have a lot of time for Q&A at the end so we can have a lot of dialog back and forth at the end. I want to talk about why monthly giving, why that’s important, creating that brand for the monthly giving program, finding, giving prospects for the right under your nose in your database, promoting your monthly giving program to hot prospects. There’s a lot of email automation, marketing automation that we can use. And then kind of a schedule for a quarterly promotion and monthly promotion that I’ll talk about towards the end.

But let’s start off by talking about why monthly giving. And I really, you know, I’ve been doing this work for a little over 10 years. And actually, monthly giving is more of my passion now more than ever because I recognize the value of it, and it’s, I think, a lot more nonprofits really have to pay attention to monthly giving. So, I’m going to walk you through just why, right?

So, for the past 10 years, donor retention rates have been far below 50%. We all know this. It’s reported by Blackbaud and a whole bunch of other companies. Bloomerang does research on this. There’s the Fundraising Effectiveness Project that reports data on this. And it’s pretty dismal, okay? But the thing about monthly giving is that retention rates for monthly giving is 90%. So, if you can get someone into your monthly giving program, it’s almost hard to get rid of them, okay? Again, we’re talking about a situation where a donor is making a promise to you, and they’re trusting you enough so that you can take money from them automatically every single month.

In most cases, the reason why the 10% happens is because the credit card fails, or a person simply can’t afford it, or some other issue. We don’t have to remind people to give when it’s this automatic, right? So, that’s why we have 90% retention rate. There a lot of other reasons as well. And so, on average, monthly donors, actually, they give 45% more per year than a first-time donor or a repeat donor, okay? And this is simply because we’re taking money from them every single month and that obviously adds up over a 12-month period. And the other great thing, the CFOs would love this, monthly giving idea because it creates a predictable source of revenue.

In a prior life, I worked with a number of different software companies, and there’s this software as a service model, which is now every single software out there is now sold this way, and we pay a monthly fee for things like Salesforce, Bloomerang, and so forth. And so, this is great because it’s highly predictable. Now, it’s the same thing with your organization. We can really predict how much money is coming in the door in six months. How much money do we have coming in next year or for the balance of the year? This is very predictable, okay? And predictability is going to drive sustainability for the organization, right? And the reason why you’re all, and we all do this work is because we have a mission that we’re so passionate about.

The mission requires money. Without the money, no mission happens, okay? And so, what monthly giving does is just . . . sustainer giving gives us essentially a foundation of predictability and sustainability for the future, okay? And predicting revenues, again, is very easy, all right?

Now, here’s the other thing about retention in general. Retention is actually about five times cheaper than acquisition. Adrian Sargeant who wrote donor loyalty, a whole book on donor loyalty. I would call him the godfather of donor loyalty. He basically argues that acquisition, finding a new person to replace someone who left, you know, a new donor to replace someone who left costs up to 10 times as much as keeping an existing donor happy.

So, really, again, the money is in retention, right? If we have a bad, poor retention rates, we’re always trying to replace these people. And in a sense, we’re kind of being irresponsible. We’re throwing money out the window when we don’t have to. If we focus on retention, one super powerful away to build our retention strategy is obviously with monthly giving which is what we’re talking about today.

Number five, the other great thing about monthly giving is that once someone does join your monthly giving program, you don’t really have to talk about money so much more. Now definitely, you should ask because actually monthly donors are more likely to give money for like special appeals, or year-end, or anything like that outside of the monthly gift that they’re giving. So, let’s not get into this mistaken idea that, “Oh, well, they’re already giving us money, so let’s not ask them.”

The reverse is true, monthly donors are more likely to respond to those kind of one-off requests that we offer throughout the year. But also, it allows us to focus on deepening this relationship. The giving is automatically happening. We don’t have to worry about that so much. We can really develop this relationship with this person, which is all what stewardship is about, right?

So, let’s talk about the brand, all right? Now, the reason why we’re talking about this is because for a lot of organizations, unfortunately, monthly giving, this is how it goes, we activated the feature in our software so that someone can pick monthly giving. But it’s the same thing on our, you know, we’re offering monthly giving as an option on our main fundraising page. That really doesn’t work at all. And I’m going to show you why it doesn’t work, okay?

So, that’s why we’re talking about the brand. A brand, a distinct identify for your monthly program is going to be really critical. But success in monthly giving really starts with the owner, all right? So, Erica Waasdorp, she said, you know, a woman that you guys should definitely follow if you’re not already. She is the godmother of monthly giving. She talks about monthly giving, and, you know, she’s one of the top world experts. And one thing that she says is that, you know, if you want your monthly giving program to be successful, you have to have one person who’s going to own it. That’s their job.

They’re going to run that ball all the way to the goal line, and they’re going to deal with every sort of situation. They’re not going to do all the work, but they’re going to own it. They’re going to be responsible for communicating with finance, marketing, fundraising, whatever is entailed and kind of driving that forward, right? So, that’s the first thing. Pick one person who’s going to own it, okay?

And just to reinforce this idea about why monthly giving, why you need a brand is because we want to emphasize, in my mind, it’s exclusivity. So, the key kind of psychological driver behind why someone joins a monthly giving program is because they’re joining a special group of people. And when we think about it, this is really how human beings work. We function, and we constantly make decisions about what group we’re in, and what group we’re not in, right? The whole us, them idea, right? I’m in this group. I’m not in that group.

So, this idea of monthly giving or at least reinforcing this brand reinforces this. You know, you’re joining a special group of people. You’re not a donor. A donor is a hero certainly. But if you’re joining our exclusive monthly giving program, you’re kind of a superhero. You’re in a special group, right? So, we want to emphasize this when we talk about our brand, right?

And in terms of the brand, we always want to start with our mission, right? So, our monthly giving program actually helps donors play a much more substantive role in our mission. And we really have to think about what is our mission, right? So, if we talk about vision and then mission. Vision is we want to end the childhood hunger, okay? The mission is we’re going to make sure that kids have something to eat every lunchtime at school. We can’t solve all the problems of childhood hunger. That’s our vision. But our mission is to deal with the lunches at school, right, or some specific aspect. What are we doing? What’s the action? That’s the mission.

So, we want to tie our giving, our monthly giving directly to that. So, if we look at an example of a mission statement, we have a mission statement here from the Impact Fund, and their mission statement in part says, “Funding and finding the economic, environmental and social justice,” okay? So, this is their mission statement. So, what do they do? They create their own monthly giving program. They develop a brand called Social Justice League.

Now, what’s great about this, right, when I think about this, I think like Justice League, right? We have read those comic books when we were a kid, right? This is a name, Social Justice League. This is the name that I want to call myself. You know, I’m a member of the Social Justice League. Give me my cape. I’m a superhero, right?

So, that’s what this is really playing on is this idea of being a superhero. But also, it ties directly into the mission, which we can see right here, okay? And then the second step is, you know, defining your mission and really articulating that in the monthly giving program. Donors are going to buy into that. They’ve already bought into your mission in general if they’re giving to you at all. But we need to define the ideal monthly donor, right? Now, not everyone is going to join your monthly giving program. Certainly not total strangers, right?

And so, the ideal person for your monthly giving program is really current donors. The more that we can understand your current donors, the more we understand what makes them tick, the more likely we’re going to be able to create effective messaging and branding to attract those people, plus people just like them, okay?

So, when we talk about, I’m going off script a little bit, but we talk about developing personas, right? The mistake is saying, “Well, we have this ideal person that we want to get and attract.” And I always say, the ideal person is actually already in your database, they’ve given you money. The goal with developing any kind of branding or marketing is to deeply understand the people that already like, know, and trust you. They’ve proven it. They’ve pulled out their credit card. They’ve given you money already.

These are the people to understand. So, we want to really define and understand our ideal monthly donor based on people that are already supporting our organization, okay? Now, we can look at different segments within our database. We can look at people who have given in the past year. People who have given twice in the past year so we can say, first-time donors, people who have given once compared to people who have given twice.

Now, let’s talk about what makes these two different or what makes each group unique. A person who gives one-time to your organization, the only thing we know is that they’re willing to part with their money. That doesn’t say anything about their interest in our cause. It really doesn’t. They may have given based on some sort of impulse. Maybe a friend guilted them into something and forced them to give money to your organization. Hey, you know, you’ll take that money anyhow, right?

But, you know, long-term, they’re really not going to necessarily stick around. We can’t assume that I’ve they’ve given one time. But if they’ve given twice within the past year, that’s very different. They’ve gone beyond impulse giving and they’re certainly interested in the cause. There are some commitment there. Now, notice I said cause. I didn’t say nonprofit. But there is certainly an aspect to that. If they’ve given twice to your organization, they certainly trust your organization, right?

And so, these people, the second group and the first group certainly, these are ideal candidates in my mind for monthly giving, right? So, someone who’s given twice in the past year. They’re almost begging to join a monthly giving program. You know, they’re ripe. They’ve given twice. So, we want to set up our marketing, and I’ll get into the automation later on, but we want to set up our marketing so that we’re targeting these people, and we have special campaigns focusing on these people.

Of course, monthly donors, these are the interest there and the identification there is that these are people that are members of a special group. They care about the cause, but it’s much more of a commitment, right? It’s almost like a kind of equal to a mid-level donor, right? Not just a one-off donor who’s giving 25 bucks. But someone who’s given, you know, $20 a month or say $10 a month, maybe $50 a month for a solid year. That definitely adds up.

But more than that, it’s not necessarily the amount of the money, but it’s the commitment that they’re going to give you something every single month. They’re in it to win it, right? And then we have by gift level. We can certainly look at donors by gift level, and then non-donors, right? And we can look at the ask. This is obviously a simplified matrix, so to speak. But this is the interest of each of these segments here, and then the basic ask that we can do, right, targeting these people, right?

So, number three definitely create a separate page for monthly giving, okay? The reason why it’s because it’s a different kind of pitch. It’s a different person that you’re pitching to, okay? So, here’s an example here with an organization, and they have a page here, give family and give a bright future, okay? And notice with their monthly giving program, they actually have a name to Join Heart & Home. So, this is really the next step. So, in terms of stewardship or I would like to think of it as like let’s give our donors a path, a journey to go on instead of a dead end.

If we have the same fundraising page for every single person that we deal with, with simply a button as an option for monthly giving, we’re not giving people that journey. We’re not treating them in the dynamic way that we should. They’re human beings. We have a relationship with them. So, to have a separate page that recognizes that, you know, monthly donors do have very different motivations than first-time donors or one-off donors, so that’s why we have the separate page here.

And then number four, so create that separate page. You have a separate brand. Name the program. Now, the name, again, in ideal world, the name should make your donor feel like they’re part of an exclusive group. It’s almost like a name that they would want to call themselves Wildlife Guardian, right? This is a separate and distinct brand from the main organization’s brand. It’s separate, right? And it connects to the mission, this connects to the mission really nicely. And this is a name, certainly. If I care anything about wildlife, yeah, I would want to be called a Wildlife Guardian. I’m a guardian of the wildlife. That’s my title, okay? That’s a name I would want to call myself. And there are some other examples here like champion, guardian, partner, sustainer, defender, agitator, and so forth, okay?

So, that’s a name in your program, right? Guardian Circle who’s another great example. So, this is an exclusive group, an exclusive, separate, and distinct opportunity for UNICEF. And it’s a whole program that they have, the Guardian Circle. And this is only, the only option to join is to join as a monthly donor, right?

Number five, create bite-sized products, so fundraising products. So, going back to our mission, we want to think about what is it that we do. We’re feeding, an example I used earlier, feeding children at school, taking care of that lunch, okay? So, let’s articulate that in monthly giving. You know, your monthly gift will feed 10 children every single month at school, right? The more specific we can make that to the person in terms of bite-sized opportunity, and the more we can tie it as something very tangible that ties to the mission, the more likely people are going to join the program, right? It makes donors feel like this is doable. That’s the important thing is that a donor is more likely to give if they feel like their gift is actually going to make an impact.

If we say, you know, give $25,000 a month, then you’ll end world hunger. You’re not really going to make it end in world hunger, okay? But you can feed 10 children every single month, okay? And here’s a really great example from Pipeline, right, and they have different, you know, what is $35 a month going to do, right? What is $50 going to do, right? What is $100 per month, right?

So, the idea with fundraising in general and specifically donor retention is that we want to tie the donor to the impact as much as possible. We want to remove the organization from that narrative, but tie the donor to the impact. This is what I’m doing. I’m going to create this result, okay? And it makes the donor the hero.

A couple of examples here. You can look at these later. This is a great program from Team Rubicon. Many of you are probably familiar with the organization. There’s another organization here Join the Collective. This is a kind of a cool name. Again, emphasizing exclusivity. They even have the number of people, right, 217 people. This isn’t a big group. You know, it’s not a massive group, but it’s certainly an exclusive tight, small group of people that are really committed to win and make a big dent in this cause making an impact every single month, okay?

So, number three, let’s talk about finding monthly giving prospects. We’ve developed a brand. We have a name. We have a separate page for it, right? And it’s connecting to the mission. And so, we’re ready to go with the platform that we’ve created for monthly giving. And now we want to find these prospects in our database, okay? So, again, first thing we want to do is basically understand. Find out how to target these people. And I’m going to go back to this chart that we discussed earlier.

So, we want to have a different message for people that give one-off, different from people who gave twice because it is a different mentality. We can’t assume that the person who gave once is deeply committed to our cause. But we can kind of assume that if someone has given twice in the past year, and actually, you know, Steven can talk about other data in terms of, you know, aspects of the database that we can target. You know, we can get into the Q&A because Bloomerang does a lot of really great work around that.

But we can make an assumption about twice a year, right? They’ve given once. They’ve given twice. Some of us might even feel, you know, when we have this experience of we get a donation online, and we look at that name and we say, “Wow, I recognize this name. Huh. Wow. Hang on, wait a second.” They gave six months ago. Sometimes we feel, “That’s a miracle. What made them come back again and give twice,” right? So, it’s a very different animal, so to speak, than someone who is just giving one-off, right?

And then we talked about lapsed donors too reaching out the lapsed donors with some opportunity. Now, to be honest with you, if we have a donor who’s lapsed, we got a lot of work to bring him back. Going after them with a deep commitment like monthly giving may not be a good fit for them. So, we want to think about creative ways to kind of bring them back into the fold. It may not start with any gift at all. It might start with, “Hey, join us with making in a pledge. Join us in signing a petition. Check out this free webinar, come to an event,” you know, to kind of bring people in creating basically answering like what’s in it for me, you know, creating value for them to get them coming back into the fold. And then, we can, you know, once we have them interested even at an event, we have an obviously a captive audience of people. We can certainly pitch some kind of fundraising ask, okay? And we also want to think about by giving level as well when we’re targeting people.

There’s another strategy in terms of targeting people, which is a great moment from a Roger Craver and DonorVoice. They’ve actually developed this idea of a donor commitment survey. And the survey is actually pretty simple. It’s basically a rating scale. So, we can go into all of our community. And we can basically asking them what’s the level of commitment, and there’s three choices here. I’m a committed, you know, organization donor. I’m a committed donor. I feel a sense of loyalty to the organization.

And then the last one, you know, you’re my favorite organization, okay? So, we can actually set up automation or at least target these people with different messages. The third group, this is low-hanging fruit. If this person says, “You’re my favorite nonprofit.” And if they’re not in your monthly giving program, that’s a pretty easy win right there. So, a survey like this is kind of just, you know, getting kind of taking a temperature, seeing how they feel about the organization, how committed are you. And then we can adjust our messaging based on these different categories. And we can set this up, in fact, in an automated way where we send out the survey. And as people select answers, they’re automatically dumped into an email series, okay?

So, if someone picks, you know, “Your organization, my favorite organization,” right? And then they might receive a couple of email. The first one is, “Hey, thanks a lot for, you know, taking the survey. We’re so happy that we’re your favorite organization. You know, that’s incredible, and we love you, too. In fact, we have a special program for you we like to invite you to for people that have said that we’re their favorite organization, people that choose that to say that they’re members of our monthly giving program. So, check it out. You know, join our monthly giving program,” right?

Who else? Now, Steven actually has done a couple of presentations on this about finding the hidden gems in a database. So, I’d love to hear from Steven, you know, maybe during the Q&A. But certainly, let’s go to board members. You know, you might even have a policy that board members have to give ideally or during your monthly giving programs. Ideally, they would join anyhow. You know, if they’re truly the right board member.

Volunteers, let’s not ignore volunteers. Often, we get into this thinking of siloing people. Well, they’re volunteers, so they give time. They’re donors, so they give money. These two are in different buckets, but actually, there’s no bucket in the mind of a supporter. They don’t think of themselves as, “I’m a volunteer, so I don’t give money,” or “I’m a donor, so I don’t give my time, right?” They think, “I want to make an impact, right?” So, what shape does that take, it doesn’t really matter; sign a pledge, come to an event, make a donation, volunteer. It doesn’t really matter.

So, let’s not neglect volunteers especially if they give you your time which actually volunteers are, I think volunteers actually express much more of a commitment to the organization than a donor because they’re giving you something that is actually worth infinitely more than any money, which is their time, right? So, this is an ideal candidate for monthly giving. Vendors, staff, you know, staff in your organization certainly giving the monthly giving program as well, right?

So, let’s talk about the hot prospects again; targeting these people that are already in your database using email automation, all right? So, the first thing is definitely write a donor welcome series. Now, in my work, I’m often shocked and surprised at how many organizations think that the relationship with a new donor ends when they click donate. And I say, you know, “What about your welcome series? Do they have any sort of onboarding series for new donors?” And shockingly, a lot of organizations kind of forget that. “Oh, yeah, that’s right.” You know, we want to continue this relationship.

You know, I always like to say, the first gift is a test. And how you treat the donor from that moment on, that first-time donor, that literally will make or break a relationship from the thank you page that they see, to that first email, to the handwritten postcard. My background is actually marketing on the for-profit side. So, I have a totally different mindset about marketing than most nonprofit professionals who, you could say, are accidental marketers. They used to be accountants, now they’re responsible for marketing. They’re fundraising, now they’re somehow they’re in charge of marketing.

From a fundraising perspective, marketing is really not a cost, okay? Too many organizations view as marketing as a necessary evil, a necessary cost, right? But actually, it’s an investment. And when we talk about donor retention, it’s an investment in the future. So, I support an organization called Mercy for Animals. And, you know, I think I’ve given them a couple of donations over the past couple of years, you know.

I love the organization. And they actually sent me a magazine, right? And first time I got this magazine, I said, “Wait. Hang on. This is a costly thing to produce. It might have been like 20, 25 pages. It’s got incredible stories in there. Recipe, vegan-type recipes and all that kind of stuff. And I said to them. I said, “Jeez, this is a smart organization because they recognize the investment in the potential future that they have with me,” right? They’re not saying, “Oh, like, marketing is information. Marketing is not distributing information. Marketing is creating experiences for people so that they remember you, and they come to feel something from your organization.”

So, Mercy for Animals, they’re clearly making an investment. You know, they realize and they’ve probably tested it, and they have tons of data that when they send a magazine to someone with asks in it and all this stuff, they’re more likely to convert those brand-new donors who maybe on the periphery to become, you know, bigger supporters, right? So, this is really an investment in the future.

So, in terms of welcome series, though, what I recommend starting at least with a welcome series for first-time donors and returning donors, people who’ve come back twice, and this following like a classic fundraising cycle or I guess retention cycle. And for any of us in fundraising, we know this cycle. It’s like a tried and true cycle of thanking. Thank you for your gift. Updating people about the gift, and then asking, again, okay. So, we can create an email series that follows this example, right? This series of three messages to target people.

Now, when we’re writing this email, so we want to remember the basics of donor communication, one of which is to focus the spotlight on the donor and their impact. Whenever we’re writing those emails, we never want to get into the habit of bragging about our organization. And sometimes I feel like organizations come about this due to insecurity. We somehow have to convince people how great we are coming from a point of insecurity. Have confidence. They’ve given you money already. You’re doing awesome work. No one is even arguing about that, right? But your job in donor communication is to connect the donor directly to the impact. As much as you can do that, you’re going to raise more money. You’re going to keep people coming back, right?

So, I always like to think of this is that donor communication spotlight. You know, there are three things we can always shine the spotlight at in all of our communications. If we shine it on us, look at how great we are, we’re going to lose. You know, we’re going to kind of lose interest and lose attention. As long as we’re bragging about the donors and the impact that they create, we’re going to see results, right? This is true in almost every single organization, every single project I work with, right?

So, make the donor the hero in your narrative. They are creating this impact. Using second person narrative—you know, you, you know, talking to them using second person narrative. And then, you know, emphasize, again, the impact not necessarily the money. Donors don’t give because of the money. Donors give because of the impact. So, the more we could talk about the impact that they’ve created rather than how they’re helping us reach our fundraising goal, we’re going to be more effective, right? Donors actually don’t care about your fundraising goal. And they don’t really care about how much money you’re raising, right? So, we were going to talk about impact, how many children we’re feeding at the school, okay?

So, first email, just a couple of recommendations for this. So, first email, you want to go big on saying thank you, okay? The thing about saying thank you is that, you know, sometimes we view it as like, “Okay. Thank you, we did that. So, let’s just check that off.” But thank you, what it really means is your sincere appreciation. And you want people to feel something. You want to go big on saying thank you. I always say, “Send a postcard as well,” right?

So, you can set this up in your software to send this email immediately, okay? In all of your donor communication, by the way, you always want to have a next step. Here’s what to do next. Every single time you communicate with a donor, you should always tell them what’s next. In the first email, you could say, “Join our Facebook group, or join our Facebook page. Share this fundraiser with your friends.” You know, they’ve already given you money. We don’t want to obviously ask them for another gift instantly right away, right?

However, second email, if we send this out, you know, a week or two weeks later, and we can set this up in our email series, we want to thank them again, again, go big, update them on their impact. “This is what you did. Thank you so much.” And then, the next step is, you know, there’s still more work to be done, right? We still have this problem. Children are still struggling with lunch, you know, getting a good lunch. And you can make a huge impact on this by joining our monthly giving program. So, it’s an ask in the second email within 7 to 14 days. And the time, you can adjust, you know, maybe 30 days. Some people might feel that’s better.

And then ask again, email three. So, this is really, again, the format of email is thank you, thank you, thank you. You are amazing. Look at what you did already. Your help is still needed, and people like you who are so incredible, they join our monthly giving program and they really make that, you know, that special jump forward, okay?

Now, I’m going to go off script a little bit here. I talked about the survey, right? So, one thing I’ve done with a few clients, and this kind of works like a charm. It’s kind of interesting. So, when someone gives you a gift for the first time, one of the best questions to ask them in terms of a survey question, that actually will double or even triple the likelihood that I’ll give again is this question. What made you decide to give today? Okay.

So, we can ask them that question right away on the thank you page. You know, “Thank you so much for your gift. You made a huge difference in someone’s life. What made you decide to give today?” You leave an open text box, okay? Now, with a few clients, what I’ve done is we’ve used that data to do an email campaign, a special email campaign that uses their words in the email. So the email ask targeting these people would go something like this, “Thank you so much for supporting the organization. You’ve done such an amazing, you know, you’ve made such incredible impact. We’d like to invite you to join our exclusive monthly giving program. We’re not asking everyone, but we are asking you and the reason why is because we know you care. In fact, here’s what you said when you made your first gift.” And they see their words.

They can’t argue with that. And it certainly won’t feel manipulative because you’re using their words. If anything, it’s a very good reminder about why they support the organization, right? And then you give them an opportunity to make that gift, right? So, this strategy is a little bit more sophisticated. It does require getting that data. You know, it’s an open text field. And then, of course, taking that custom field and merging it into an email campaign for later use, right?

So, this is the third email. Now, some of you might be thinking, “Well, John, jeez, this is pretty aggressive. The person just gave money, and you’re telling us to ask them twice to send, you know, a thank you email, and then two other emails that are asking them to join our monthly giving program. That’s a little aggressive, isn’t it?” Well, it would feel, and it will feel aggressive if you’re saying things like give us money, and if you’re talking about money. But if you’re talking about the opportunity to make an impact, to make an even bigger impact in the lives of children at that school, they’re going to love that. That’s what they’re looking for, okay? That’s what donors are looking for.

So, it really depends on how we’re presenting it, right? And not to mention that, but I will say that there’s a lot of research, actually from a few organizations that show that if you ask a new donor to give again within the first 60 days, you’re twice as likely to retain them with a second gift. And also, you’re going to dramatically increase the lifetime value of that donor as well, right?

So, there was this discussion on Twitter the other day about the term that we have, it’s jargon annual giving, right? Annual, what is it, yeah, annual gifts or annual donors, that kind of thing, right? And so, some of us maybe have this mistaken thinking that if a donor gave once, let’s not bother them. We are bothering them if we’re asking them to give us money and if we’re begging, and we’re talking about “I,” and “us,” and “we,” and how great our organization is and we’re trying to hit our goal so that we can keep our doors open next month, right?

Donors don’t care about that, okay? They care about another opportunity to make a meaningful impact. So, it really does depend upon how you’re presenting the offer, okay? It’s an opportunity, it really is. You know, that’s a funny thing about fundraising is that people, you know, people give but, you know, it seems like they don’t get anything in return. But actually, your nonprofit sells something that no other for-profit could possibly sell and could possibly match, and that a sense of meaning. That’s ultimately why people give. They want to have meaning in their life. And they realize that that’s about supporting others. That’s about giving to other people, and making that sort of lasting impact, and it’s not just about me and my little iPad, and my little brand new electric scooter that I bought, right? That stuff does not create any meaning, but you give people that opportunity, right, through the third email.

And I have a few more examples here of different welcome emails and welcome series you could check that later. So, let’s talk about all year long, and I’m going to open it for questions, okay? So, I’m going to keep this really simple. There’s actually a couple of strategies that are tried and true. One is to give your board kind of responsibility in some ways to promote monthly giving. And there are number of ways you can do this. Set the expectation that donor happiness is really what we’re focusing on, and that’s the responsibility of the board. That’s everyone’s job. That’s job one.

In our board meetings, we can open each meeting with an impact story about beneficiaries, someone who benefitted. We could open our meetings with a donor of the month and talking about donors. And giving board members this opportunity to support the monthly giving program, right? So, we always want to keep this front and center, okay?

The second thing, this is actually a really good use of board members, is to have them do the labor of writing personalized banking notes, and the research around this, of course, and phone calls is that from Tom Ahern a good friend of mine. If you send a personalized thank you note within 48 hours, you’re more than 4 times as likely to get a second gift, right?

So, you know, again, some people might, “Ah, that’s a lot of effort.” Oh. It’s an investment actually. It’s not obligatory, you know, are we going to send out these thank you notes to people because they gave us money? No, we’re starting off the relationship for the future, okay? Same thing with thank you calls. And thank you calls are great. I mean, you know, 15 seconds, no strings attached. This is remarkable actually. I’ve supported a number of organizations and I have to say over the past 5 or 10 years, I’ve only received 1, maybe 2 phone calls within a few days after making a gift.

Someone was saying, “Hey, John, thank you so much for your gift to this organization. It really makes a big difference. We know you’re busy. That’s all. Have a great night.” Click. That’s all. Okay. No strings attached, right? So, in terms of quarter, quarterly, here’s a list of kind of strategies you can do every quarter to promote the monthly giving program. You know, again, if you create the page, then you create all the email series, you know, that’s great. But it’s like the field of dreams. You know, just because you have it doesn’t mean people are going to show up. So, you have to make a concerted effort to promote it, and create a challenge campaign three or four times a year featured on the homepage.

You know, there’s a lot of things you could do with snail mail, creating an idea I love is appreciation stations at an event where there’s a station for monthly donors where they get cool stuff, and it’s really about them, refreshments and all this at this event. And people who aren’t part of the monthly giving program, yeah, actually I get a little jealous and they get curious at least to join that, right? So, there are so many different ways you can promote the program every single quarter.

And then certainly, every month, emailing donors like I talked about before given twice, you know, twice in the past year offering a premium to encourage sign-ups. Premiums are always a challenge because we want to give something that’s actually value, you know, creates some kind of value to people. And then featuring members on social media, you know, your monthly giving members, promoting that in your email newsletter.

One thing I’ve done with a few clients who have email newsletters basically have a little section where they’re featuring monthly donor of the month, you know, basically featuring those people. And then promoting the program on your website. We don’t have time, but let’s not forget about using native ads like Facebook and Instagram to promote the program as well, okay?

A couple of examples here of direct mail. And let’s see what else we have. Oh, questions, okay, and also, by the way, there is a free download I shared a link in the chat earlier in the Q&A. It’s a monthly giving strategy workbook. So, basically, it’s a workbook that will help you not only develop the brand and the strategy, but also how to promote it, you know, so you can, you know, get things done. So, that’s it. Steve, I’m good.

Steven: All right.

John: Can you take it . . .

Steven: Man, that was awesome. Thanks. Yeah. But first, thank you, John for sharing all that knowledge with us. Lots of good tips. I was just sitting here nodding along with pretty much everything you’ve suggested here.

John: Oh, good. You’ve agreed with every . . .

Steven: I’m going to pop in. Oh, yeah. You don’t need my validation, but just that you’re talking my language. Yeah. I’m going to pop that workbook link into the chat again just in case people have joined and missed. But, yeah, we got some time for questions, probably about 10 minutes for questions. If you have not asked a question, now is the time because there’s a couple here that we can start with, and we can keep answering your questions as we go along. John, a couple people, actually, more than a couple people asked about what to do with members. So, people who maybe already paying like an annual membership fee, or maybe even a monthly or a quarterly membership fee. Where do those folks fit into the monthly giving kind of ecosystem? Should you maybe consider monthly members to kind of be a monthly donor, and maybe try to get single gifts from those people, you know, maybe the people who were members annually? Those makes sense, yeah.

John: Yeah. Well, it’s tough because really, if they’re members, they’re already . . . well, if they’re giving annually, I think the key is to make it distinct and different from the membership, you know. And, you know, it depends upon how the member is giving. I mean, annual members most of the time I’m assuming is they’re giving just once a year, right? So, we could offer like an alternative way for the membership of monthly giving, but I think more to the point, we have to kind of make a totally separate and distinct opportunity for people.

Steven: That makes sense. Here’s an interesting one that I think came about when you were talking about kind of naming your monthly program, John. Within that group of monthly donors that maybe is branded, do you recommend folks have levels within that group? So, maybe people who give certain dollar amounts more than other people who give monthly? Or should you just have, “These are the monthly donors regardless of how much you give?” What about that kind of separation by gift amount?

John: I would say that would be phase two, okay? Yeah. I would say first thing is don’t worry about the levels. Get the program out the door, okay? Have everyone, you know, support the same level, okay? Or actually, let me say this, yeah, don’t let that stop you, you know. If you don’t have a monthly giving program, get it out the door. Get people, you know, giving at least some amount.

Now, that said though, this question is actually kind of important because we don’t want to, we can go to a donor who’s given us $500 and say, “Hey, thank you so much for your huge gift. Would you like to join our program for $10 a month?” because now we’re basically leveling down. We want to level up. So, we want to be super careful about, that’s why I said in the slides, you know, by gift level. You know, so we want to be really careful that we’re not like kind of cannibalized or more importantly confuse donors, you know, wait, I give you $500, now you’re asking for $10 a month. What’s the deal? So, yeah, you got to be careful with that.

Steven: Yeah. The [segmenting 00:51:30] is really important.

John: Yeah, yeah. And there a couple of ways you can do that. I mean, it depends upon what the database looks like, but you could create a separate monthly giving page for each level. Or you could just have the levels listed on the one monthly giving page, and people just select that. The only problem there is that you have less control about the giving level if you’re just having all the options available to people rather than saying, “Okay. Anybody who’s given $500 to $1,000, let’s send them to a page where the gift array is, you know, 50 to 150.” You know what I mean? And so, it’s more in the line. It’s a slight level up based on the gift level that they’ve already given.

Steven: Makes sense. How do you feel about premiums, John? We’ve had a couple of people ask about premiums. So, maybe like coffee mugs, tote bags, things like for a monthly donor. I see that a lot I think in kind of public broadcasting, maybe not as much in other nonprofits, but do you think that’s a good idea that maybe more nonprofit should do?

John: Well, you know what, actually, here’s the cool thing about premiums. I think that you should use a premium as a way to persuade someone to give. And I’ll use the example to say actually my son is, he’s in the Boy Scouts. I was talking to Steven about this earlier, and he just achieved his life rank a couple of weeks ago. And during the meeting, of course, the council, they’re always trying to raise money. So, they gave everybody an envelope with like kind of a pitch, a sales pitch to make a donation. But they also included a pen, okay, so Boys Scouts, blah, blah, blah, and then some nice little pen. And I said, “Wow. They’re basically setting up something as deeply hardwired into human beings, which is reciprocity.”

So, I have this pen. I’ve gotten value. I kind of have to give a little money, or I’m a little bit more predisposed to give because I’ve received a gift in advance, right? So, that’s why we always see those envelopes. Here’s a nickel or here’s a free stamp. I mean, those kind of strategies really do work. So, that might be a good use of the huge pile of pens that you might have in your organization is to basically send those in advance, or, you know, along with a monthly giving ask, right?

So, there’s an organization, the Northeast Georgia Humane Society. You know, you and I both know Julie, right? And she sent out a mailer, and part of the mailer was actually a tiny little annual calendar, right, that fit in my wallet. So, it said, you know, “Here’s your membership card.” That alone had value in it. And it was also a pitch for an appeal. So, it’s just that simple thing. It was like a little calendar, an annual calendar that had like a membership ID but with the calendar on the other side. And I still have it in my wallet. And it’s a simple thing, but it actually sets up against idea of, “I’ve gotten value, so I need to return something.”

The other thing I would say about premiums is that don’t get too amped up about your coffee mug because chances are, I hate to say this, but chances are it’s not really that great-looking of a coffee mug, or the t-shirt, and this and that, you know. Donors aren’t really as excited about that stuff. So, I think, you know, you have to think about what are donors really going to respond to. What’s going to be useful, you know?

There’s a wildlife organization, oh, it’s The Trustees of Reservations Massachusetts. They sent out a premium, and what was it? It was actually a little tool you can use for hiking, a utility tool. It’s just like a little, not a knife but like a little bottle opener, plus a, you know, some other kind of tools that’s a utility thing for like hiking, perfect for hikers, you know. And that was valuable. That’s something I can actually use, you know. So, that’s the key . . .

Steven: Yeah. And it’s on brand. It kind of ties in what the organization does. That makes sense.

John: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that’s my thought on premiums.

Steven: One thing I’ve seen, John, just as becoming a donor . . .

John: And they never [inaudible 00:56:07]

Steven: Yeah. I’ve seen a lot of stickers, you know, during our monthly giving program, and we’ll send you, you know, a sticker that you can show off your pride. And I think that goes back to what you said. The presentation is like, “These people really like you.” You know, if they’re our monthly donor, they’re really jazzed up about your cause, and maybe even your brand, too. So to give them something that is either useful or they can really show off that pride, I think that’s actually when a premium wins. That makes a lot of sense to me.

John: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. And it has to look . . .

Steven: We got time for one more. Oh, go ahead.

John: Oh, go ahead. I was going to say just, you know, again, it has to look attractive. You know, it has to be well designed, something people actually would’ve want to show their friends, you know. So, even a coffee mug and even, you know, if the design is something that’s really compelling and interesting, there’s so many creative ways to do that. I think that could be a valuable . . . that’s the one aspect about premiums that I was good, whereas, who says that? “Family Guy,” right? You know, “This really grinds my gears.” You know, they grind my gears when they sent a premium that’s a really just an ugly logo, you know.

Steven: Yeah, it’s boring. Cool. Probably got time for one more question. John, some people are asking about minimum and maximum suggested gift amounts probably wouldn’t make sense to say, you know, start at a $1 a month or maybe it would because that’s $12 and that’s a high retention rate. You know, maybe $5. Should you go higher to $20 minimum? And then you kind of touched on maximums as well, but I’m kind of curious what you think of the basement is on suggested gift amount monthly.

John: Yeah. You know, that’s a good question. So, I would look in the data and look what the average gift is, and make it a fraction of that whatever it is. But the bottom line is that the lower you can start, the better. I wouldn’t say $1 because that might be, in other words, the cost of administrating the program might actually cost more than $12 a year. So, you know, $1 is too low. I would say, you know, $5, $10 to start with, and then go up from there. And then the other thing in the array, try reverse things.

So, and actually, I always experiment with the Big Gulp strategy, right? So, the Big Gulp strategy goes like this, you know, years ago. I don’t think it’s legal to actually sell these things, but, you know, KFC and all these other places. They would sell like a gallon. You can buy a gallon of soda, you know, and they call it the Big Gulp. I don’t know if it was literally a gallon, maybe a quart or whatever. But the purpose of that actually from a marketing perspective was not to sell the Big Gulp, but it was to get people to buy more of the large.

If you can apply that in a gift array by having the first gift be something that’s pretty high ask, maybe $250, and then the next one down is, say, 50, 25, 10. So, it’s not like you’re going to get a $250 a month donor. But they’ll certainly consider a 100 more than the 10, or the 50 more than a 10. It so kind of skews people up, it’s called anchoring. It’s basically the first thing that they see kind of high. So, in their mind, they’re already thinking high. We were bringing them from high, and then they can go down low from like 50, 20, and then 10. You know, but it will anchor up. You’ll get more likely to get more $25 gifts than you would for the 10.

Steven: That makes sense.

John: Yeah, but that’s like an experiment that you can try.

Steven: Yeah. And, you know, even at $5, I mean, the lifetime value on a $5 a month donor is something like $800. So, you know, low is okay, and it’s a good. I love what you said about, you know, get them in the door because you can always upgrade them, you know, get 13, you know, single gifts from them throughout the year. So, it’s a nice way to get it. And the retention rate is like 90%, above 90% a month. But that lifetime value is high, then it’s great. That’s why I love this presentation because monthly giving is just, it’s awesome. I mean, it can really be the life of the organization. So, that is why I’m thankful that you were here.

John, I want to give you the last word, where can people find out more about you, buy your book. Got to buy that Facebook book. I mean, that is like the nonprofit Facebook group, book in my opinion.

John: Yeah, Facebook. Yeah, that’s cool. So, yeah, I mean, people can just go to I have a blog. I have a Hump Day Coffee Break, a weekly Facebook Live training that I do. I haven’t done it for a while but I just started. Actually, today was the first day of that. And there’s a link on the screen right here, Hump Day Coffee Break. And it’s just every Wednesday at 11:00 where we all have coffee and we learn something together, something very specific about either fundraising or marketing. So, yeah. That’s it.

Steven: Love it. That’s really good. You bring on great guests there.

John: Yeah. Oh, thank you, thank you. And I really appreciate everyone who came today. You know, your time is really precious, and it really means a lot that so many people participated. You know, I look at all these really great questions, too. And most of all, Steven, I want to thank you and all the great work that you guys do, too.

Steven: Oh, thanks. You guys make it easy. Yeah, you make it happen. So, thanks for being here. This is great. Well, we are going to call it a day there. I know we didn’t get to all the questions, but check out John’s website, He’s on Twitter, always talking on Twitter. So, I’m sure he’ll talk to you about all this stuff there, but definitely, check out his website to keep the conversations going.

We’ve got some great resources on our website as well. You can check that out. We’ll get you the slides later this afternoon when we get the recording. The slides have link to the e-book that John mentioned, so you’ll get all that there. And then next week, I’ll get another Wednesday session for you. We’ve got one of my favorites again, Simone Joyaux joining us. She’s going to talk about what other kinds of KPIs you should be looking at your organization beyond just dollars raised. It’s an important metric for sure and we want to look at it, but really some of the other things that maybe you don’t pay as much attention to or don’t get the attention they deserve. Always a good session with Simone. It’s going to be a fun one, and join us, for sure next Wednesday, same time, same place.

And if that doesn’t work for you, we’ve got other sessions that you can register for, lots of other sessions all the way through the end of the year now just fun. So, we’d love to see you again some other webinar. It will be Thursday after the next week that was obviously next week as well. So, we’ll call it a day there. Look for an email for me with all the goodies, recording slides, and hopefully, we’ll see you again next week. Bye now.

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.