READ TIME: 4 minutes

Five Steps to Building a Monthly Giving Program from Scratch

Bring Stability to Your Nonprofit  

By causemic
Perhaps you don’t need convincing, but a monthly giving program – one which encourages supporters to make a recurring donation each month – is a critical, predictable revenue stream for nonprofits of all sizes.   Recurring giving allows an organization to level out the peaks and valleys of a competitive, crowded fundraising landscape. It also allows nonprofits to maximize the lifetime value of a contributor and retain those supporters who deeply connect with their mission.   
Per NP Source, a snapshot of monthly giving in the United States in 2018.

Prepare to Launch: 5 Steps to Building a Monthly Giving Program  

Alright, now to the brass tacks. Below are five hearty steps to developing a monthly giving program from scratch.   

1. Set Your Goals

Any time you develop a new campaign or initiative, set your revenue goals. Don’t have any historical data to help steer your sights? Aim cautiously high and you can adjust later. Some examples: Increase monthly revenue by 25% or add 200 monthly donors by next quarter.  Is there a budget for this effort or will you strictly be operating in owned channels, such as your organization’s website, social media, and email? Also, define the time frame of your campaign. While it’s important supporters know they can sign up to give monthly at any point during the year, establishing a time-boxed push for monthly donors creates urgency through your multi-channel, coordinated effort. We recommend this push last anywhere from 1-2 weeks.  

2. Identify Your Target Donors

Who are your targets? What do they care about? What’s their giving capacity? Develop donor personas, or a representation of your ideal donors, by looking at the demographic data of your donor base. Make time to interview at least 3-5 donors of diverse backgrounds to learn why they care about your nonprofit’s mission. Things you’ll want to cover: 
  • Background – occupation, education, interests, activities, etc. 
  • Demographics – age, location, household income, etc.  
  • Motivations – what causes they care about, why they give to your organization, how and when would they like to hear from you, have they ever fundraised for a nonprofit, where do they go for more information, etc. 
Why do personas matter? These answers guide and hone your messaging and creative strategy. Understanding your audience is the first step to crafting an effective appeal for giving monthly. The donor is the customer. Their needs might not reflect what the organization needs to get in front of them, so don’t begin this process assuming you know what they want to hear.  

3. Plan and Brand Your Multi-Channel Campaign

Select which channels your organization will use to promote your monthly giving campaign. Refer back to how your personas prefer to receive communication from you and how often. And if you don’t already have an online fundraising platform, carve out some time to research the best options for your organization. These include platforms like ClassyFunraise, and Give Lively Here’s a checklist that involves some prominent channels your organization likely already owns: 
  • WebsiteEnsure your site features a prominent option to give monthly and why that revenue stream matters to your organization. 
  • EmailPlan to reach out to your existing supporter base and define your segments (segments can be defined by giving capacity, location, time affiliated with the organization, whether they volunteer, etc.). 
  • Social MediaInclude appeals to donate monthly through your social channels. If you choose to announce your goal – “We need 100 monthly donors by March 1!” – keep your followers updated on your progress in addition to sharing stories of how their donations are helping others.  
  • Internal: How do employees communicate with one another? Slack, email, all-staff meetings? Ensure your colleagues are aware of your effort and encourage them to share the appeal. In many cases, employees can be your best advocates to kick things off. Your colleagues shouldn’t feel pressure to donate, but rather use their affiliation to the organization as a microphone for recruiting others.  
Once you’ve determined your channel mix, it’s time to exercise your branding muscles and develop the look, sound, and feel of your monthly giving program. This is a special group of core supporters – ensure they feel that way. A best practice is to give your monthly donors a unique name and imagery. 
Project Koru Monthly Giving donation page screenshot
Project Koru helps cancer survivors thrive through outdoor adventure. The nonprofit branded their monthly giving program as Camp Koru.
Reflect on your donor persona research and craft messaging and design that resonates with their motivations for contributing to your organization. Showcase the impact of their monthly gift by going strong on storytelling, data, and identifying giving levels (example: $100 per month provides clean water for an entire family for a year).  

4. Promote and Optimize

Once your copy, creative assets, and cadence of communications are queued up, it’s time to execute. Hitting “go” is easy, but now’s when you begin to evaluate the campaign’s performance and identify where you can optimize. Perhaps you’re noticing an uptick in monthly donor conversions from social media – what else could you do to engage this audience? Or maybe the email open rates are lower in the afternoon vs. the morning. Adjust fire. Did a national news story related to your mission just air? How could you incorporate a timely message into your monthly giving appeal?   Also, include updates on the progress of your campaign and what remains of your goal. “We’re halfway there! Help us hit our goal of adding 100 monthly donors by March 1st! 

5. Show Gratitude with Unique Communications

Thank you goes a long way, but continuing to show your monthly investors how they’re making a tangible impact is how you’ll retain them. Offer an exclusive invite to tune into a live update from an executive or ask them to complete a survey and provide feedback on a recent initiative. Moving forward, your monthly donors should continue to receive unique communications throughout the year.  
Pencils of Promise clearly showcases what their monthly contributors can expect to receive once they become a PASSPORT member.
We realize a lot goes into building an effective monthly giving program, and this is just setting the stage for what’s possible. If you’re ready to take the leap, sign up for CauseMic Academy’s Launch or Reboot Your Monthly Giving Program in 90 Days. 

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