Friends with Benefits - Monthly Donors

How one Operations Director is growing her org's monthly donor program - and it's making a big difference

By Barbara Christensen | July 27, 2016 |
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Guest post by Sarah Nason, Operations Director at the Win/Win Network

Full disclosure – this is not an unbiased post. I’m an avid fan of monthly giving programs. I always tell people that becoming a monthly donor is great because it, “gives us the sustainable funding we can count on each and every month to keep the lights on.” That might not seem like the best pitch around, but I’m an Operations Director, and for someone whose job it is to keep the lights on, knowing you’ve got a strong base of donors and a stable cash flow is just about the best thing you could ask for.

In the UK, monthly giving has been a popular method of donating to non-profit organizations for years, as paying bills through auto bank withdrawals has been happening there for much longer than it has been in the US. Times are changing, and most of us here in the states are getting used to paying our bills this way too. Donating monthly is like paying a bill, a health club membership or your Netflix subscription. People are already used to monthly schedules, so donating to their favorite organizations on a monthly basis is convenient and makes sense. It’s something you can build into your budget.

Additionally, it gives people an opportunity to give to a cause that they care about in a way that really makes a difference. When I see that monthly donation come out of my checking account every month, it’s an investment that I’m aware of – I’m paying closer attention to those organizations, I’m more loyal to them and I’m more invested in their success. Engaging monthly donors in other aspects of your organization tends to be easier, too, so in addition to creating a predictable revenue stream, you are laying a strong foundation to move those donors up your engagement pyramid.

Hidden Gold by Harvey McKinnon is a great resource for building a monthly giving program. He’s been studying the impact of monthly giving programs for years, and one of the biggest benefits he’s found is that each person that converts to giving monthly will give an average of two to three times more than they would normally, and they also tend to stay with an organization longer than they would if they were just making their regular annual donation.

Building your organization’s monthly giving program is a relatively inexpensive way to create a strong, diverse donor base. It’s easy – you can set up monthly giving via credit/debit card, and chances are pretty good that your bank allows for some type of Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) program where you can set up monthly donations to be deducted directly from someone’s bank account. This method is great because you don’t have to pay the fee charged by credit card processors and folks are likely to remain monthly donors for longer than they would if they used a credit card.

You can also get monthly donors to increase year after year. While managing the monthly giving program for my previous organization, The Washington Bus, we increased our monthly donor revenue from $4,200/year to $50,000/year over the period of two years. Once we decided to grow our monthly giving program, we started making a dedicated monthly giving asks wherever we went. When we met with some of our major donors, we asked them to become monthly donors in addition to making their one-time major gift. We asked our board members, our volunteers, our friends and family members. No amount was too small – even $5/month adds up! It opened the door to cultivate relationships with those donors – we built a program for our monthly donors (called Friends with Benefits) and they became part of a unique club – they got a special t-shirt or bag, extra drink tickets at our events and lots of extra love. People would regularly come up to me at our events and ask how they could become monthly members.

Donors asking me how they can give money to my organization?

Now, that’s amazing!

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