How long does it typically take to set up a monthly donor program?

By Erica Waasdorp

How long does it typically take to set up a monthly donor program? From soup to nuts.

At a recent webinar, I was asked the above question.

The answer is: if you focus on it, you should be able to be up and running within a week.

I realize that development people in small to mid-size organizations especially are always pulled in multiple directions and distractions are easy.

That’s why I recommend you don’t launch the program until you have thought through and put in place the basics. But with a little bit of focus that can be done in a few days.

You most likely have the systems already in place. Brainstorming about a name for a program can be done in an hour or so. Creating a monthly donor donation page can literally be done in a few minutes. Adding the auto-responder and thank you email might take a few more minutes. Creating the hard copy thank you letter should be pretty straightforward based upon your thank you for one time donations.

I have one important recommendation: always TEST the process. Have someone make a first monthly donation and make sure that everything works and looks exactly as you’d like it to look before you go live to the masses.

Once you have these basics in place, you can start thinking about promoting the program. Instead of asking for a one time donation you’ll be able to start asking donors to consider a monthly gift. Start with people who are already caring about your organization. Your staff. Your volunteers. Your board. Then expand from there.

Don’t over-think it. Keep it simple and based upon what you’re already doing in your other areas of fundraising. Except that you’re now focused on generating sustainable revenue for your organization for many years to come. Your clients, children, animals, people you serve will benefit.

And, depending where you are on your monthly donor program, if you’d like to get some tips and pointers and handy materials to help you get started or growing, consider a Charity How To Webinar on monthly giving. You’ll not be disappointed.

About The Author

Erica Waasdorp is President of A Direct Solution, located on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  Erica lives and breathes direct response and fundraising and can be considered a Philanthropyholic. She has published one of the very few books on monthly giving, called Monthly Giving. The Sleeping Giant. She co-authored the DonorPerfect Monthly Giving Starter and Marketing  Kits and she regularly blogs and presents in person and via webinars on anything direct mail, appeals and monthly giving.

The 7 fundamentals of Monthly Giving

imagesMQ90Z0LKA few years ago, when I first started teaching webinars at Charity How To, Monthly giving was still in its infancy. It used to be something for the few and big organizations.

Not anymore! Every organization can and should organize a monthly giving program in very short order. With the right tools (and you may very well already have them in-house), you can get started in no time.

You may know I’m somewhat of a monthly donor ‘groupie’.  I’ve been managing monthly donor programs for decades and I’ve seen the power and ongoing revenue it provides, especially in times of crisis.  In some cases, it’s kept organizations afloat because even if they could not send appeals to ask for money, the monthly donations kept coming in.

So why is monthly giving important?

Let’s look at some fundamentals of monthly giving you must realize before you start, that may be different from what you’ve seen with other types of donors.

  1. Understand how monthly donors are different. They are not your big check writers. Monthly giving allows even small donors to invest in your organization in a way that’s easy, comfortable and affordable for them , while generating lots of money for your organization. And, an important “side effect” your donor retention rate will increase.
  2. You can start your program with minimal resources. Look at your online donation system and add monthly giving to your one-time donation pages and create a separate monthly donation page.
  3. Do create a monthly donor recognition plan.  And make sure you organize your recognition pieces in advance, before you start marketing. I work with many small and mid-size organizations and find that early promotion – before the process was completely organized – will cause delays and problems down the road. If you take a few extra minutes now to map out what you’ll offer these new monthly donors, it will benefit you and them in the long run.
  4. Define your ask amounts at the low end of the spectrum and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Don’t be too greedy.  Start asking for the lowest amount you can get away with, but always offer a number of different options. I recommend 4 and Other $. The donors will determine what they can afford. If you start too high, you’ll scare them off and they feel they cannot contribute. Ask low, get higher response.
  5. Marketing your program nowadays is very doable by asking via email and social media. You’ve done all of the hard work already and set up the systems and recognition. .Now it’s a matter of asking.
  6. Always annualize the value of your monthly donors when you present the results of your activities to others. I cannot stress this enough. If you see that the current average gift of a monthly donor is some $24 a month, that’s $288 a year!All of a sudden people start taking notice. Until you annualize, bosses, boards and colleagues will not understand the power of monthly giving.
  1. Do plan for growth. You’re asking the donors to commit to you long-term so you should commit to this program long-term as well. Growing a monthly donor program takes time, so you must build in as many ask opportunities as you possibly can!  I’ve seen tremendous success especially with those organizations who were so committed to it that they looked at absolutely every opportunity to ask donors to join their monthly giving program. And it is working! Some now see 50 to 60% of their revenue from monthly donors. It creates the sustainable revenue they need. So, look at your communication plan for the year and build in as many monthly giving appeals as you can and you WILL grow.

And if you’d like to find out more, check out the various monthly giving webinars at Charity How To today and go to www.adirectsolution.com for resources about monthly giving.

 

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