Three Online Strategies to Improve Your Monthly Giving Program

For this month’s Connect theme, a number of speakers are previewing the great breakout sessions they are preparing for the 2015 Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin, TX March 4-6. Following is a preview of one of over 100 breakout sessions.

Monthly giving programs are essential to a nonprofit’s ability to plan projects and budgets. Sustainers make it possible for organizations to rely on a broad base of monthly support. We work with our clients to help launch, grow, and improve their sustainer programs. Today I’d like to share a few digital strategies for improving your organization’s monthly giving program. Here are a few techniques that we’ve implemented for No Kid Hungry, a national organization dedicated to ending childhood hunger in America. We’ve used these ideas and more to more than double their monthly giving club, The Hunger Core, in the past 3 years.

Monthly donor upsell lightbox
This technique encourages single gift donors to convert their donation from a one-time gift into a monthly gift. Donors are presented with a “pop-up” lightbox while making a donation on the website, with a recommended monthly gift amount that is proportional with their intended one-time gift. If they choose to convert their donation into a monthly gift, their credit card is immediately processed with the initial sustaining gift only; if they prefer to make the one-time gift, their credit card is processed with that gift only. The process is completely secure and does not involve any additional steps for the donor—the next page is simply a thank-you page.

We have tested this lightbox technique to ensure that it does not significantly increase donation form abandonment. We have found that this technique increases the number of monthly gifts collected via a website donation form, over and above simply including a monthly giving checkbox on the form. For No Kid Hungry’s recent campaign, the lightbox is mobile-optimized and also mentions a $100 match offered by the Arby’s Foundation for each new monthly donor.

Upgrade request to current sustainers
It’s important to ask current monthly donors to upgrade their gifts after they’ve participated as a monthly donor for some time. We recommend asking at least once per year—but waiting at least four months after activation to request an upgraded gift. Of course, prior to this request, you need to ensure you’ve properly stewarded your monthly donors.

When requesting an upgrade, it’s best to choose a specific upgrade amount based on the current monthly gift amount. We created a special field in the database to house the requested upgrade amount so that we’re able to use it in donor communications. We also created a special form on the email landing page so that the donor would not need to re-enter their credit card information to upgrade their giving—saving hassle for the donor as well as eliminating the hassle of duplicated monthly gifts for No Kid Hungry.

Triggered email series to prevent attrition due to credit card issues
One of the most difficult issues with a monthly giving program is involuntary attrition as a result of credit card expiration and re-issuing. We worked with No Kid Hungry to create a triggered email series for monthly donors whose cards were about to expire, whose cards just expired or were not charged because of another issue, and donors whose cards lapsed several months ago. These messages are launched automatically on a rolling basis and direct people to call the donor services line or make a gift online if they prefer.

I’ll be presenting on these ideas for improving nonprofit sustainer programs and even more in March at the 15NTC with Jeanne Horne, No Kid Hungry’s Senior Manger for Digital Communications. Please join us for Play it again, Sam: Monthly giving programs for sustaining donations ‘As Time Goes By’ to gather more ideas about how to bring on new sustainers, bring back lapsed sustainers, and upgrade and retain your current sustainers.

Wendy Husman
Senior Account Executive
Mal Warwick | Donordigital
Wendy Marinaccio Husman is a strategy consultant with Donordigital, the online fundraising, marketing, and advocacy agency. She has over 12 years of experience in development, including stints as Director of Development at Alonzo King LINES Ballet and Director of Membership at the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy; she also spent a year in Shanghai consulting on email campaigns, database setup and direct mail. As a volunteer, she has served as VP of Membership for the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ Golden Gate Chapter, led the small modern dance organization Double Vision as Managing Director, served as co-chair of the LINES Ballet Extensions young professionals auxiliary, and served on the boards of El Gato Theater Company and the Stanford University Marching Band. In her spare time Wendy is a drummer, hiker, rock climber, yogi, and knitter.