I had the pleasure of hearing a speaker from Greenpeace talk about how you should never ask for a one-time gift. In fact, he went so far as to say that you should turn down the one-time gift if offered because it is the wrong response.
I loved this talk, but I will freely admit that I lack the intestinal fortitude and the spinal integrity (guts and backbone) to try this approach. Monthly giving is certainly more and more popular and more accepted in the United States, both with credit cards and with EFTs. Electronic banking has helped with this; hacking scandals hurt, as you force everyone who shopped at Target (a purely hypothetical example) to change their credit card on your site.
I can’t imagine why hackers would aim for this company…
But it still seems like we have at least one technological generation of people to go before every gift will be a monthly gift (Greenpeace, with a substantially younger supporter base than the average nonprofit, may already be there).
So I will confess that this is the wimp’s guide to getting into monthly giving.
First, as with planned giving yesterday, plan out your systems. Part of this is the giving society you have for monthly giving (and benefit levels, if you choose to have them or incorporate a membership concept). But the major part is managing exceptions.
You want to have a plan when credit cards are declined to try them again, potentially twice. Then, you want to have a plan to reach out to that donor to attempt to obtain their new credit card information and a continued gift (telemarketing and email, not in that order, are preferred for speed). Failing all attempts to get them into a monthly cycle again, you want to restart the appeal process, ideally to rejoin the monthly giving society.
The best way to do this is to charge all of your credit cards on one day a month. Which is another way of saying “don’t use Luminate CRM for your monthly gifts.” I had the pleasure of meeting with my then Convio, now Blackbaud, rep about one time per year and every time I would ask them to create the ability to charge all on one day so you can automate the recapture process and coordinate it with offline monthly donors. They would look at me with the same expression that a Labrador retriever would use to regard the space shuttle and say they had never heard of something so absurd and no one else in history would ask for such a thing.
While just meant that I talked to more of their customers than they did because most people I talked to bemoaned the lack of single day processing.
So you want an online and an offline system for processing your cards and EFTs in place and a system for following up on declines.
Now, as for getting monthly donations, you should definitely have monthly giving incorporated into your online strategy and as much a focus of your donation forms as you can without giving away net. You should also have it mentioned in direct mail pieces, especially in acknowledgment follow-ups (a good opportunity for a buckslip for the people who aren’t getting the planned giving one) and donor newsletters.
But telemarketing is the best means I have seen of getting a bulk audience of monthly giving donors. Modeling your donors helps immensely. Your donors who already use online banking, who are receptive to telemarketing, and/or who do frequent online ordering are going to be good targets for this. Also, your telemarketing vendor should have a history of who paid by credit card in the past. I’m not saying the people who send checks in for a pledge will be entirely useless for monthly giving, but I will say they will be mostly useless (for this; they are lovely people who are doing great work through great causes).
Since I’ve been critical of Blackbaud above with my Luminate ravings, I will say that I’ve had good experience with the Target Analytics Group’s telemarketing receptivity index. I’ve found that it does a good job of separating out among people who haven’t given by telemarketing to find who is most likely to (that said, everyone who had given a gift in telemarketing before outpaces everyone who hasn’t in terms of calling).
One weird data anomaly – when I did sustainer calling, the best performing group were the people who had given through telemarketing to us, but rated low on the TAG telemarketing index. We hypothesize that these were our special little snowflakes who we knew gave through the phone, but no-one else did.
Use a follow-up ask in traditional telemarketing. While you can and possibly should do telemarketing strictly for monthly givers, you can work with your callers to ask for a monthly gift after they have the credit card information from a donor. The script would go something like “Thank you, Mr. Hinx, for your donation of $40 today. Before I process that, would you like to be part of our [name of monthly giving society]? It’s for especially loyal donors who make a gift each month on your credit card that you can cancel at any time. I could set you up for a donation of $10 a month instead of your $40 donation today?”
The divide by 3-5 to get the monthly gift is a pretty good rule of thumb. Before I had a lot of online giving experience, I took our average offline gift, which was about $28 at the time, divided it by 12 to get $2, then set up an ask string of $2, $4, and $8 for a monthly gift. The average monthly donation on that form was almost $10 – the first and only time I’ve had the average gift be higher than anything on the ask string. So learn from my idiocy.
In fact, if I had to rename this blog today, I could do far worse than LearnFromMyIdiocy.com. It is available, but at some point, I’m going to have to blog about how rebranding is almost never the answer to a fundraising question, so Direct to Donor it is.
Thank you for reading once again. Please let me know what you’d like me to cover next at firstname.lastname@example.org or in the comments below!