A monthly giving how to: Should you ask for monthly gifts at year end?

August 26, 2020

A good friend asked me this question and as good friends tend to do, I wanted to address this question right away, before you get into your busy season.

While I would love to say, yes go all out, and ask for monthly gifts, but the answer has really should be: “It depends!”

Let me explain with two approaches:

If you’re sending out email appeals for or around Giving Tuesday and for or around the last few weeks in December, I recommend you do some testing first.

Ask for one-time gifts and test a second button for monthly in one or two emails and see what happens first before going all out. Make sure you have a dedicated monthly only donation form to make it very clear to the donor what they’re doing: make a monthly gift.

You may have already done some testing during the summer or with your COVID-19 emails so let those results guide you. If your organization has seen an uptick in monthly gifts especially during the pandemic, then you may be more successful generating monthly donors at year-end as well so worth doing some more testing.

  • If your email list allows, do a 50/50 split or head to head test on part of your list (depending upon how large your email list is).
  • One email has both options (one-time and monthly with separate buttons or links)
  • One email only has a one-time giving option.

Then see how many people click the buttons and/or links, see how many people complete their monthly gift, see how many donors make one-time gifts and how much money was raised for each email.

If you find that adding the monthly option generates new monthly donors without depressing one-time results, you’ve found yourself a winner.

If you find that adding the monthly option generates some new monthly donors, but it does depress one time results, but the overall revenue if you annualize the monthly gifts is still higher, you can keep going and use this email.

However, if you find that you’re raising less money overall by doing this, I’d hold off focusing on monthly gifts AT THIS TIME OF YEAR! After all, now is when donors are (or should be) most likely to make a gift and you want to maximize this, especially this year!

I’d look at doing a follow up right away at the first of next year to anybody who has made a gift at year-end. What a way to start the year off right.

The approach in appeals can be a bit different.

If you’re considering a targeted, small, appeal aimed at monthly gifts only, September is the time to do it.

I’d keep the November appeal for one-time gift focus, but consider a tick box on that appeal, it’s very low key and it will generate some new monthly donors without impacting your one-time gifts too much. If you’re not sure, test it.

I’ve tested this a few times now for some of my clients and it rarely depresses single gift response. It’s as simple as: below the one-time gift amounts add a line with a tick box: “Make a monthly gift of $________. See reverse.”. Then direct them to complete their credit card (and/or bank account information on the back).

In one case, it even improved the number of single gifts while adding monthly donors! Whoa, nice, right?

If your organization already has a substantial number of monthly donors and you’re really committed to growing that number, then you can go all out and make your year-end appeals totally focused on monthly gifts.

Most monthly giving success tends to come from asking for one-time gifts at year-end and then implementing a follow-up strategy in the new year, using welcome emails, thank you letters and targeted monthly donor invitations.

The more opportunities you give your donors to give monthly, the more monthly donors you’ll find. But if you’re needing to make up lost revenue because of canceled events, a focus on onetime gifts at year-end is simply the prudent thing to do.

Of course, welcome your inputs and experiences. You will not know until you try, and every organization is different!


This guest post from Erica Waasdorp of A Direct Solution was originally published on Nonprofit Pro.

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