Best Ways to Land Monthly Donors

If there is one thing a charity can do to make its fundraising life easier, it is to establish a program of monthly donations.

There is almost no downside to monthly giving and plenty of advantages. Monthly donors have higher lifetime value, are more loyal than most donors, and give nonprofits a steady, predictable income. 

Donors love monthly giving too. Once they decide to be a regular supporter of your cause through a credit card or preauthorization with their bank, they appreciate the convenience of monthly giving and the idea of providing stable support to their favorite cause.

Monthly giving has been around for a long time now, so best practices have emerged. Here are the most successful.

Tie Monthly Giving to a Specific Purpose.

Child that can be helped with a donation.
Corbis Documentary/Getty Images

A love affair with a cause for many donors starts with helping one child or animal, something that works perfectly for monthly giving.

Sponsorship is probably the oldest form of recurring giving. For instance, Best Friends Animal Society encourages sponsorship of a particular animal and at Save the Children, you can sponsor a child. 

You can also tie the gift to an action or a specific ongoing activity. UNICEF, for instance, offers several options such as providing 12 packets of biscuits for malnourished kids and supporting a course of anti-malarial treatment for 33 children. Mercy Corps tells stories about particular people and how each level of giving can help them.

Reassure Donors That They Can Stop at Any Time

Monthly Giving Page at Save the Chimps
Screenshot/Save the Chimps

Committing to a monthly charge to one's credit card or withdrawal from a bank account is a big step for most people. They want to be reassured that they can get out of it should they change their mind or if their budget goes south. Make it easy to cancel or modify the amount. 

The Nature Conservancy of Canada promises on its donation page that you can cancel, pause, or change your monthly gift any time by emailing or calling them. Make this pledge clear and then make it work.

Encourage donors to increase their gifts. Most charities with recurring gift programs have regular campaigns to encourage recurring donors to upgrade their donations.

You can ask for an upgrade on the anniversary of the donor's first gift or during a particular season, such as the year-end holidays. Crises can motivate more giving too. Doctors Without Borders phoned me to ask for an increase in my monthly gift after a series of horrible bombings of their hospitals in the Middle East.

Invite Monthly Donors to Be Part of a Special Program or Group

Red Cross screen grab
Screenshot by Joanne Fritz

Everyone likes to be special. We don't have to be rich anymore to be a member of exclusive philanthropic circles. Now, that feeling of being part of a select group comes through many charitable giving programs.

The Salvation Army does that with its Bed and Bread Club. For $10 monthly you can help a needy person in a very specific way by providing a place to sleep and a meal. The Bed and Bread Club is run by local Salvation Army affiliates so donors can help in their very own communities.

Similarly, Operation Smile invites monthly donors to join the Smile Partners. The Fort Bend Family Promise Coffee Club uses the familiar idea of sacrificing a cup of coffee to donate instead. The American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine Foundation calls each monthly giver a Constant Companion, a lovely way to tap the affection we all have for our pets. 

Put Your Monthly Giving Option Everywhere!

Monthly giving page for Best Friends Animal Society
Screenshot by Joanne Fritz

Don't hide your monthly giving program. Shout it out across your communications.

Add the option to your regular donation page on your website, but also add a page dedicated to monthly giving.  Put the information about recurring giving options in your direct mailing; in your newsletters, and in every fundraising campaign. 

Use many different ways to find monthly givers. Some large nonprofits do well with television advertising and telethons. Marketing with the telephone is often quite successful, especially if you target those donors who have already donated at least once already. New donors who have given once have proven to be excellent targets for a monthly giving offer. 

In countries other than the US, person-to-person recruiting right on the street has been successful, although this form of donor acquisition has a very high attrition rate. The point is, though, to mix up the ways you reach out to donors.

Love Your Monthly Donors by Treating Them Well.

Two cute kids holding up sign that says thank you.
Moment/Getty Images

Monthly donors can be 7-10 times more valuable over time than regular donors, according to the guru of recurring giving, Harvey McKinnon.

Plus they are the most loyal donors you're likely to have. Once signed up, it's not unusual for monthly donors to stay with your organization for many years. But they will remain loyal only if you give them plenty of the right attention.

The Nature Conservancy of Canada has a fully developed program to nurture its monthly givers. It starts with a thank you phone call, then a welcome kit in the mail, a tax receipt once a year, email newsletters, and a thank you video toward the end of each year.

Treating your monthly donors well includes keeping meticulous records so that you can follow up when a credit card expires, so you don't lose that donor.