Fundraising Week 2012: Monthly Giving Clubs Encourage Stronger Relationships With Donors

Drawing of one hand with a heart on it reaching up to another hand.

It's Fundraising Week here at NCFY! We're re-posting some of our favorite articles from the Right on the Money series, which focuses on how youth-serving organizations can sustain their programs financially. In this article first published in July, a Nebraska fundraiser gives advice on starting a monthly giving club for donors.

Once a month, about 250 donors to CEDARS, a social services organization in Lincoln, NE, get a letter in the mail with a story about a homeless or abused young person, or an update on the ways CEDARS is using donations to improve the lives of children and youth. Sometimes, a photo or a young person’s artwork accompanies the letter.

The recipients of these items have chosen to participate in CEDARS’s monthly giving club. In other words, they each write a check to CEDARS every month, delivering an ongoing stream of financial support for the organization’s programs. Just as important, says Meagan Liesveld, director of communications and donor relations, offering people a monthly “giving circle” enables CEDARS to stay in touch with them regularly.

“Some donors write back,” she says. “They feel like they really know us well. They really have a good handle on what we’re doing here and what our priorities are.”

That familiarity means that when Liesveld and her colleagues think about who might consider making a larger gift or including CEDARS in their wills, monthly givers are first to make the list.

“We call them our hand-raisers,” she says, because of their willingness to help.

Only a small fraction of CEDARS’s donors give every month, and on average they give only slightly more than other supporters. But Liesveld calls it a worthwhile investment of time and effort. Starting a monthly program and building stronger relationships with donors is easy as 1-2-3, she says. Here’s how:

1. Set up a way for people to give automatically. You can do this through a credit-card processing company, like your bank or PayPal. (Learn how to choose a credit-card processor and set up an online giving site.)

CEDARS employees also can give by having their chosen amount deducted from their paychecks each month.

2. Advertise the program. Liesveld recommends two concurrent strategies. First, identify people with a strong connection to your organization. For example, donors who give four or more times a year, board members, or longtime volunteers. Then send a letter or call them and ask them to join.

Second, reach a broader group by touting the program on every piece of communication you produce: your direct mail appeals, emails, website, newsletters, brochures and so on.

It helps to set “giving levels”—amounts people can choose to donate each month--based on how much it costs to provide youth with particular services, Liesveld says. For instance, CEDARS donors can choose to give at least $12 a month, which feeds a young person for one day. See CEDARS’s other giving levels on its monthly giving signup form.

3. Stay in touch. CEDARS staff send monthly reminder letters to people who pay by cash or check, and quarterly letters to credit card donors. A different member of the fundraising team writes each letter, so no one gets bogged down by the duty. The fundraisers interview the organization’s direct care workers to get stories about their day-to-day struggles and triumphs working with young people.

Sending photos, artwork and other small gifts is a nice touch that people like, Liesveld says. And if you want to save money, regular, newsy emails will do just fine, she says.

More Information

Read more advice on running a monthly giving program, from the website Fired-Up Fundraising.

Read NCFY’s advice on how to

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