The Devil is in the Details

Monthly Giving is revered by many for the value and revenue generated for organizations.  However, fundraisers who have been around the block a few times know that monthly giving programs are often the place where the smallest detail matters – and getting it ‘right’ most always starts with reviewing and optimizing organizational business processes.  Roger Craver writes more about this here in a recent installment of The Agitator.


Focusing on business process is not the sexiest part of strategic innovation, however, in our opinion – it is the most critical.  If a strong infrastructure is not in place, other innovations (and investments) will be for naught.


Sustainer programs are complex in nature, not only because of the diversity in how and why these committed donors give, but also because the routinized aspect of giving in monthly giving programs can hide problems that might otherwise be apparent.


The image to the right illustrates the primary aspects of a monthly donor program.  Of course, within each one of these areas, there are dozens of business processes that support individual program elements.  Items like segmentation and mapping, budgeting, analysis, reporting and approach to testing are fundamental parts of business processes that can either make or break your monthly giving program.


As you wander down the monthly donor journey, here are 5 process priorities for consideration:

  1. Business process is king, queen and everything in between: As noted above, regimented and ardent business processes are the backbone of any developed monthly giving program.  Investing time to ‘look under the hood’ and understand your program’s finite details are not only a worthwhile investment, but critical to your program’s long-term growth plans.  Focus on specifics like your CRM system’s data- capture capabilities and to what extent you are optimizing potential in this area.  Review your program’s current segmentation and mapping rules to identify opportunities for improvement.  Understand what current reporting functions look like, and then create a ‘wish list’ of enhancements for phased development and implementation.  These are just a few of the dozens of business process opportunities that exist, so get creative and dig well beneath the surface in this area!  Your time will be well spent.
  2. Focus on attribution: Yep, we said the ‘A’ word. As programs grow in complexity and channel mix becomes more diverse, better defining attribution will become critical.  Understanding how and where donors are interacting with your organization is an essential step to determining the more relevant messaging, creative and communication diet for your sustainers.
  3. One size does not fit all: Most monthly donor programs in today’s world employ at least several acquisition/conversion channels to grow their monthly program. Despite this initial diversification, a common pitfall we see is bucketing all donors, regardless of channel disposition and/or payment method, into one homogeneous group.  Understanding relevant data points and core metrics by payment method and acquisition type is a critical step in developing donor-centric, cost-effective strategies.
  4. Don’t go dark: Sadly, some organizations don’t want to over-communicate with monthly donors, in fear of upsetting them with frequent asks for money. However, all too often the pendulum swings too far in the other direction and these donors can find themselves receiving NO communication – leaving donors with the feeling that the organization has forgotten them and are only interested in their financial support.  Take care to create a balanced communication diet for these donors, sending them your most relevant/strongest 4-5 appeals/renewals per year.
  5. Test the systems: Even in the most well-defined programs, there will always be slight nuances where donors don’t receive the treatment or cadence planned, despite a very thoughtful planning and even process mapping. The only way to ensure that those detailed process flow charts are actually happening in real time is to test your systems. Make test gifts, across channels and price points, and track your experience. Let your gift lapse – and see what happens.  Change credit cards and see what happens.  This real-time data is invaluable and will be instrumental in guiding business process optimization.


Creating a strong monthly giving program is always a good idea, but in today’s uncertain world, these special supporters are even more important.  Investing the time and resources now to review and strengthen your monthly giving program business processes will pay dividends in the long-term and ensures a strong foundation for the more exciting innovations down the road.



MINDset direct Logo

12355 Sunrise Valley Dr, Suite 240 Reston, VA 20191

Candice Briddell

Candice Briddell, Managing Partner and Co-Owner, has worked within the fundraising and marketing industry for nearly twenty years and has been a part of the MINDset team for over a decade. Prior to that, she was integral in the retention marketing program at AOL.