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How to make monthly-first fundraising clear to donors

December 16, 2021
Three nonprofit professionals sit in front of one monitor to determine how best to communicate monthly-first fundraising to donors.

Your nonprofit organization likely already has a monthly giving or sustainer program set up. The donors enrolled in these programs can choose to give a specific amount to your organization on a monthly basis. These donations are then made automatically each month. Monthly donors enjoy the convenience of these programs, and your nonprofit has a recurring stream of reliable revenue flowing in each month.

Some nonprofits are beginning to forge ahead on a new path when it comes to sustainer giving by setting up a monthly-first fundraising program. Nonprofits using this strategy prioritize asking for monthly gifts first to encourage more donors to join their sustainer programs.

By now, you’ve probably heard that sustainer programs are smart investments for nonprofits of all sizes who want to build long-term relationships with donors, unlock higher donor lifetime values, raise more money, and do it all in an efficient and reliable way.

These are all strong reasons to prioritize monthly giving — but how do you communicate this strategy clearly to your donors? In this guide, we’ll discuss the best ways to communicate with donors while using a monthly-first fundraising strategy.

How can nonprofits use a monthly-first fundraising strategy without confusing donors?

It can be challenging for nonprofits to clearly communicate that they are requesting a monthly gift, so it’s natural to have questions about how to do so successfully. Hannah Leigh-Brown, director of marketing and fundraising at Interactive Strategies, clued us in.

This is a really common issue, especially because it’s becoming more and more popular for nonprofits to default to a monthly-first ask.

Even when you’ve made a good-faith attempt to specify that donors are making a monthly gift, people may still get confused. Set the expectation internally that there may always be some questions!

What you should weigh is the potential for confusion versus the potential for securing a higher number of sustaining gifts from happy donors who like the convenience and reliability of monthly gifts. Most organizations we’re seeing, when they evaluate their options, realize it is worth it to go monthly-first.

That said, there are three things you can do to make your monthly-first fundraising strategy clearer for donors.

3 strategies for monthly-first fundraising

1. Ask string and donate button

When your donor views your monthly-first donation page, make it clear the amount they are giving will be a monthly gift. One way to do this is to include “monthly” on the ask string, or the list of suggested amounts featured in your fundraising ask. 

For example, if you start by requesting the amounts of $5, $10, or $15, you can put “monthly” on the ask string. Then, it will be very clear to donors that when they click on that $15 it will be a monthly gift. You can also add that “monthly” descriptor to the submission or donate button so it says, “Submit $15/month.”

2. Clear alternatives

Another action you can take is to give donors the option to toggle back to a one-time gift. Using a visual cue like an arrow, you can say, “Hey, want to make a one-time gift instead? Click here.” This way, supporters can see they’re currently making a monthly gift and that they have the option to quickly and easily switch to making a one-time gift. This also ensures that they won’t have to re-enter their information into a separate form if they opt to make that switch.

3. Donor services

When switching to monthly-first fundraising, flag the change in strategy for your donor services team (or whatever person or department is responsible for communicating with donors and answering questions). You will likely get some questions from donors when you make that change for the first time.

Equip your team with the context and resources that will allow them to answer questions and ensure donors understand and are satisfied with the gifts they’re making. This way, you can foster trust and deep relationships to retain your sustaining donors for the long run.

Inspiring long-term support with monthly-first fundraising

If your nonprofit is looking for ways to bolster its sustainer program, monthly-first fundraising can be a great strategy.

When you clearly communicate that you are requesting monthly donations by adding descriptors to your donation form, offering one-time options, and giving your team updates about these changes, you can limit confusion from donors. This will help you build strong relationships with donors and motivate them to consider making monthly gifts in the future, even if they don’t sign up the first time you ask.

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