Monthly Giving Part 2: Ready. Set. Go.

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It's time to get moving on monthly giving

  We recently made the case that a monthly gift program is worth the work for your nonprofit.


     •Increases predictable annual revenue

     •Improves donor retention and increases long-term donor value (LTDV)

     •Expands planned gift pipeline

     •Simplifies the giving experience

     •Increases impact for donors

     •Strengthens the relationship between donor and mission

Assuming you’re convinced of the value, it’s time to get started building your program – or growing the one you already have.

Define The Goal

Besides building a predictable revenue stream for your nonprofit in good years and bad, you want a low-effort, low-cost sustainer system that’s easy to manage and maintain while creating a positive donor experience and a connection to the heart of your organization’s work.

State Your Value Proposition

As a smart marketer, one of the foundational components is a well-defined unique value. In a country saturated with nonprofits, donors can be overwhelmed with their options of where to give their money. At the surface level, many organizations look alike. What is your actual point of difference to inspire donors to your true core mission? You have to help the donor answer:

      •Why this organization and not another?

      •Why is this monthly gift program the right action?   

      •Why will it produce the right solution?

      •Why am I the person you need to help get it done?

Keep in mind that the donor is the hero at the center of all transformation. We all need to be needed. Your organization is simply the tool with which our hero can make a difference. Every message, every action, every outcome must be your donor’s mission to change the world. Not yours. 

Take, for example, charity: water – a newer organization that has quickly made an impression in the nonprofit space. Their unique promise to donors is that by giving through charity: water, 100% of their gift brings clean water to people in need. Donors are told, “You can transform lives for families around the world. Every single penny will help bring clean water to communities in need.” Charity: water inspires a monthly gift through testimonies from other monthly givers who share reasons such as, “I give monthly because the less a child has to think about their need for clean water, the more they can learn and grow and dream and do.”

Target The Audience

Once you’re able to articulate the unique value of your monthly sustainer offering, it’s time to identify the target audience.

Who are good prospects? Someone who already likes you—your current donors. Look at people who give frequently. And don’t overlook newly acquired donors – especially the “rapid responders ” who quickly give a second gift. You want to invite them to become a monthly giver as quickly as possible while they’re still forming their relationship and giving pattern with your nonprofit. Those closest to your organization are most likely to be willing to make a commitment like this; besides frequent givers, look at volunteers and event attendees. Predictive modeling can help you identify those most likely to respond to a monthly giving offer. And if you’re really ambitious, consider targeting prospects who support similar efforts and organizations.

Where do you reach this audience? In short: everywhere. An invitation to become a monthly sustainer should be made regularly, through multiple channels. Anyone in contact with your organization should know about this opportunity. You’ll have the best success converting donors to monthly givers by making a personal invitation over the telephone. But you won’t be able to reach everyone that way so you’ll want to include digital media as both the invitation mechanism and the conversion tool. We suggest a dedicated giving page on your website with a strong case for support. You can run a periodic promotion with a pop-up box that presents this monthly giving opportunity to those who visit your site. You can even upgrade one-time donors during the “checkout” process. Emails and even cost-effective direct mail appeals can help capture additional sustainer commitments.

Make a Strong Ask

A critically important part of any sustainer effort is the offer. This is another dangerous place where too many organizations miss the point. Why? You need the freedom of undesignated funds, so the ask needs to be as generic as possible. Right? Wrong. Donors need to know their gift will do tangible things for particular people. They need a sense of control and choice without being overwhelmed by too many choices. Offer specific choices, not generic white noise. Done right, you can still have fully undesignated funds.

Also, consider giving donors a reason to make their monthly gift commitment “today.” Create a limited-time campaign with a specific goal of X number of monthly sustainers. This could be something catchy like 100 monthly givers to commemorate your 100th anniversary as an organization. Or it could be mission-centric such as 80 new monthly givers at $25 each to provide dinner one night a month for all the guests at the shelter. Or think about using matching money from a major donor to offer as an incentive to double the impact of the first three monthly gifts for new sustainers.

Create A Great Experience

As you develop your monthly gift recruiting strategy, don’t forget the experience. The secret to turning donors into faithful pledge partners comes down to how you treat them. Make it easy. Give them something interesting, surprising, and compelling. Treat them like a very, very valuable friend – because they are. It doesn’t have to be expensive or time-consuming.

If you are ready to start your monthly gift program and want help making it happen, send us an email at

John Payne