Attracting new supporters is a long, resource-intensive process.
To do so, you need to create multiple touchpoints through email blasts, social media campaigns, and direct mail, all of which require time and dedication from your marketing, donor relation, and design teams. Given the high investment rate, without careful planning, you run the risk of losing money in your attempt to acquire and convert new supporters.
Thankfully, there are strategies to avoid this problem. For instance, your organization can make the most out of every conversion by encouraging monthly giving.
Monthly donations provide sustainable support and earn a higher return on investment for your nonprofit’s marketing efforts. For example, it takes the same amount of time and resources to earn a donation from different two supporters, one of whom donates monthly while the other gives once. The donor who gives monthly has a far greater chance of paying back your marketing investment, and their contributions are likely to continue long afterward.
Establishing an effective monthly giving program requires extensive planning and a deep understanding of your donors’ needs and motivations. To help your organization launch or refine its monthly giving plan, this guide will provide an in-depth overview of two strategies for obtaining monthly donations: donor stewardship and DRTV fundraising.
Your nonprofit’s relationship with donors doesn’t end after their first contribution is made. While research shows that only 20% of donors give to the same organization again after their first donation, donors are 63% more likely to continue giving after their second donation.
The question, then, is how to persuade donors into making that second donation. Regular communication after your donors’ first gifts can help build a connection between your nonprofit and your supporters, creating more sustainable fundraising.
Continued contact and interaction with the aim of encouraging repeat donations is known as donor stewardship, and thoughtful, coordinated stewardship campaigns can help your nonprofit build and maintain a reliable base of monthly gifts.
What is Monthly Giving?
Monthly giving refers to donations made on a regular basis each month by loyal supporters. Monthly gifts are often automated, allowing supporters to donate without re-entering their information every month. Recurring monthly gifts are often lower than one-time or annual contributions but they add up over the course of the donor’s involvement with your nonprofit to be substantially more. For instance, while an annual donor might give $100, a supporter who chooses to donate just $10 per month will end up contributing $120 over the course of a year.
Reduced monthly giving amounts allow donors to support their favorite nonprofits without incurring any significant financial burdens, which can make monthly giving an attractive option for many of your supporters.
Monthly giving also provides your nonprofit with reliable fundraising streams. One-time gifts are helpful, but can often be unpredictable. By contrast, a support base of monthly gifts provides a clearer picture of your nonprofit’s finances as you’ll have an estimate of how much money you can reliably assume you will receive every month. This allows nonprofits to better allocate their funding and make appropriate spending decisions.
How Can Nonprofits Encourage Monthly Giving?
Nonprofits can improve their monthly giving rates by first understanding how and why their supporters donate. While each of your supporters’ exact motivations may vary, you can track and analyze data about your donors to identify common trends in their giving behavior.
Effective monthly giving programs are driven by data that is both received and observed from your supporters. For example, you might observe that many of your donors give at the end of the year. From their donation forms, you might receive information on why they are giving, such as on behalf of friends and family as personal gifts.
Information like this can determine how to best convert one-time donations into monthly giving opportunities. In the example given, you might consider creating unique follow-up thank you messages that convey the impact of year-end giving while gently reminding donors that your monthly giving campaign helps create sustainable funding all year round.
Use your database to find monthly giving candidates
Your donor management software or CRM (constituent relationship manager) is one of your most valuable tools for collecting and analyzing your donors’ information. For monthly giving, you can use your CRM to not only create unique profiles for your current monthly donors to help steward those relationships, but also identify other donors who may qualify as monthly giving candidates.
Prospecting tools allow your nonprofit to make informed decisions about which donors to reach out to with the intention of earning major donations. However, you don’t necessarily need additional software to analyze your own database for potential monthly donors. Instead, you just need to pinpoint key traits that monthly donors are likely to have, then filter your donors to find individuals who match those traits. Two characteristics to look for are:
- Semi-regular giving. As mentioned, many donors are likely to contribute only once, but your annual and infrequent donors continually give, showing they have a greater investment in your cause than one-time contributors. These donors are likely knowledgeable about your nonprofit and have the beginnings of a relationship with your organization that can be built on further.
- Significant contribution levels. Donors who give annually at low levels are not as strong candidates as those making notable contributions. What defines a significant contribution will depend on your average donation level, but most nonprofits would agree that a $10/year gift is not as notable as a $100/year gift. Supporters who give at moderate to high amounts are already making an investment in your nonprofit, and are good candidates to discuss monthly giving with.
Once these donors are identified, approach them with a monthly giving plan that grows their current contribution level without getting excessive. For instance, you might approach your $100 annual donors with a giving plan of $10 per month. The donor can give without taking on a significantly higher financial burden, and your nonprofit earns an additional $20 per year.
Ask your donors what matters to them.
The most direct way to understand your donors’ motivations to give is to ask. Many CRMs come with donor survey features that can be customized and sent to your supporters on a routine basis.
Monthly giving is convenient for both your nonprofit and your donors, but convenience doesn’t equal setting and forgetting it. Effective monthly giving programs check in with supporters to continue stewarding those relationships and prevent donor lapse.
Ask your donors questions that give your nonprofit concrete data about how to improve your monthly giving program, but also questions that let donors feel heard in general. For example, a few questions your nonprofit might ask to fit these criteria are:
- What motivates you to give?
- How frequently and what kind of communication do you prefer to receive from us?
- Are there any incentives such as physical gifts or financial rewards that would improve your giving experience?
- What information would you like to see in annual donor impact reports?
- What opportunities, activities, or events would you be interested in participating in?
Questions like these can help your nonprofit improve its donor stewardship by identifying how and why donors engage with your nonprofit. For example, after asking these questions, you might discover that donors are less interested in receiving a T-shirt as a thank-you for their monthly contribution but they would like to attend semi-regular gatherings with other monthly contributors.
Donor surveys are most effective when your nonprofit has an all-in-one or fully integrated software system. If your surveys are synced with your donor data and profiles, you can connect responses to specific individuals and create tailored experiences for each donor.
Coordinate corporate sponsors to help incentivize monthly giving
Donors want to know their money is going as far as possible to support causes they care about. Your nonprofit can offer incentives and leverage corporate partnerships to make your monthly giving program a more attractive way to give. Research backs this strategy up, as well. Surveys have shown that 84% of donors claim they’re more likely to give if there is additional corporate backing.
If your corporate partners have already agreed to donate, consider asking them to donate through contributions to your monthly giving program. For example, you might ask your sponsors to contribute $100 per donor who opts in to your monthly giving program rather than taking a lump-sum donation. This method earns you nonprofit donations from your sponsors while providing an incentive you can share with your supporters on your donation page or when in conversation with potential monthly donors.
The incentives you can offer will depend on what your corporate sponsors are willing to give, which means you’ll need to make a case for the importance of monthly giving to them in addition to your supporters.
Invest in your CRM
Your nonprofit will need to have a comprehensive CRM to support your monthly giving program. If you’re looking for your first CRM or are considering an upgrade, look for a solution that will allow your monthly giving program to thrive by coming equipped with:
- Donor profiles. Donor relationships require continual upkeep to maintain, and moving donors to higher levels of giving and engagement is a multi-step process that can unfold over months or even years. CRMs that automatically create donor profiles allow your team to monitor where each supporter is on their donor journey and take the appropriate steps for that stage in their relationship with your organization.
- Payment processing features. Monthly giving programs can only function if you have a payment processor that securely accepts recurring gifts. CRMs that come equipped with payment processors allow your nonprofit to connect each supporter to their donations, immediately pinpointing monthly donors who lapse in payments. Too often, donors stop giving monthly due to a single payment failure and a lack of follow-up. Keeping a close eye on payment messages lets your nonprofit quickly touch base with the donor experiencing the issue to resolve the error.
- Communication and messaging tools. As mentioned, tailoring your donor experience for each supporter based on their feedback can help your nonprofit solidify long-lasting relationships with your monthly donors. Messaging tools connected to your donor database allow your team to automatically populate your communication templates with information relevant to your donors.
Above all, make sure your CRM can grow with your nonprofit. Some CRMs come with basic versions of the above features but can only accommodate a certain number of donors. Make sure to ask software providers about scalability in addition to necessary features and integrations to find a solution that will work for your nonprofit in the long run.
DRTV Fundraising Campaigns
There are other ways to increase your monthly giving program outside of mining your current donor base. Certain marketing strategies and methods have the potential to convert supporters into monthly donors on their very first contribution.
Monthly giving programs face a common setback: the necessity of explaining what monthly giving is and why it’s more effective than large one-time donations. Marketing materials can help fill this gap, while also continuing to spread your nonprofit’s message and brand.
Large and enterprise-level nonprofits have the option of reaching and educating an even wider audience on the benefits of monthly giving using DRTV fundraising.
What is DRTV Fundraising?
Nonprofit DRTV fundraising is a series of fundraising promotions that appear on television, asking viewers to take a specific action such as texting a toll-free number to make a donation to your cause. This is where DRTV’s acronym (direct response television) comes from—the television spot is created with the intention of viewers responding to its message.
DRTV can come in many forms based on your organization’s budget and marketing goals. For nonprofits looking to increase their monthly giving program, their DRTV fundraising campaigns would likely consist of TV spots that inform viewers about their mission, present the benefits of monthly giving, and urge viewers to message their text-to-give number or go to their donation page’s URL to become a monthly donor.
Benefits of DRTV
DRTV is an investment that shouldn’t be made lightly. Campaigns expenses can easily exceed a million dollars to produce and air their television spots. But nonprofits who can afford DRTV stand to reap a number of benefits, including:
- A wide audience. Social media, email, traditional mail, and other forms of outreach only extend so far. These platforms often pale in comparison to the exposure television can provide. Promotion on television also adds a level of professionalism to your organization, which can cause potential donors who saw previous marketing campaign materials online to sit up and take notice of your nonprofit.
- Brand equity. Your nonprofit’s brand is more than your logos and a few colors. Consider your nonprofit’s values, message, and other associations you want viewers to have with your organization. A strong first impression can deeply influence how supporters view your brand, but repeated viewings of your brand across multiple platforms will slowly build up new associations over time, increasing the prominence and overall perceived value of your brand.
- Increased monthly giving. There are many ways to encourage supporters to give, and, unfortunately, monthly giving is rarely seen as particularly engaging or exciting. DRTV gives your nonprofit the chance to change that perception by encouraging viewers to take immediate action to support your cause by becoming monthly donors.
Other forms of marketing can also help bolster your DRTV fundraising efforts by reinforcing your message. Remember, supporters usually need to interact with your nonprofit through multiple touchpoints before they will consider donating, but not all touchpoints are equal. DRTV happens to be a particularly effective touchpoint due to these benefits, but your other efforts can also be the tipping point for a potential supporter becoming a monthly donor.
Use DRTV to Promote Monthly Giving
Your DRTV fundraising campaign spots can say almost anything about your nonprofit and its mission in the hopes of earning donations. However, positioning your DRTV fundraising campaign specifically to attract monthly contributors requires forethought into your content, presentation, and delivery.
Before developing your fundraising video, consider how you can tie your message to your monthly giving campaign by:
Deciding what spot length you need
Your DRTV production plan will require you to answer two key questions: how much time do you need to get your message across and how much are you willing to spend to purchase that time?
The longer your allotted time, the more expensive your DRTV spot will be. Of course, the length of time you have to get your message across, the more you can say to your audience. DRTV spots range in time from 15 to 30-second brand-oriented messages, which can grab prospective supporters’ attention and get your nonprofit’s name out there but will accomplish little else, to over five-minute creative, long-form videos.
You can decide which spot length makes the most sense for your nonprofit by determining what content you need to cover to make a convincing pitch for your monthly giving program. While the exact content of your spot will depend on your nonprofit’s brand and approach to marketing, most DRTV spots encouraging monthly giving should contain:
- An emotional appeal. No matter how long your DRTV spot is, you need to give viewers a reason to keep watching beyond the first few seconds. Starting off with your organization’s mission might be more informational, but it’s unlikely to catch attention the same way an emotional story from your constituents will.
- Information about how viewers can help. Your emotional opening helps viewers become invested and make a connection with your constituents—you then need to give them a way to get involved. Many people donate based on their emotions first, then justify their decision with facts down the line. Calling viewers to contribute immediately after your emotional appeals drives traffic to your website where visitors can learn more about the statistics and data behind their donations.
- An explanation about how to give. Your directions for how to donate must be as straightforward and easy to complete as possible. Some nonprofits feature their website URL or text-to-give number at the bottom of the screen throughout the entire duration of their DRTV spot so viewers can give at any time. For monthly giving, consider providing more information at the end about how to sign up for recurring donations to maximize your opportunities for receiving monthly gifts.
For some organizations, it might take five minutes to get all of this information across, while others can condense it into 90 seconds. In general, the more time viewers watch your DRTV spot, the more convinced they will be to contribute because you are able to more thoroughly explain your cause. However, stretching or padding your script to keep viewers watching for longer is unlikely to result in an effective case for your monthly giving program.
Focusing on message over style
No matter the length of your DRTV spot, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to communicate every detail you would like to. In some ways, this can actually be helpful as you’ll need to consider the purpose and point behind every aspect of your video and assess its value. The question, then, is what is the most valuable information to include in your message?
Big personalities, celebrity endorsements, and flashy presentations can attract attention, but they are rarely effective unless they tie into your nonprofit’s story. Keep your message simple by focusing on telling a compelling story and making viewers feel like they can make a true difference for your mission.
You’ll also need to decide when is the most appropriate time to make your ask. If your intent is to grow your monthly giving program, you might consider giving some context for how year-round donations can make a positive impact, or you may choose to make a big push for donations to drive as much traffic to your donation page as possible, then add additional information on monthly giving afterward.
Finding the most effective time slot
When you first start experimenting with DRTV, finding the most effective time slot follows a more-is-more principle. After all, you can only learn which time slots work best for your message after launching your DRTV spot at them and collecting data after the fact.
However, unlike traditional mail and other fundraising campaign strategies, DRTV has immediate, measurable response rates, meaning you won’t have to wait long to get results. After each airing, track how successful your DRTV spot was by monitoring the incoming donations through your website and text-to-give number featured in your spot.
While not every contribution may be caused by your DRTV spot, you can reasonably assume that a majority made during and immediately after are due to your ad, especially if contributors are taking the specific action directed, like signing on to your monthly giving campaign. After analyzing your results, you can compare your different time slots’ response rates and determine which slots to continue airing.
Once you attract monthly donors, you’ll need to take steps to keep them engaged. While some donors are content to quietly make contributions, most want to build a connection to your nonprofit and form a community of donors. Donors who are invested in your nonprofit’s success are more likely to stick around and continue offering support for the long run. Learn how to make the most of these relationships with these resources:
- Donor Management Software: Our Favorite Options, Ranked. Your monthly giving program needs a sophisticated donor management system to back it up. Review top providers and find a solution that fits your nonprofit.
- Virtual Fundraising Events: A How-To Guide (And 15 Ideas!). Keep your monthly donors engaged even when they’re far away by hosting virtual events. Get started and use this how-to guide to get inspired.
- Planned Giving: The Complete Guide (+5 Tips to Get Started). Monthly donors who have been with your nonprofit for years make for some of the best planned giving donors. Learn how to set up your planned giving program with this comprehensive guide.