AHP Connect Articles

AHP Connect delivers updates on industry news and research, educational and professional opportunities, best practices and other articles related to health care philanthropy.

Nine Ways to Build Your Monthly Giving Program

Published:  10/13/2017

Adapted from a presentation by Jas Jhooty (BC Children’s Hospital Foundation) & Maeve Strathy (Blakely Inc.) given at the 2017 AHP Big Ideas Conference.

Originally published in the October 2017 AHP Connect.

Imagine having a consistent source of fundraising revenue you can depend on every month.

That’s your monthly giving program. Whether you have one already – something sophisticated or merely organic – or not, you know this is a place you need to dedicate attention. Monthly donors provide you with reliable support and when properly engaged, they will give you two times more value over their lifetime with your organization and stay on your file an average of five years longer than regular donors!

But even more importantly – it’s good for donors themselves. Instead of receiving and being asked to respond to several solicitations a year, , they can keep their support constant and – with the right program – get regular reminders of just how much impact they have on the good work of the organization they care about.

So what does it take? Time? Sure. Investment? Definitely. It’s not easy work, but it’s not complicated either. And to help you out, here are the 9 ways to build your monthly giving program:

Make the internal case for monthly investment

To start things off, you have to have organizational buy-in. Especially if you’re a major gifts shop, it may be difficult to make the case for the power of monthly giving, so make sure you have industry benchmarks to back you up. Reach out to colleagues at other organizations, research online, and build a case for investing in the growth of your monthly program. Find a champion in your department – or even better, on the board! – so you’re not alone. And if you’re still finding it difficult, propose a test investment. If you can prove the concept on a smaller scale, it may be easier to convince the powers that be to invest more.

Brand your program

Monthly donors are what we call high-value donors. Much like the other two groups of high-value donors – namely, mid-level and legacy – monthly donors are motivated by other things than your average donor. For example, monthly donors often want to feel a part of something. Consider this motivation as you build your program; a brand, club, or giving society isn’t essential to a strong monthly giving program, but if your donors want it (consider asking them!), it could be just the ticket for success.

The offer is the most important thing

However, a brand isn’t going to help you if donors don’t know what they’re going to be impacting if they join up to give monthly. Give thought to your “offer”, also known as the fundraising proposition. The fundraising proposition answers the question: “Why do you want me to give monthly now?” What can monthly donors fund? Is it research? Equipment? Can you find a succinct – even exciting – way to express that? Donors need to feel their impact before they make this important decision to give on a monthly basis.

Target the right donors

Not every donor is right for monthly giving targeting. For example, you have to be careful with mid-level donors as they might end up downgrading their overall giving by converting to monthly. When targeting, look at giving behaviours to determine who’s right for the program. For example, donors who have high giving frequency (give several times a year) are great to target; they’ve already shown they’re open to giving on a regular basis. But whatever you do, test! That’s the best way to find out what works best for your organization. Once again, talk to your industry colleagues to see what segments they have had success with converting one-time or annual donors to monthly giving.

Use the channels you already have

Monthly giving is best with some specialized channels (for example, telemarketing and door-to-door), but it may be easier – and more palatable for your organization – to start with what you already have: direct mail. Although direct mail isn’t the strongest form of monthly acquisition or conversion in terms of volume, it can be great for organic growth. Include a monthly donor sign-up section on the back of the donation reply form, or even consider testing a monthly conversion campaign via the mail. At the right time of year it could be a great test, as long as you’re not sacrificing one-time gift revenue.

Try new channels

However, there are some channels out there you really ought to try for monthly. Telemarketing has proven a fantastic channel for conversion, upgrade, and reactivation of monthly donors. Make sure you get the right team – either internal or outsourced.

Door-to-door is also a proven channel for monthly acquisition. The face-to-face touch combined with being able to reach more people could be the best way in for your community.

Think about the objections and get ahead of them

Giving monthly is a big decision. Many people are worried they’ll get stuck – like a gym membership. Although you don’t want to promote the idea of cancelling, make sure potential monthly donors know they can cancel any time if needed.

Test a default monthly giving button on your donation page

This was something BC Children’s Hospital Foundation tested a few years ago, and it drove a substantial increase in monthly gifts compared to the previous year at that time. It’s a small change to make, but can help build this very important program.

Think about the journey

This is not a “set it and forget it” program. Constantly look at the donor experience for monthly donors. Ensure it makes them feel special. Make sure they get the right type and amount of stewardship. Make sure they don’t feel like just another donor, but that their ongoing, high-value commitment is received with gratitude that makes them want to give that way for a long time.

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