The Small Nonprofit Podcast: Monthly donors with Ashleigh Straith

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Everyone (especially small organizations) LOVES monthly giving. It’s the instant pot of the fundraising world.

In this episode, Ashleigh Saith, Annual Programs Manager at Holland Bloorview Rehabilitation Hospital Foundation, breaks down why you should invest in monthly giving and gives actionable advice on how to leverage your monthly giving program while keeping your donors and your beneficiaries happy!

Why monthly giving?

Monthly giving is really the bread and butter of your fundraising program. It’s super cost-effective to run because it’s less expensive to keep monthly donors once they’re on board. Monthly giving is a bit of a dream come true for organizations because it provides reliable (undesignated - yay) income coming in every month and a consistent base of supporters who already love what you do. Monthly donors are great because it also sets the path towards planned giving which is another great opportunity for your fundraising program.

We know that many organizations feel like fundraising is a bit of a revolving door: a donor gives once and then never again. Statistics show that you are 80% more likely to retain your monthly donors’ support compared to a 23% likelihood of retaining a new donor. It’s so much more attainable for small organizations to build and leverage monthly giving programs than it is to gain new donors.

How to start your monthly giving program

Before you start your monthly giving program, here are the things you need to do first. Make sure your leadership (your ED or board) buys into having a monthly giving program. You also want to make sure that you have someone in charge of it. Their responsibility would be to cultivate and steward those donors, follow-up with donors, and make sure that all systems are in place. For small shops, if that person is you, that’s perfect too!

Think about branding your fundraising program too! Having a group name can also make it easier to promote it and creates a sense of community amongst your monthly donors. Try promoting your program online through your e-newsletter, social media or even sending stand-alone email appeals. Be sure to create a schedule for when these all go out.

Monthly giving: Systems and processing

You also want to pick one day of the month to process (if you are doing that manually - ideally you have a system that does it automatically, but we know what it’s like in the real world). There are systems out there online that can take care of processing card information, but you should have a good understanding of the rules around payment processing. For instance, you may have to stop transactions from a card that has declined a couple of times.

Be sure to set up a system to get notifications if a credit card is about to expire or if a transaction doesn’t go through so you can call them or send a letter to get the donor to update it. From personal experience, Ashleigh recommends sending a letter since it’s easy to fill out a form and mail it back. Sometimes, updating information can sometimes encourage donors to increase their giving as well!

Where are the monthly donors?

You want to look to look for these donors everywhere but the very first place you should look is within your existing donor list. Who is already giving to you maybe twice or more every year? Be careful not to accidentally downgrade anyone by asking those who are part of your leadership donors. You also want to seek out those who give multiple gifts using their credit card. These donors are more inclined to give monthly!

The next group of people you should look at is your new donors. Right after their first gift, they are easier to convert into a monthly donor. However, make sure you do enough thanking and reporting before you ask for that next gift. You should also look at people who may have given one year and skipped the next. Follow up with them and say, “Hey, you didn’t give last year and I know it’s easy to forget because you’re super busy” and get them to consider a monthly gift.

Start where you are

If you don’t have any donors right now, don’t fret! You might want to consider looking at who your clients are or asking people who already support you—family, friends, board members and their family, friends and networks. This will be an easier ask because they already know, like and trust you and will be more inclined to give.

Monthly giving and #donorlove

Although monthly giving takes a “set it and forget it” mindset, we still have to show our donors the same love and attention that we do with our one-time donors. If it’s a new donor, make sure to give them a call to say thank you and get to know them. Perhaps try to send them an email with a welcome package that includes a letter signed by your CEO, a little four-page newsletter with a couple of client stories, some interesting facts about the organization they may not know, and contact information for someone they can reach out to. Don’t forget to end it off with a little promo for your program. That way, they get to know your organization as being welcoming and gratitude-filled. By the time you ask for the second gift, whether it’s monthly or not, they won’t feel like an ATM.

For current donors, you may consider inviting them to tours or sending them pieces of artwork that clients made (depending on your organization), sending them an annual report, or even saying thank you through a video. Think about what makes sense for your organization and what your donors care about to help you plan different engagements with them throughout the year.

I just called to say...thank you!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help when it comes to follow-ups, you can offload those calls to volunteers! If you’re doing thank-you calls, you may even consider getting some clients to personally thank your donors in a way that's meaningful for both parties. Don’t forget to ask your staff to participate in thank-you calls as well! This is a great way to get them involved without putting them in a position that may be uncomfortable for them.

Monthly giving programs are a big part of your organization’s sustainability, so we hope you give it a shot! It can feel intimidating but once you’re in the groove, you can have great long-term relationships with those donors. Go forth and happy fundraising!

Listen to the full episode now on our Small Nonprofit Podcast landing page!

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Resources from this Episode

The Good Partnership Guide
CharityVillage Fundraising Articles
#DonorLove with Jen Love
Canadian Payments Association
PCI Compliance

Listen to more episodes of the Small Nonprofit Podcast

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Your Hosts

Cindy Wagman spent 15 years as an in-house fundraiser at organizations large and small before founding The Good Partnership – a boutique fundraising firm focused on small nonprofits. She has worked in social justice, health, arts, and education organizations. She has overseen and executed everything from annual campaigns to multi-million dollar gifts. She became a Certified Fundraising Executive in 2009 and received her MBA from Rotman at the University of Toronto in 2013.

With more than ten years of experience in development, staff and stakeholder management, strategic thinking, partnerships, board governance, and program development, Aine McGlynn is a diversely talented, self-starter committed to finding creative solutions in unexpected places. Aine holds a PhD from U of T and has a history of academic publishing, along with her decade of nonprofit sector experience. She is a practitioner-scholar focused on how to help nonprofits build their capacity to be successful at fundraising.

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