Mon, March 02 2015
If you haven’t joined Network for Good’s Recurring Giving Challenge yet, now is the perfect time to sign up. We’ve extended the challenge period through April 30th, so you have plenty of time to create the perfect campaign and recruit more monthly donors. Learn more about how you can win a share of $10K in Challenge Rewards and sign up now.
Once you’ve set up a monthly giving program that’s easy to understand and simple to join, there are many ways to ask supporters to join as sustaining donors. But you gotta ask. Here are four things to keep in mind when asking for recurring donations.
1. Make It a First Priority.
Get in the habit of inviting your community to become monthly donors. Whenever you ask for donations—on your website, in your email appeals, or a direct mail letter—ask first for a monthly gift, instead of just a onetime gift. When a donor is deciding on a donation amount, ask, “Would you like to make this a monthly gift?” It’s the fundraising equivalent of “supersizing” the order, with fewer calories and a way better outcome.
UNICEF USA makes monthly giving the first thing you see on their home page. They reinforce the ask with a reminder that the needs they address are ongoing.
2. Start Small.
Remember: small gifts add up, so always think about the annual contribution and not just the monthly installment. Focus on getting your donors into your program with a realistic and easy-to-swallow amount. Erica Waasdorp, author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant, offers this advice on setting your initial monthly ask amount for entry-level donors: start with your average onetime gift and start your ask at about a third of that. If your average single donation is $35, set your first monthly gift level at $10 (an ideal starting point), then bump up the ask to $15, $20, $35, etc. (Note: be sure to tailor your gift strings and appeals for different segments of your list. Donors who are giving a larger average one-time gift should be presented with larger monthly gift options that reflect their level of support.)
The Liz Logelin Foundation encourages donors to give “$7 on the 7th” to help widows and widowers with young families. This campaign helps donors realize it’s possible to create a big impact for a small amount each month.
3. Offer an Appealing Package.
Describe the work you do in a way that relates to a recurring gift and show a tangible tie to the idea of giving every month. What is the recurring need? How do these gifts add up to a specific and tangible impact? Make it easy for donors to understand exactly what each monthly giving level will accomplish.
charity: water’s Pipeline program clearly ties an ongoing need to the solution the donor can provide through their monthly gift. Using language like “keep the water flowing” reinforces this concept and creates a strong visual that helps new and existing donors understand why ongoing support is so critical.
4. Help Monthly Donors Feel Important.
Not all monthly giving programs need special branding, but if you’re planning to give your program a unique name, make sure it reflects the importance of their commitment. The name should focus on the impact your donors make, not on your organization. Give monthly donors a special status and celebrate them in a unique way on your site. Then, back that up by reserving special perks for these loyal supporters, such as a sneak peek to your newsletter, first dibs on event tickets, or invitations to an open house.
ASPCA dubs their monthly donors as Guardians, which perfectly fits the role of these sustainers in the work of saving and protecting animals. It also taps into the identity that these supporters likely want to achieve. What animal lover wouldn’t want to be seen as a Guardian?
Wed, February 25 2015
What good is a monthly giving program if no one can learn more about how it will help further your mission? This week’s Recurring Giving Challenge lesson is all about highlighting your monthly giving program on your website. For the full lesson, sign up for the Challenge (and learn how you can win your share of $10K in prizes!). Here are a few highlights from a few stellar Network for Good clients (click on the images to see the full pages):
On Your Donation Page
The folks at Urban Tilth, a community agriculture group that supports a more sustainable, healthy, and just local food system in Northern California, has a strong monthly giving program, which they feature on a dedicated recurring giving page. This donation page speaks to why monthly gifts are important to their mission and streamlines giving options to reinforce the purpose of this campaign.
Bonus: Urban Tilth also has a nice call out for their monthly giving program and why it matters on their “Ways to Give” page.
If you’re focused on getting new monthly donors, send your supporters to a dedicated page just for monthly giving, like this one from Peace Over Violence. Sustainers can clearly see their recurring gift options and opt to receive a special gift, all on one page.
Tri-County Partners Habitat for Humanity does a great job of featuring their focus on monthly giving on their website and their donation page. This organization frames the impact of monthly gifts and offers suggested donation amounts to make it easy for donors to set up a monthly gift that is meaningful.
On Your Blog
Wildlife SOS won the Recurring Gift category during Network for Good’s #GivingTuesday campaign. It’s easy to see why when they so eloquently share how their mission is powered by sustaining gifts.
On Your “Why Give/How to Give” Pages
What could be better than helping adorable cats and dogs? Helping them every month, of course. Austin Pets Alive! dedicates this page to their Constant Companion Club and clearly outlines what each giving level can do.
Finally, Blue Ridge Area Food Bank makes a great case for donors to join their Supper Club. This Virginia food bank shares both the benefits to the mission as well as the benefits to the donors on their monthly giving page.
Great work by all of these organizations! How are you featuring monthly giving on your website and donation pages? Share your ideas in the comments below, and don’t miss out on the Recurring Giving Challenge!
Tue, February 24 2015
Filed under: Fundraising essentials •
When Heather Yandow of Third Space Studios presented an insightful Nonprofit911 webinar earlier this year she shared some data collected from nonprofits to create the Individual Donor Benchmark Report (IDBR). Our ears perked up: a well-researched report documenting individual donor benchmarks for nonprofits with a budget size under $2 million?! We had to learn more!
Heather and I chatted about the valuable discoveries that can be found in your very own database. Read on to learn the most surprising thing she learned from the 2013 data (hint: it has to do with significant jump in online giving) and find out the two big fundraising opportunities that nonprofits should start investing in ASAP.
Why did you start the Individual Donor Benchmark Report? What problems were you hoping to solve?
Heather Yandow: I started this project to help small and mighty organizations understand their fundraising success and opportunities for improvement.
As a professional fundraiser and fundraising consultant, I had a hard time finding good information about individual donor fundraising results. I had questions like, “What does a good recurring donor program look like? How much should I be bringing in online? What percentage of our income should be from individuals?”
There were (and are) some studies that look at the whole nonprofit community – but those results are hard to extrapolate to a more modest size. If you are looking at a report where the average organization has a budget of $30 million, what conclusions can you draw for your organization with a budget of $300,000?
So I set out to look for data for the rest of us. The first year, I asked friends and colleagues to share their data, and the project has grown from there.
What was the most surprising thing you discovered after analyzing the data from 2013?
HY: One of the most surprising things was that organizations had increased revenues overall and from individual donors. I was thrilled to see, it seems, that things are picking back up for small and mighty organizations.
Online donations also grew significantly between 2012 and 2013 – by almost 80%. Those who used some kind of online platform saw revenue increase more than 120%. It was great to see more small nonprofits taking advantage of online giving tools.
What are some opportunities for improvement that small nonprofits should embrace to help boost individual giving?
HY: Two things jump to mind.
One: recurring giving. There’s still a huge opportunity to build recurring (monthly or quarterly) giving programs. On average, small nonprofits have 20 donors giving in this way - only about 4% of their overall donor base. These folks tend to give significantly more over the year – averaging $625 in total giving per year versus the overall gift average of $403.
Two: larger gifts. The average organization had 16 donors give $1,000 or more per year, representing just over half of the average organization’s individual donor income. Not bad, right? BUT: if you look at a healthy donor pyramid, you want the top 10% of your donors giving 60% of overall revenue (with the middle 20% giving 20% and the bottom 70% giving 20%). For the average organization, this means they should have closer to 50 donors in that $1,000 and up category. So there’s a huge opportunity to be finding more large donors, especially through one-on-one contact – the average organization only held 17 donor meetings in a year!
How is the data collected?
HY: The data is collected through a simple survey that asks a series of questions about your individual donor fundraising. As you go through, the survey tool will also calculate some of your results (like average gift) as you go to provide you with instant information about your fundraising success. The data will be kept confidential, and you don’t have to answer all of the questions!
How can organizations participate in the 2014 survey? What if nonprofits don’t have all the data you need?
HY: If you want to know more about your individual donor fundraising – and your revenues were under $2 million in 2014 – you can be part of the project. You don’t have to have all of the survey data to participate: in fact there are only two required questions – your name and email address! I do encourage folks to try to find the answers to every question, but if that means hours of Excel hell, then I say skip it.
Here are three steps to help you get started:
- Get prepared. Mark your calendar for the survey period – March 2 through March 20 – and see if there’s a good time to dig into your data. To get a better idea of the survey questions, you can take a sneak peek or join me for a webinar on Tuesday, March 3.
- Collect your data. It takes most organizations between 15 and 45 minutes to find and enter the data, depending on their database and current use of data. Once the data is collected, walking through the survey questions is easy.
Sit back and enjoy the rewards. By participating in the survey, you’ll get:
- a report of your results side-by-side with the complete survey results to share with your colleagues and board
- an invitation to a special webinar just for survey participants where we’ll dig into the results together
- a chance to win one of five prize packs including a subscription to the Grassroots Fundraising Journal, a book from the Kim Klein Fundraising Series, two hours of consulting from Third Space Studio, and two hours of consulting from BC/DC Ideas
- the official Individual Donor Benchmark report and infographic
Network for Good is a proud sponsor of this year’s Individual Donor Benchmark Survey. The survey opens on Monday, March 2 but you don’t have to wait until then. Register early!
Big thanks to Heather for doing this research so smaller nonprofits have access to this incredible data!
Fri, February 20 2015
It’s round up time again and I’m excited to share the expertise and resources from our colleagues in the sector—and beyond. It might be freezing here in DC, but I promise: these links are hot.
If men are from Mars, what does that do to their willingness to donate to causes? New research from Stanford University sheds some light on how to overcome the gender gap in giving. via Stanford (and more on this from The Chronicle of Philanthropy)
Storytelling. Expert tips. Getting smarter while staying toasty warm in your sweats and PJs? Where do we sign up? Don’t miss the
Storytelling Non-Profit Virtual Conference, starting on Monday, February 23. via The Storytelling Non-Profit.
Want a fun way to expand your donor base? (Who doesn’t, right?) Trish McFarland, the Executive Director of the YWCA of Spokane, shares her experience with a new approach in this video clip. via Movie Mondays
We know you party like a rock star, but do you write like one? Here’s how to craft readable, believable, and inspiring copy for your spokespeople. via M+R
That’s it for this week. What’s on your reading list? Share your favorite links in the comments below!
Wed, February 18 2015
If you aren’t familiar with Lynne Wester’s work in donor relations, you are missing out. Last year she presented an amazing webinar (one of our highest attended!) on donor relations and ever since then I’ve been hooked on the topic of donor relations and Lynne’s wise words on this important work that many fundraisers don’t (unfortunately) know much about.
Since the webinar, Lynne has published a book, The 4 Pillars of Donor Relations. It’s a great resource for any fundraiser who wants to increase their donor retention rate (aka everyone).
I did a quick Q&A with Lynne so you could understand what the book is all about.
BONUS: She shared the names of a few organizations who are excelling at donor relations. If you want to see what a great donor experience looks like, consider giving a small gift to one of the organizations she mentions.
How did you first get interested in donor relations?
Lynne Wester: I guess you could say I’ve been in donor relations since I was a child and my mom made me write thank you notes before I could play with my Christmas and birthday presents. But in reality, as a career, it came at Rollins College where I got my start writing thank you notes for leadership and my career blossomed from there. I am so blessed to be able to spend a lifetime helping others express gratitude.
Of the four pillars of donor relations (acknowledgement, stewardship and impact reporting, recognition, and engagement) where do you see nonprofits struggle the most?
LW: By far, it’s in stewardship and impact reporting. Nonprofits don’t take the time to tell the donor the impact and power of their gift, where the money went, and how it was spent. Instead, they’re too eager to obtain the next gift which leads to horrific retention rates.
We have to make the donor the hero and tell a story, not overwhelm them with news and information about the organization or ask them for more money. First we have to thank them, and then tell them the impact their money had. It’s a simple formula, really.
We get this question all the time and I think you’re the right person to weigh in: what is a GOOD donor retention rate?
LW: If the average first-time donor retention rate is 27%, and that’s the average, I would want to keep at least HALF of my first-time donors. It has nothing to do with the size of the organization, but rather the mindset and the attitude of gratitude that one possesses. Large or small, holding onto half of the people that invest in us shouldn’t be too high of a goal.
If your “team” that is responsible for donor relations is just one person, or 50% of one person’s workload, what do you recommend they focus on first? What has the potential to have a big impact in a short amount of time?
LW: The first thing is thanking without an ask. There is NO such thing as a soft ASK, that’s like being partially pregnant. So, sincerely thank your donor in a timely manner and then, once you’ve spent their funds, tell them the story of the impact their funds had on the people your organization serves.
I always tell my clients the amount of the gift is the LEAST important thing. The behavior is the MOST important thing. To have bottom line ROI impact focus on two groups first:
- first-time donors
- loyal or consecutive donors
This will really move your needle. You have to hold onto your first-time donors, otherwise they will never become loyal donors.
What is the most meaningful message you’ve received from an organization after a gift was made?
LW: I would have to say that the most meaningful messages I receive in a consistent manner come from the folks at charity:water. They make me feel important, they show me the impact of my donations, no matter how large or small and they make me feel very valuable and essential to the process.
Do you have any good examples of monthly giving programs that were branded as a “society” or “member” vs. a monthly giving program that had no separate branding? Do you know of any research that shows this works well or not?
LW: I give monthly to two organizations that do a great job of this. I’m a member of charity:water’s Pipeline, their monthly giving program, and I think this does a great job of keeping me informed, telling me why my support is important, and making me feel inextricable to their mission. Also Make-a-Wish does a great job with their monthly program and it has a brand. They call it the “wishmaker” club.
But honestly, being a part of a club is not why I give monthly. Just as powerful is my monthly gift to Livestrong, as a cancer survivor, they don’t need to brand me with a moniker or anything like that. They do a great job ensuring I have a sense of belonging and importance to them. Their donor relations and impact communications are spot on and I’m so proud to support them.
If we want to see what a great donor relations experience looks like in reality, who should we make a small donation to and experience it ourselves?
LW: charity:water, Whitworth University, Livestrong, and Kalamazoo College
Thanks to Lynne for giving us a peek into the topics covered in her book and for sharing her recommendations with us. For more of Lynne’s thoughts on donor relations, follow her on Twitter.