What’s in My Inbox | How do you steward your monthly donors?

January 25, 2024

With the overall decline in both donors and dollars, smart nonprofits are recognizing the importance of monthly giving programs.

But monthly giving won’t transform your organization — unless you first figure out the most important element of your monthly giving program. No, it’s not the theme you decide upon. It’s not even how compelling your offer is, or your mailing list.

The most important factor of your organization’s monthly giving program is your back-end. What policies and procedures does your organization have in place to ensure that donors who have made that extra commitment to give monthly to your organization are happy with their decision?

In other words, what does your donor care look like?

A few years back, I asked donor retention expert and copywriter Lisa Sargent for her advice on stewarding monthly donors, and here is what she said:

Some “best practices” I’d recommend based on direct experience and personal research:
1.) Don’t stop communicating (read as: asking). When donors commit to monthly giving, they somehow enter a kind of donor communications wasteland (at one organization I know of, they actually were taken off ALL mailing lists, for fear that if a stray Ask crept in, mutiny would follow… when in fact, the opposite is true: relevant, regular well-crafted asks have been shown to increase engagement).

To steward sustainers, you can and should keep sending appeals (easy to modify and acknowledge their regular giving status) — at one organization, they would simply have me remove the hard Asks, add a very soft Ask with no amounts, and add several thank-yous for donors’ steady support. It worked well.

Another way to look at Asks: let’s say I’m a monthly giver, and your organization has an emergency. As one of your most committed supporters, I’d welcome a chance to help out, but if you don’t give me that chance, you won’t get the gift.

You should also offer the chance to upgrade monthly giving amount…and don’t forget bequest appeals!

2.) Send them special versions of your regular communications. One of my clients encloses a one-sheet note from the president especially for monthlies and majors along with the quarterly newsletter. Of course, it’s labeled as such: President’s Report for Major
Donors and Name-of-Giving Club of CharityName. The letter shares “inside” info — including stuff like how the builder walked off the job of a capital campaign project leading to a delay, etc. — and it also says thank you. A lot.

3.) Periodically offer them special opportunities: events, guided tours, president’s breakfasts, mentoring opportunities etc. And make it very clear that this is an exclusive event. I’ve done this with more than one client.

4.) Send special thank yous. One of my past clients had published a number of great coffee table books. They would send surplus editions as thank yous to loyal/ recurring/major donors during the holidays.

5.) Remember to have in place routine communications like renewals, cancellations, tax summaries, etc. Good donor stewardship means following up with a sustainer if their credit card expires, or they suspend payment. Maybe, for example, they’d simply prefer to take 1 or 2 months off each year instead of canceling altogether — but if you have no follow-up in place, you’ll never know.

If you’re looking for an exceptional example of monthly giving stewardship, let this example from Wikipedia guide you. I’ve been a monthly donor to Wiki since 2022.

Download this annotated example to see what Wiki does right…and what I’d do differently.

And, to discover how to start and grow your monthly giving program, save your seat to join me at next week’s LIVE webinar, A Plan for Growing Your Monthly Giving: Making it Happen in 2024! 


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