10 tips for monthly giving programs

Most nonprofits don’t leverage their monthly giving programs as well as they can. Erica Waasdorp, president of A Direct Solution in Marstons Mill, Mass., shared some tips on getting the most out of your monthly giving program in her book, “Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant.”

Commit: Though most break even within a year, a monthly program is a long-term investment. Give it time and don’t pull the plug too early if it’s not performing how you think it should at first.

Invest time, treasure and talent: Build money into your budget to develop the program..

Make someone accountable: Appoint or hire someone who has ownership of the program. It takes collaboration through a lot of departments to get a monthly giving program off the ground, says Waasdorp, so make sure the buck stops somewhere.

Start with the end in mind: Make sure you have an answer for every question and a go-to play for every situation. That means letters for issues with a donor’s payment, knowing when payments come, phone scripts and email templates.

Give your program a name: Donors want to feel like they’re a part of an exclusive club. “Think of something that fits with your mission that’s not yet used in your organization elsewhere,” suggests Waasdorp. Sustainers, champions, guardians, friends all work well for a monthly giving program name, she said.

Find your small but regular donors in your donor base: “Don’t think you need large gifts,” wrote Waasdorp. “Leave the $100 donors for your midlevel program.” Look for the folks that have given $5 or $10 a few times a year. Recency and frequency are more important than monetary value for monthly giving prospects, according to Waasdorp.

Put monthly giving on your home page: Don’t make it too hard for people to find the page. If you feature it prominently, people will check it out.

Use as many media as you can: Start with your home page and mention it in your e-newsletter. Add a line about it in your thank-you letters. Think about telemarketing, print ads and DRTV if it’s in the budget.

Annualize your results: Demonstrate the value of these donors to your board and management. Telling them the donor is worth $120 a year sounds better than $10 a month. “People will start catching on quick how important this monthly giving program is,” wrote Waasdorp.

Treat monthly donors with the best donor service you have: “While monthly donors may look small at first, they really are not,” according to Waasdorp. Make sure you respond to them quickly whenever they call, write or email, because they care about your organization.