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How to launch a monthly giving program in 7 simple steps

Start your nonprofit's monthly giving program—and bring in consistent donations all year round—using this brief step-by-step guide.

Rachel Ayotte
December 28, 2023
January 6, 2021
Nerd Mr Butter

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On average, monthly online donations bring in about $624 per year compared to the average one-time gift of $128. And—surprise!—they’re one of the most popular ways to give. According to Nonprofits Source, 40% of millennial donors, 49% of GenX donors, and 49% of Baby Boomer donors are enrolled in monthly giving programs.

In this step-by-step guide, we’ll teach everything you need to know about monthly contribution programs, including the benefits of monthly giving, examples of the best monthly donor programs, and how to launch your own campaign. 

What is monthly giving?

A monthly giving program encourages your supporters to commit to giving a specific donation amount every month, which is automatically withdrawn from their card of bank account. Like monthly donations, nonprofits often also offer quarterly or annual enrollment—the more options you provide, the wider audience of donors you can reach.

Your organization needs a steady flow of donations all year. Donors need convenient and affordable ways to support your cause. The monthly giving program is a win-win! 

Why is monthly giving important?

Imagine your nonprofit's fundraising efforts are like managing your household budget. One-time donations are like receiving unexpected cash gifts on different occasions—your birthday, holidays, or a random bonus from work. 

Monthly giving, which is a type of recurring donation program, is like having a steady paycheck. You know exactly when it's coming, and it covers all of your ongoing essential expenses, allowing you to plan and invest in the things that matter most to you.

In the same way, monthly giving programs provide nonprofits with a consistent and dependable source of funds, just like that monthly paycheck. This frees up organizations to:  

  • Reduce fundraising costs 📉 Monthly giving programs reduce the need for constant donor acquisition (which can be expensive!).
  • Increase impact 💛 The steady flow of funds allows nonprofits to maintain and expand their programs.
  • Create deeper donor relationships 🤝 Supporters who donate monthly have a stronger connection with your nonprofit—and donor retention rate—than one-time donors.
  • Budget better 💰With monthly giving, your nonprofit can better manage expenses and programs.
  • Lower stress 😅 Monthly giving reduces the uncertainty associated with sporadic, one-time donations.

How to launch successful monthly giving programs for nonprofits

Not sure how to start a monthly giving program? Here are seven simple steps to launch yours.

Step 1: Assess your resources 🔎

Before you’re knee-deep in planning and outreach, check in with your board members or team leadership to make sure you’re all on the same page. 

Be sure to discuss answers to important questions like:

  • Do we have the time and resources to nurture recurring donors?
  • Do we have the time and resources to promote our program?
  • Who will take the lead? How often will they work on this project?

Step 2: Identify potential monthly givers 🧐

While most nonprofits first target their most loyal donors, or the ones who give several times each year, or who have given regularly over the years, it’s important to broaden your search, too.

Here are some prime monthly giving prospects:

  • One-time donors who give less than $200 each year
  • Existing donors who give three or more times each year
  • Long-term donors who gave last year but not this year
  • Past board members, volunteers, and event attendees 

⚡ Pro tip: Tap a few passionate, influential supporters to recruit recurring donors for your program. Think of it as peer-to-peer fundraising but for monthly giving!

Step 3. Suggest giving levels 💸

The beauty of a recurring giving program is that most offer options for donors. Meaning, supporters can choose the amount they want to contribute. This flexibility equals more funds and happier donors.

To help donors decide how much they want to give, nonprofit organizations should suggest a few different giving levels and a clear idea of what each giving amount provides. Here are some examples:

  • $10 per month covers healthy snacks for one class
  • $20 per month covers art supplies for one class
  • $40 per month covers STEM kits for one class

⚡ Pro tip: Another way to decide how much to ask for is to work backward. Look at your average donation amount and then take 10–20% of that number. If your average gift is $75, then you’ll suggest between $7.50 and $15.00 per month.

Step 4. Brand your program 💛

Branding your program is a great way to make your donors feel special and emphasize the value of monthly giving. With a 90% retention rate, compared to 46% for the average donor, monthly givers deserve some recognition. For example, the Red Cross calls its monthly donors “Champions.

Not sure what to name your monthly giving program? Here are a few ideas:

  • Acronyms: Humans Against Trafficking (HAT), People Protecting Our Parks (PPOP)
  • Mission-based: Peacekeepers, Sustainers, Protectors
  • Team members: Friends, Advocates, Allies, Sisters/Brothers
  • Alliteration: Literacy Leaders, Pet People, Hunger Heroes
  • Call to action: Save Our Oceans Club, Feed The World Society

Step 5. Craft your appeal ✏️

Don’t make the mistake of adding a “make it a monthly gift” option to your donation page, alerting donors, and calling it a day. To really captivate donors, you need to craft a compelling appeal that motivates donors to step up their giving.

Just like writing an effective donation request letter, your monthly giving program requires a focused message that is:

  • Emotional 💛 Create a heartfelt message that motivates donors to give (think impact stories!).
  • Easy to read 👀 Focus on clarity and ease of reading.
  • Simple ⭐ Include a prominent donate button so supporters know exactly where to give.
  • Monthly-giving focused 🗓️ Emphasize how consistent funding helps make more impact.
  • Flexible ⚖️ Offer multiple recurring donation giving levels and payment methods.

Step 6. Promote your program 📣

Next, it’s time to spread the word. 

We suggest coming up with a marketing plan solely for your monthly giving program and then highlighting new monthly giving options in each of your individual fundraising campaigns.

Think of the channels that your donor base already knows and loves, like:

  • Social media (Facebook, Instagram, etc.)
  • Text messaging
  • Emailing 
  • Flyers 
  • Direct mail 
  • Your website 
  • Phone calls

Finally, set yourself up for a smooth rollout by educating your staff and volunteers on the ins and outs of your program—like different available payment methods, giving levels, and how to change giving frequency—well before launch day.

Step 7. Show appreciation and follow up 🙏

Create a plan to engage, thank, and retain your donors in the long run. After all, saying “thank you” on a regular basis is one of the easiest ways to continue ongoing support.

This strategy probably won’t look too different from your overall donor stewardship strategy and may include:

  • Specific donor segments ✂️ In your nonprofit’s donor management database, create custom donor segments for your monthly givers from the rest of your supporters so they’re always receiving targeted communications.
  • Multiple communication touch points 📣 Think welcome emails for new monthly donors, thank-you letters, social media testimonials, and quarterly or annual progress updates.
  • A plan for engaging lapsed monthly donors 👋 It may just be that their credit card has expired. Reach out with a friendly message to get them back on track.
  • Exclusive benefits 🎁 Throw in a few perks like free event tickets, insider news updates, and fun merchandise to encourage donors to join your monthly program.

Best monthly giving program examples 

Looking for some monthly giving campaign ideas? Check out these four examples to get your team inspired!

🤝 Membership programs: Offer monthly giving options as part of a membership program. By joining, members receive benefits like newsletters, access to webinars, or even merchandise. House of Victory, for example, offers several membership levels, with access to things like apparel and exclusive content! 

🏆 Mission milestones: Encourage supporters to become monthly donors to help reach specific mission-related milestones. For example, SQSH encourages recurring giving to help fund counselor training, rent, and phone bills. 

💪 Monthly challenges: Set up monthly giving challenges that focus on a particular theme or project. Each month, highlight a different aspect of your nonprofit’s work and ask supporters to become monthly donors to support that specific cause.

🎂 Special occasions campaign: Use special occasions like anniversaries, holidays, or awareness months to promote monthly giving. For example, during Breast Cancer Awareness Month, encourage supporters to give monthly to support ongoing breast cancer research and support.

Launch your monthly giving program on Givebutter 

When reliable monthly revenue appears before your eyes, it may feel like magic. Instead of relying on your next fundraising campaign to further your cause and pay the bills, you’ve got automatic donations rolling in. 🪄

With Givebutter, nonprofits can accept a variety of payment methods for recurring donations (including ACH donations, which offers lower processing fees!), connect with donors through email and text, and take advantage of a built-in CRM that houses and organizes all of their donor data—all for free.

Future-proof your fundraising with Givebutter

Sign up for a free Givebutter account to kickstart your monthly giving program today.

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