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Tips to increase nonprofit giving

As a CPA, one of the things I enjoy most about my job is getting to work with a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and seeing all the great work they do. In my opinion, one of the best opportunities to learn more about the issues affecting your nonprofit organization is at the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits (MCN) Annual Conference, which was held recently in St. Paul. I attended the conference and there was so much good information that I took two pages of notes! My favorite session was about generating monthly donors. 

Before I share my takeaways from the session (and because I am a numbers person), here are some statistics about monthly giving from Nonprofit Source and Network for Good:

  • The average monthly online donation is $52. That is $624 per year, compared to the average one-time gift of $128.  
  • Donors who set up monthly recurring donations annually give 42% more than one-time donors.
  • 52% of Millennials prefer to give monthly instead of a large one-time donation.
  • Retention of new, one-time donors averages less than 23%. Monthly giving programs typically enjoy retention rates over 80% after one year and 95% after five years.

I can personally attest to these statistics. I give $20 a month to three separate organizations. That’s $720 in one year. If I wrote a check to each of them in December, the total would be a lot less. The organizations are ultimately getting more money from me, and they are getting it throughout the year instead of just at one time.

As the statistics show, monthly donors give more money and for longer periods. So how does your nonprofit achieve this? Here are some ideas and takeaways from the MCN Conference:

  • Set a goal for your organization. Make it a SMART goal – specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and timely. Know where you want to be and then decide how to get there. 
  • If you do not already have one, add a monthly giving option to your website. You should also have a paper form people can fill out and send back to you. Make these things easy for donors to find.
  • Give examples of what the donation can do. For example, Team Rubicon is a disaster response organization uniting the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. Their online donation page gives examples of the various programs they fund with donations.  
  • Name the program.  For example, Habitat for Humanity has named their group of monthly donors HopeBuilders. Naming your program helps it stand out and allows you to specifically recognize your monthly donors.
  • Take over your organization’s homepage in December and January. Encourage a year of giving.
  • Involve your current donors. Consider asking one of your major donors if their donation may be used as a matching gift for monthly donors. Ask one of your current monthly donors if they would be willing to give a testimonial you can use to encourage other monthly donations.

Additional takeaways for success:

  • Include EFT (Electronic Funds Transfer) as an option for monthly giving. You will pay less in fees, keep donors longer and won’t have to worry about pesky credit card expiration dates.
  • Make sure to follow up when credit cards expire. One advantage of monthly giving is the donor can set up their recurring donation and then forget about it. If they have forgotten about the donation, they probably won’t remember to tell you when they get a new credit card.  
  • Consider using a credit card updating software. Large companies, such as Amazon and Netflix, use software programs that automatically update credit card information for their subscribers. In the nonprofit world, Blackbaud is now offering a similar software to help retain recurring gifts.
  • Consider donating to your own organization.  This will give you a better understanding of how the donation process works so that you are better able to help donors when they have questions.
  • Ask for help when you need it. You can be the person in charge of the program, but this does not mean you need to do everything yourself. 

Simply put, whatever you are currently doing for annual fundraising, put the same effort into recurring donors.  This includes sending acknowledgement letters, although you do not have to do this after every donation. Send an initial thank you e-mail when the donation is first set up, and let the donor know what they can expect as a monthly donor.  Then follow up with a traditional acknowledgement letter in January, showing the total gifts for the year. Hopefully after this, you will find you are sending more letters to more new donors.


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