MONTHLY GIVING! Monthly giving programs are often viewed as complex puzzles, difficult to unlock, but with a reward well worth the upfront work. Today, some organizations seem to have unlocked the ‘monthly giving puzzle’, while others struggle with developing a plan to maximize their current program or even knowing where to start to develop a sustainer program. There are many reasons to prioritize monthly giving program strategies, with stability and reliability of revenue being at the top. In fact, even if your organization has a healthy sustainer program, there are likely opportunities to enhance your program even further with specific business process improvements and/or strategic adjustments, both touched on briefly below.
As our industry has weathered the challenging seas of the past few years, nonprofits nationwide (and across the globe) have been looking for ways to batten down the hatches and sail to calmer waters. With the ongoing need to focus on how to protect revenue and retain donors, those organizations with a robust monthly giving program have a layer of protection against declining donors and decreased retention rates.
For decades our industry has focused primarily on donor acquisition, with a focus on bringing in new, one-time gift donors with the hope of converting them to multi-gift donors once they are on the file. Slowly, over the last few years, as the value of monthly donors has grown (often while the value of one-time donors has decreased), organizations are placing larger priorities on monthly giving initiatives, investments and testing. If this defines where your organization is – that’s great. Keep going! But if your organization has been slow to get on the monthly giving train, now is a good time to get onboard.
A robust monthly giving program can be the bread and butter for an organization’s bottom line. But the value of monthly donors extends far beyond that of the guaranteed monthly revenue they generate. Monthly givers not only give more money on both an annual and lifetime basis, but their level of engagement in the organization’s work is deeper because their investment is ongoing.
And when the strategy surrounding monthly donors is done the right way, stronger relationships develop between the donor and the cause, making the relationship more resistant to competition. And, as donors in the United States continue to decrease the number of organizations they support, developing a cadre of committed monthly givers is a prudent step (especially given the volatility of our current environment), allowing organizations to shore up a source of consistent revenue.
So, what does it take to build a strong, robust monthly giving program? There are four critical components of a successful sustainer program:
- Business Process & Infrastructure
- Audience Selection & Segmentation
- Channel Diversification
- Messaging & Offer Development
BUSINESS PROCESS & INFRASTRUCTURE
Within a monthly giving program (probably more-so than any other program), the devil truly is in the details. That is why it is critical to prioritize auditing your organization’s business processes and infrastructure as the absolute first step in developing or optimizing a monthly giving program.
For success to be realized in this important program area, it is important to:
- Understand what donor information is currently captured and what is capable for tracking (payment method, channel, origin source, etc.)
- Manage messaging and offer preferences at the donor level
- Confirm integration capabilities within database(s)
- Understand available/appropriate benefits
- Clarify current inclusion and exclusion rules
We understand that business process and infrastructure is often the least ‘fun’ part of program development and optimization, but it is arguably the most imperative, because if attention is not paid within this area, all other innovations will be moot.
AUDIENCE SELECTION & SEGMENTATION
As with nearly any successful program, strategic segmentation for the growth of the monthly giving program is essential. If ‘audience’ drives 60% of all response, then getting this part of the response equation correct is extremely important.
In today’s changing world, it is essential to look beyond traditional RFM to identify and select potential audiences for a sustainer recruitment/conversion. In fact, understanding and applying channel preferences, method of payment, donor tenure, models and other smart segmentation strategies are all key to honing-in on optimal audiences.
As the diagram above illustrates, today’s monthly giving programs are using a variety of integrated channels to recruit and convert monthly giving. Each of these channels has their ‘place’ in a robust monthly giving (and some may have no place at all, depending on investment thresholds, program maturity, brand recognition, etc.), so taking stock and understanding potential opportunities is critical to the solvency of monthly giving programs.
MESSAGING & OFFER DEVELOPMENT
Developing the appropriate message and offer requires the same time and attention as a traditional one-time gift program, if not more. Think through the relevant value proposition for these valuable donors, and work to bring prospective and current monthly donors into your organization’s story and mission with each interaction and communication. Some questions to think through are:
- Select the right monthly ask: Think through the best monthly ask (is it $10, $15 or $19?) for your particular program.
- Show them love: Are there particular benefits that you can offer your monthly donors that can further steward and cultivate them?
- Let them hear from you: What other communications will help further bond (without overwhelming) these special donors to your organization?
- Identify who they are: Think through what the name of this giving club will be (if necessary) and promote awareness of the monthly opportunity in a variety of ways across multiple channels and platforms.
Phew. We know that developing, maintaining and optimizing a strong monthly giving program is not for the faint of heart. However, trust us! Your time, focus and diligence NOW will pay dividends in years to come. And because of the importance of these high value programs, we have devoted several upcoming blog articles to this topic! Join us next week as we chat through some of the myths associated with monthly giving programs.