When it comes to non-profit fundraising, a monthly donation (also known as a recurring donation) is an absolute favorite. While large donations are valuable and should still be pursued, recurring donation programs provide a reliable income source for your non-profit.
Imagine if your non-profit no longer had to worry about irregular donations coming in. Imagine that you can count on a reliable stream of monthly income. Doesn’t that sound great? That’s why developing an effective monthly donation program is a fantastic investment that can have a significant impact on your organisation’s financial health in the long run.
When a donor sets up a recurring donation, they choose to donate a predetermined amount regularly. A lot of people make monthly, bi-monthly or annual donations, and of course, they can donate as often as they want. A monthly donation is probably the most common form of regular donation.
What exactly are the benefits of a monthly donation program or a regular donation?
Table of Contents
1. The benefits of a monthly donation program (recurring donations)
1.1 Higher returns
The average monthly online donation is €52 (€624 per year), and an average one-off donation is €128. According to the Network for Good Donation data, the average donor making a recurring donation contributes 42% more annually than those who give one-off donations. Monthly donors also have a greater lifetime return per donor. Finally, 52% of millennials are more likely to give a regular donation than a more significant one-off donation.
It shows that comprehensive monthly donation programs have a much higher return on investment than one-off donation programs.
1.2 Higher retention rate
Donors who donate monthly have a higher retention rate than other donors. The retention rates of a new donor are on average less than 23%. Monthly donation programs typically have a retention rate of more than 80% after one year and 95% after five years.
If someone signs up to your program, they generally stay longer than a basic program and donate each year or at least three times more often than the one-off donor.
1.3 Simple for donors
Monthly donation programs are not only relatively easy for non-profits to manage, but they also make donating or recurring giving easy.
Donors sign up once, and their periodic donation is deposited automatically and with a frequency of their choice, making them flexible and convenient. Plus, for the most part, your donors are already on monthly calendars. They are often paid monthly. They pay a lot of bills monthly and subscribe to several monthly services. Donating monthly, therefore, is easy to understand and integrate.
1.4 More predictable
Very few returning donors cancel their recurring donation. Registering for a periodic donation is a good sign that the donor is involved and committed to your cause.
2. Quick tips to create a great monthly donation program (recurring donations)
Chances are you’ve already set up some variation of a monthly payment plan before. But, was it really the most feasible plan? Perhaps you can get more out of a regular donation?
Here are some practical tips to bear in mind should your organisation wish to consider implementing its own recurring donation program
2.1 Develop a program plan that is aimed specifically at the donor
The most important thing for launching a successful recurring donation program is to develop a written plan that targets the donors.
Before proceeding with any other steps:
- Think strategically
If you don’t have clear goals for your recurring donation program, it will be challenging to understand what you need to achieve your goal. It also makes it more difficult for your donors to understand how they fit into the bigger picture. Work with your team to answer these questions:
- What do we want to achieve with regular donations?
- How does monthly donating contribute to our programs and mission?
- What result do we desire if we achieve our goal?
b. Set Goals
Set goals after reviewing the broad outlines and how the monthly programs fit into the rest of your non-profit’s strategy and set specific goals;
- How many monthly donors do you want to attract each month?
- How about increasing monthly donations?
- How to know you’re successful once you’ve answered these questions, move on to the next step;
c. Think about the finer details.
Think carefully about the finer particulars of your program, including these areas:
- The name of the program (if any)
- Target audience
- Potentially suggested monthly donation amounts.
- Marketing materials
- Measure and evaluate
2.2 Brand the structural donation program
Naming your monthly program will strengthen the fire and show your donors that they are part of something special.
Name the program something that matches your broader non-profit organisation or cause. For example, Pencils of Promise calls their program “Passport”, Liberty in North Korea calls it “Liberty” and charity: water calls it “Pipeline”.
Branding your monthly recurring donation program emphasises the community element. Showing your monthly donors that they are part of something bigger than themselves will make them feel more valued.
Consider the use of social proof on your monthly donation page. Social proof is a powerful psychological and social phenomenon where people take over others’ actions to portray correct behaviour in a given situation. In essence, it means that people do what they see others do.
To take advantage of this phenomenon, add testimonials and photos of current monthly donors, their names, or use something like “you will become the xxx member of our program”.
Testimonials are also compelling forms of social proof because they contain a narrative and stories that create trust and credibility.
Finally, if you’ve received positive mentions from credible media sources, publications, and other opinion leaders in your industry, display them on your website.
2.3 Find out whom to approach for structural donations
Before you start promoting your monthly donation program, look at your donor database and identify donors who would be most likely to join a monthly donation program.
In general, those who give smaller amounts, compared to those who give larger amounts, may be more suited to a monthly donation program.
Pay special attention to donors who regularly give smaller amounts (a few times a year). When it comes to deciding on your monthly viewpoint, frequency is more important than the donation’s size. Use this information to target those donors who may be interested in donating monthly.
Before promoting your program to a broader audience, mobilise your staff and board, as well as your most active volunteers and get them to sign up first.
It will enhance your program’s credibility and allow you to collect feedback on everything from the sign-up process to the thank you email.
Furthermore, when people come across your monthly recurring donation program, they will be more likely to join because others already do.
2.4 Promote the recurring gift program
As with anything, it doesn’t matter how good your program is if people don’t know about it.
Before promoting your program, you must define the value proposition of it. In other words, why would anyone become a monthly donor? What are the benefits to them, and what are the benefits to your non-profit? Test different ways to emphasize your value proposition.
Don’t shy away from reaching out to everyone after contacting your staff, your most active volunteers and a small but frequent group of donors!
Send callouts via all your outreach channels and add monthly donation as an option on your non-profit’s standard donation form.
Mobilize volunteers and send them out into the streets. Let your volunteers tell people who come by about your non-profit’s cause and educate them about your new monthly donation program.
Furthermore, check with old donors to see if they would be open to the idea of donating monthly. Ask the old donors what is holding them back from giving consistently or why they stopped giving and meeting them. You should encourage them to come back to your non-profit.
Use all channels available to you to promote your program. Use email, social media, direct mail, newsletters, printed ads, Google Grants, events and street fundraising.
Please do not send your first communication until your monthly payment page is active and you have tested it for any hiccups in the process.
Send an email to your full email list, as well as that of the direct mail. If you have the resources, follow-up with by phone. Phone calls following up on emails increase the number of registrations for monthly donation programs. Phone calls also add a personal touch that emails and letters cannot replicate. If you don’t have the resources to do this often, you could still try to pick up the phone to them now and then.
Don’t be afraid to ask for additional donations and upgrades. Schedule one or two integrated upgrade campaigns per year.
2.5 Show it all on your website.
Promote your monthly donation program on your non-profit’s website. Do this by creating a separate page devoted entirely to your monthly program with information, videos, images, and testimonials from your donors and beneficiaries.
Your program should also get some space on the home page, where it is easy to find. It makes the program accessible to potential donors who are specifically interested in making monthly contributions.
When sending requests or otherwise promoting the program, make sure that the feel of the communication matches that on the website. You want the potential donors to go to the website and experience cohesion and consistency.
2.6 Invest in a reliable periodic donation processing system
Online fundraising software is essential if you want to make monthly donations a reality.
Fundraising software makes building your donation pages much more straightforward and offers you several features and benefits, such as:
- Options for a recurring donation.
- Donors have the option to manage their recurring donation at any time.
- Pre-filled custom amounts with descriptions to make your donors feel good knowing what they’re contributing.
- Integrated donation matching programs for employers.
- Optimisation for desktop computers, mobile phones and tablets.
- Accept donations through your Facebook page.
- Donation “thermometer” to encourage more donations.
- PDF receipts and other features to help you raise more money in 2021.
View Whydonate’s recurring donation system here!
2.7 Have a reliable data management system
For non-profits, it is essential to have a donor management system that automates the sign-up process and manages donor contact information.
Keep the program uncomplicated! Inevitably, credit card expiration dates will be exceeded, and debiting will not be possible, bank account numbers will have changed, and so on.
Stay on top of these issues and communicate proactively with your donors. Establish an internal record-keeping structure, either by deploying an employee to follow up on missed payments due to declined or expired cards or by using card update services to update credit card information automatically.
2.8 Show donors the impact of their donations
It’s always important to show donors the impact of their recurring donation, but it can also make a real difference when persuading some of your donors to join your monthly giving program.
There are several ways you can do this. Many non-profits present infographics, and sometimes present facts and statistics about where donors’ donations are going.
One of the best ways to do this is to link each donation amount, specifically to a result.
€15 (50 cents a day) feeds one child who needs life-saving food every day for a month in Bangladesh
€30 (1 euro per day) gives 30 refugees access to clean water for a month
€50 (1.50 euros per day) provides a month-long education to a girl who has been saved from slavery
€100 (three euros per day) will equip three health workers to respond to reports of domestic or sexual violence for a month
It helps your monthly donors conceptualise how their relatively small donation makes a difference with the overall purpose.
Besides, this helps your donors to envisage the people being helped by their donations. People are motivated to give when they feel an emotional connection to the people who benefit from their donation – people give to people.
When determining the specific amounts to donate, take the time to calculate an approximation of what those who give that amount can achieve.
2.9 Make it easy
Signing up for the program should be effortless and intuitive, starting with your website’s ease of use. A donor should be able to find your donation link within seconds of the donation page loading. A good practice is to place the link at the top on the website header.
When a donor clicks on the “Donate” link, they should be immediately linked to the donation form. A common mistake is to insert a variety of other information or text between these two stages.
Your donation page should also be mobile friendly/responsive. It means that the donation page is adapted to the device used to make an optimal display possible.
Your goal should always be for everyone who has reached your donation page to click through and donate. To achieve this, you need to keep your website simple and straightforward. Limit the amount of text, images, media and links to only what is needed and organise your content in a way that feels very logical.
Click here to learn more about creating great donation pages.
2.10 Nurture relationships
A monthly donation can be useful for you and your donors. It automates many of the payments, and the administration involved. However, this does not mean that your non-profit shouldn’t establish a relationship with your donors.
Start the relationship by rolling out the red carpet for your monthly donors to welcome them. Send them a welcome email within 48 hours of signing up (or automate this process as well). It’s also vital to keep thanking your donor not only after their first donation but also strategically (and sincerely) throughout the year.
It is also good practice to include monthly donors on a separate email list to send materials (such as newsletters) and messages that are specific to them. It will keep them from being put on the general email list where they consistently receive calls for donations because they are already giving money.
Keep your monthly donors regularly updated with images, stories, statistics and other concrete examples of how their contributions have helped the cause. Don’t just send numbers, however. Include stories in your communication with your donors. Storytelling is a powerful fundraising tool.
Finally, creating a community means offering your monthly donors something beyond the regular donation experience. Think of gifts, special updates, photos and opportunities to win trips to places where you operate.
To recap, recurring/monthly donating is a great fundraising technique for your non-profit because you will:
- Have a steady stream of income throughout the year.
- Keep donors.
- Create a community of supporters.
- Make life easier for you and your donors.
Monthly donors are a valuable asset to today’s non-profit organisations. They must, therefore, be approached in a strategic and personalised manner.
Creating a successful monthly donation program can be challenging, but it is also rewarding. Forming a lasting relationship with dedicated donors, who continuously support your organisation, really makes the difference.