5 ways to acquire monthly donors in the mail

Monthly giving donors give more and stick around longer. If your organization doesn’t have a sustainer program, it might be time to start one. Consultant Erica Waasdorp has five tips for both new and established programs seeking to acquire new sustainers through direct mail in her book, “Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant.”

  • Send a welcome pack to new and reactivated donors. Speed is key here. “Ask for a monthly gift as soon as possible after the first gift,” wrote Waasdorp. She cited a study that shows conversions begin to drop after four weeks. Make your case in economic terms, Waasdorp suggested. The package can be simple or elaborate, with or without a premium. The important thing is to test the package to find out which approach is right for your organization.
  • Send a thank you letter for donations from existing donors. This is a variation on a welcome package “with more focus on programs and ideally the campaign the donor responded to at first,” wrote Waasdorp. She described a case study in which appeals in a thank you letter earned double the response rate of a stand-alone monthly giving appeal. “Strike while the iron is hot — after they just gave and they know how their donation can make even more of a difference,” wrote Waasdorp.
  • Special appeal to existing donors. Waasdorp calls this the strongest but most expensive way to acquire monthly donors through the mail. She recommends this option to organizations that mail fewer than 12 times per year. “If you’re already mailing to your house file more often than that, monthly giving request will seem to do poorly,” she wrote.
  • A variation on a standard house file appeal. Waasdorp recommended this option for donors who have already given twice, and at the $10 or $15 level. “If you can, select those people who have given single gifts via credit or debit card and see how they respond compared to those who have not yet given by credit card. I can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be pleasantly surprised,” Waasdorp wrote.
  • Include monthly giving in your newsletter. A testimonial from a monthly donor might work here, “stressing how easy monthly giving is and how the donor feels he or she makes a real impact on the organization and its mission,” suggested Waasdorp.