Fundraising Q&A: Re-engaging monthly donors

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Last month we looked at how to renew lapsed donors and I said stay tuned for more information on how to re-engage monthly supporters. That said, these donors are less likely to lapse than annual donors and usually have contributed for more than two years before some decide to cancel payments.

Why do monthly donors leave?

According to a recent report from Cornerstone, they cite the following reasons for the loss of monthly donor support:

  • Personal financial reasons
  • A donor’s credit card or banking information may change and is not updated
  • Credit card expires
  • Donors feel underappreciated and their contributions go unacknowledged
  • Competition from other organizations for revenue dollars results in donors shifting their loyalties

Retention strategies

We already know it's much easier to renew someone's support based on the recency of their gifts. The sooner you catch the loss of a monthly donor the greater your chance of winning them back. However, if their departure is due to financial constraints, be respectful and keep the door open. Ask the donor if it's alright for you to check back in 6-12 months and then put that in your tickler file for follow up.

I'm not referring to monthly donors who get signed up on the street and cancel their payment immediately or after the first instalment. Oftentimes, these are students with access to a parent-funded credit card and they just didn't know how to say "no" to the solicitor.

Expiry dates may be monitored through your fundraising software (or even on a monthly index card) so you can contact the donor one to two months in advance to avoid losing a payment. If you don't have that system in place or haven't got expiry information you'll receive notice after the fact that a payment hasn't been processed by the bank. Call the donor and be sure to thank them for being one of your charity's monthly donors before you request the new credit card information. Ideally, you will reach them directly and use this opportunity to also ensure all your other records are up to date.

One time when my credit card expired and the charity contacted me a couple of months later I decided not to renew my support because I felt totally underappreciated. Aside from that call and the accumulated donation receipt at the end of the year, I never heard from them. I did provide my feedback but had already switched my loyalties to a charity that has continued to do excellent stewardship.

Acquiring and keeping your monthly donors

The best strategy to avoid attrition is to stay in touch with your donors. Don't take anyone's hard-earned support for granted and in so doing, strengthen the relationship.

Celebrate these individuals. They provide your charity with predictable cash flow and are willing to pledge their commitment, ultimately saving your organization money.

Engage your monthly donors in a dialogue that helps you understand what motivates their generosity.

Invite testimonials from existing monthly donors to help convert annual supporters.

Make it simple for donors to find answers on your website and if possible, update their own records. Amnesty International offers a secure self-serve form so their supporters can change coordinates and banking details.

Have documented procedures for staff to follow up promptly on donations that can't be processed. Ensure donors are notified and provided with clear instructions.

Garbage in, garbage out. Keep your database clean and up to date so you can find the necessary contact information if and when it's needed.

Track credit card expiry dates and notify donors one to two months in advance.

Encourage monthly giving!

If most monthly donors only commit to three or less charities, what are you doing to ensure your organization is on their radar? For more information see my following articles:

The benefits of monthly giving

Donor relations and stewardship

Cynthia Armour is a freelance specialist in fundraising and governance. A Certified FundRaising Executive (CFRE) since 1995, she volunteers as a subject matter expert with CFRE International. She works with boards and senior staff to ensure that strong leadership will enhance organizational capacity to govern and fundraise effectively. Contact Cynthia directly at 705-799-0636, email, follow her on Twitter at @CynthiaJArmour, or visit for more information about her services.

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