Mon, March 30 2015
I didn’t know much about monthly giving until she called in late December that year.
She was one of my newest donors, and told me her family had just moved here from another state. She had given monthly to the food bank there, and now would like to give monthly to the food bank here. (That would be us).
I didn’t have a monthly giving program and didn’t know how they worked, but I knew I had to think quickly—I could send her 12 reply envelopes so she could send in a gift each month. It would be simple for her and easy for me. So that’s what I did, and my first-ever monthly giving program was born.
I remember counting out the envelopes, and writing the month on each one. I thought that would help us both keep up with what she had given.
It was a simple beginning.
Looking back at it, I have to laugh. I had no idea what I was doing. I simply had a request from a donor, and was trying to honor it. Little did I know it would turn out to be a great thing for my organization.
I sort of knew how monthly giving worked, and I decided that if I was going to do this, I was going to do it as well as I could. I wondered if there were people already making monthly gifts to us, and I just hadn’t noticed it yet. I pulled a report from my trusty software, and I was thrilled to find six regular givers! How had I never seen that?
I pulled together a letter and sent it to those six, telling them that we were officially starting a monthly giving program, and inviting them to join, especially since they were already doing it. I heard back from all six—a resounding YES!
That Spring, I attended the AFP Conference and heard Harvey McKinnon speak about monthly giving. It turned on so many light bulbs in my head, that I’m surprised I wasn’t blinded from the light! I picked up his book Hidden Gold and read it before my plane landed back home.
I did a little research to see what other nonprofits in my area were doing with monthly giving, and I got a few more ideas for my program. I named it Hunger’s Hope and created a brochure to give to prospects to help them understand what their monthly gift would do, and to help them see how little it took to feed a hungry person. I was lucky – just $0.81 would cover a day’s worth of food, and $24.30 covered a month. So, I asked for $24.30 to feed one person for a month, $48.60 for two people, and $72.90 for three.
Next, I started to market the program. I put a piece in my next print newsletter about the program, and made it look like an article and a coupon that people would cut out, fill in, and mail to us. (Email wasn’t commonly used back then or I would have made that an option, too). I pulled a list of donors who had given three or more times in the previous 12 months, and sent them a special letter, telling them about Hunger’s Hope and inviting them to join.
Slowly, people signed up.
My finance guy laughed at me when I first started the program. He thought it was a crazy idea and a waste of time. But when the monthly gifts started to add up, I had the last laugh.
In about 18 months, I had signed up 110 people in Hunger’s Hope, with people giving anywhere from $10 to $100 a month. Even though I offered them specific amounts, I also gave them the option to choose the amount they wanted to give, which turned out to be a smart move because many gave more than I asked. The total annual value of the program was over $50,000, which was a revenue stream that made a difference for us.
Here’s what I learned from that experience of going from zero to $50K:
- Start somewhere. It doesn’t have to be perfect to get started. The most important thing is to start. You can always tweak and improve later.
- Work on it consistently. I never stopped looking for donors for my monthly giving program. I was always on the lookout for a way to let folks know how they could join and why it mattered.
- The reason is important. Be clear about why people should make a monthly gift. Few people want to give monthly just to support your nonprofit. But many people will give to help you make a difference. When I shared that their $24.30 would help feed a person for a month, it was tangible and understandable, and it resonated with my donors. And they signed up.
- Be ready to manage the back end. I realized quickly that I had to keep up with the details of who had joined, how much they pledged monthly, and who hadn’t given recently. I got into the habit of checking at the beginning of each month to see who hadn’t given in the past two months, and calling those folks. I had some of the most amazing conversations with those donors. They’d tell me how they’d lost their job and needed to stop giving for a while, but as soon as they were able, they’d start again. Or they’d tell me about a family member with an illness. I’d thank them for their past support, show true concern for their circumstances, and offer any help I could. Most of them came around and re-joined later in the year.
- Be creative in thanking them. My monthly donors didn’t want a monthly thank you letter. They’d tell me “please save the postage.” So, I got creative. One month, I’d send a hand-written note. The next month, I’d call them. The next month, I’d have a volunteer call them. And so forth. It kept things fresh, and they seemed to enjoy it.
- Offer multiple ways to give. One of the things I learned from Harvey is that people who put a monthly gift on their credit card give longer and more consistently than folks who pay by check. And those who give by electronic bank draft are best, because they don’t usually stop or change the gift unless they change banks, which is uncommon. At that point, we had the ability to take credit cards, but I had no idea how to do automatic bank drafts. I called our bank and told them what I was trying to do, and they agreed to set it up for me with no fees as part of their support of our work. It was nice to offer a payment choice to donors so they could pay by check, credit card, or automatic bank draft.
Since then, I’ve helped start numerous monthly giving programs. They’re a great way to create a predictable revenue stream for the nonprofit and make giving easy for the donor.
And I won’t ever forget those humble beginnings.
How did you start your monthly giving program? Share your experiences in the comments below!
Sandy shows passionate nonprofit leaders how to fully fund their big vision, so they can spend their time changing lives instead of worrying about money. She has helped dozens of small nonprofits go from “nickel-and-dime fundraising” to adding 6 or 7 figures to their bottom line. As a trainer, she shows her students how to find ideal donors, connect with them through authentic messaging, and build relationships that stand the test of time, so that fundraising becomes easy and predictable. Sandy is based in Loudon, TN. Find out more about her fundraising system at www.GetFullyFunded.com.
Fri, March 27 2015
Filed under: Fun stuff •
It’s round up time in the NFG corral! Mosey on over and check out this week’s best nonprofit resources and recommended reads.
Is there anything Bob Dylan can’t do? Peter Panepento reveals what you can learn from Bob when it comes to nonprofit communications. (Hint: it’s not blowin’ in the wind.) via Peter Panepento
Need help sorting through cause marketing fundraiser options for your organization? Joe Waters created a cool matrix that will make it much easier. via Selfish Giving
I can’t get enough of the Making Ideas Move series. This week Melissa Skolfield, senior vice president for communications at the Pew Charitable Trusts, offers her insight on building an in-house communications team. via Stanford Social Innovation Review
Where to find Network for Good at the AFP Fundraising Conference
The NFG team will be in Baltimore next week for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Fundraising Conference. If you’ll be there, please stop by booth #1008 in the marketplace and say hello. We’ll be offering demos and online fundraising consultations, and, of course, fun swag and a chance to win Good Cards for your favorite cause. Can’t wait to meet you in Charm City!
That’s all for this week. What’s on your reading list? Share your favorite posts and resources in the comments below!
Mon, March 23 2015
Filed under: Recurring Giving •
I’m happy to share the current campaigns at the top of the Recurring Giving Challenge leaderboard.
There are organizations of every type and size leading the pack of campaigns with the most new monthly donors as well as the largest increase in their monthly giving program.
The one thing that they all have in common?
They’ve made offering monthly giving options and asking for sustaining gifts a top priority.
Need some help making the case for monthly giving at your organization? Download our free Monthly Giving Basics fact sheet which includes a quick checklist on getting your monthly giving program off the ground. Also: time’s running out to join the Recurring Giving Challenge, so be sure to sign up and learn how your nonprofit could be eligible for a share of $10K in Challenge Rewards.
Recurring Giving Challenge Leaderboard as of March 23:
Largest Increase in
#1 Wildlife SOS
#5 Campus Pride
We’ll post updates to the leaderboard every few days, so be sure to follow along and see who ends up on top at the end of the challenge on April 30!
Fri, March 20 2015
Filed under: Fun stuff •
With so many resources to read and review, keeping up with nonprofit marketing and fundraising insight can be a little overwhelming. Never fear, we’ve collected the cream of the crop in this week’s round up.
How do you track your donors? Do you love it? Share your feedback in this quick survey. Your input will help Network for Good provide more great resources to nonprofits just like yours!
Search engine optimization can be complex, but David Hartstein shares 7 Easy Fixes to Get Your Nonprofit Ranking Higher on Google via John Haydon’s Blog
Take your email appeals to the next level with the magic of storytelling. Our friend Vanessa Chase will show you how in our next webinar, Telling Stories Through Email: How to Write Appeals that Rock! Be sure to reserve your seat for this one.
Twitter chats can be a great way to share ideas with your peers and stay up to date on the latest trends. Kerri Karvetski has compiled a big list of Twitter chats and chat tools. via Nonprofit Marketing Guide
If you missed this year’s Nonprofit Technology Conference, Nancy Schwartz has you covered. This week she featured a recap from Kevin Martone all about social media tools and getting the most out of channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. via Getting Attention
Network for Good is happy to be the lead sponsor of the Individual Donor Benchmark Report. Are you a small but mighty nonprofit with 2014 revenue under $2 million? Don’t miss your chance to be part of this year’s survey and report. via Third Space Studio
That’s it for this week—what’s on your reading list? Please share your favorite links and resources in the comments below.
Wed, March 18 2015
Filed under: Fundraising essentials •
Image: Roland Godefroy
“When the new antenna went live, you’d swear that Dizzy Gillespie was playing right next to you.”
I can easily visualize this scene—and hear it. Can you?
In fact, this appeal excerpt from WBGO (New York City’s premier jazz radio station) made the listening-enriching value of the station’s new antenna crystal clear—by showing, not telling.
Compare this with the way another station introduced its new antenna:
Replacing the equipment and moving it to the higher elevation immediately improved the strength of the signal, says Tyron, increasing the broadcast penetration within the licensed area (approximately a 35-mile radius from Claremont); improving the signal reach for areas like Covina, El Monte, San Bernardino, and Riverside; diminishing interference with the signal; and resulting in fewer drops of the signal.
Blah, blah, blah. Beware the curse of knowledge. This writer has been cursed, forgetting that the people she wants to engage aren’t exposed to the specifics at the memorable gut level like she is. As a result, she (like so many nonprofit writers) writes in broad, vague strokes—or dull minutiae—that are forgotten in a flash.
Instead, pepper your fundraising messages with rich, memorable details to make them:
- Authentic: The right details give a story a much greater presence, a feeling of real truth.
- Unique: Getting specific is often the fastest way to make content rise above the average. The details distinguish your message from those that would otherwise sound similar. Shout out and shine!
- Convey much more with fewer words: Specific words and images can clarify a message much faster than a long-form narrative explanation of the core point.
- Transport the reader: Like a good movie or compelling novel, where you get completely absorbed in the story, rich details can draw your audiences into getting lost in your message. As a result, readers are far more likely to remember it, act, and spread the word.
How do you use rich detail to show (not tell), bringing your prospects and supporters into your organization’s story? Please share your experiences in the comments.