Starting a monthly giving program: 6 steps to grow fast

Written by
Rachel MillsWhite arrow icon

Starting a monthly giving program: 6 steps to grow fast

Your organization needs a steady flow of donations all year. Donors need convenient and affordable ways to support your cause. Enter: the monthly giving program! It’s one of the best tools at your disposal to lower your fundraising costs, create long-lasting donor relationships, and of course, secure reliable funds for your organization. 

Your supporters commit to a specific donation amount and the funds are automatically withdrawn each month. You can also offer daily, weekly, or quarterly enrollment — more options let you reach a wider audience of donors.

Getting donors on board is not as difficult as you might think. Today, people sign up for monthly subscriptions like Netflix, beauty boxes, and digital magazines without a second thought. And monthly giving is on the rise. Revenue from monthly gifts increased 22% in 2019 — more than twice as fast as revenue from one-time gifts (8%). 

Start your nonprofit's monthly giving program in no time using this brief six-step guide. You’ll learn how to attract monthly givers, brand your program, and see success.

How to launch a successful monthly giving program 

Monthly giving programs are fairly easy to set up, but you won’t hit your fundraising goals overnight. It’ll take time for your program to gather steam and build up membership numbers. 

So, before you’re knee-deep in planning and outreach, check in with your board members or team leadership. Do you have the time and resources to nurture recurring donors and promote your program? Who will take the lead? Are they ready for the long-term commitment? Once everyone is on the same page, get going with the following steps.

1. Identify potential monthly givers 

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Find your program’s very first members. Generally, these will be your most loyal donors, the ones who give several times each year, or who have given regularly over the years. However, you’re not limited to these groups — you never know who will gravitate toward monthly giving! According to Nonprofits Source, 40% of millennial donors, 49% of GenX donors, and 49% of Baby Boomer donors are enrolled in monthly giving programs.

Here are some prime monthly giving prospects:  

  • One-time donors who give less than $200 each year
  • Donors who give three or more times each year
  • Donors who have given in the past, but didn’t give last year 

Reach out to past board members, volunteers, and event attendees as well. One of our favorite strategies? 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.

2. Suggest giving levels 

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The beauty of a recurring giving program is that donors can choose their own adventure. Each person donates the amount that fits their budget and adjusts it any time there’s an unexpected expense or your organization has a greater need. This flexibility equals more funds and happier donors. 

That said, you still have fundraising goals to meet. Suggest a few different giving levels that give everyone a way to contribute. Provide concrete examples of what each level will accomplish, such as:

  • $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 

Another way to decide how much to ask for is to work backwards. 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.

3. Brand your program 

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Your program branding won’t make or break your success, but it’s a great opportunity to make your donors feel special and emphasize the value of monthly giving. After all, monthly donors have a 90% retention rate, compared to 46% for the average donor. They deserve some recognition! For example, the Red Cross calls its monthly donors “Champions.” 

There are lots of ways to be catchy and creative, but still communicate your mission: 

  • 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

4. Craft your appeal 

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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! You need to craft a compelling appeal that motivates donors to step up their giving. 

We’ve written extensively about how to write an effective donation request letter and get a “yes” to your donation requests. The key? A focused, emotional message that’s tailored to your audience and explains exactly how each dollar makes a difference. 

Zero in on what moves your donors, keep your appeal brief and easy to understand, and include a prominent donate button. (With free online fundraising software like Givebutter, you can offer multiple recurring donation options and every payment method.)

Most importantly, emphasize why a monthly gift is more powerful than a one-time donation. From the donor’s perspective, a large $100 gift may seem better — and more exciting — than a monthly $8.50 commitment. Show how consistent funding makes each dollar go further.

5. Promote your program 

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Next, spread the word! Think of the channels that your donor base already knows and loves, like Facebook, text message, or email. 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. 

It’s a good idea to create a webpage dedicated to your new program with FAQs. Add an alert to your homepage, schedule social media posts, send direct-mail program invites, update your event flyers, and more. 

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.  

6. Show appreciation and follow up 

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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 cultivate loyal donors and keep donations coming in. And many organizations throw in a few perks with their monthly giving program, such as free event tickets, insider news updates, and fun merchandise. 

This strategy probably won’t look too different from your overall donor stewardship strategy. First off, segment your monthly givers in your donor management software so your messages are always on target. Have multiple communication touchpoints — like welcome emails for new monthly donors, thank-you letters, social media testimonials, and quarterly or annual progress updates — to keep givers engaged and in the loop. 

The monthly donor retention rate is high, but you still need a plan for lapsed monthly donors. It may just be that their credit card expired, their check got lost, or they turned off donating and forgot to flip it back on. Reach out with a friendly message to get them back on track.

The magic of monthly giving 🔮

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! But it’ll take some time for your monthly giving program to gain traction. Use the steps we’ve covered in this article to build your launch strategy and move forward with confidence.

Written By

Written by
Rachel Mills
Rachel is a fundraising and marketing consultant for nonprofits whose aspiration since she was 16-years-old is simply this: help others, help others.