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The Ultimate Guide to Monthly Giving Programs (+ Examples)

Author: Kate Hawkes
June 24, 2022
🕑 18 min read

There’s a common misconception among new and small nonprofits that they’re not ready to set up a monthly giving program — that it’s something only well-known charities with big admin resources and even bigger promotional budgets can do.

The truth is, monthly giving programs are an incredibly efficient way of getting regular support for your nonprofit with barely any admin work needed. Because the donation is made automatically, your donors don’t have to remember to fill out their details every month, and your organization can enjoy a steady and reliable source of revenue.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at everything you need to know about setting up a monthly giving program and receiving regular donations with minimal admin work.

And hey—if you’re a WildApricot Payments customer, you can offer the option for recurring donations through your WildApricot account. We’ll even show you how to set up a monthly giving program with WildApricot! (Not with WA? No worries: this post is for everyone, and you can take it back to your spreadsheets or other program)

What Is a Monthly Giving Program?

A monthly giving program is a regular donations plan that allows donors to automatically give a specified amount to an organization each month. Many organizations find that monthly programs are a source of reliable financial support, and that they only take minimal admin work to keep them running smoothly.

You can set up a monthly giving program through your WildApricot account by using the recurring donations feature, and you can use the contact database, email and website features to promote it to your visitors. Just a note: the recurring donations feature is exclusive to customers using WildApricot Payments – click here to find out more.

Doing everything through your WildApricot account means your donors don’t have to be directed to a third-party donation site they may not know or trust, and they can easily view or cancel their monthly giving from their profile. For your organization’s admins, it means you can track your donations data in the finance module, and you can make changes for donors with just a few clicks.

Setup Recurring Donations Easily with WildApricot’s Donation Management Features

What Are the Benefits of a Monthly Giving Program?

For your organization:

  • Regular, reliable donations income, making it easier to budget and plan.
  • Less admin work helping donors make one-time gifts – the donation will be made automatically.
  • No need to send reminder emails to donors – they can set it and forget it.
  • Retention rates for monthly giving are often over 80% after one year, compared to new donor retention rates of around 23%.
  • Donors are more likely to feel invested in your organization’s work and stay engaged for longer.
  • Cut out the waste associated with paper donations forms, stamps, envelopes and checks.

For your donors:

  • More of their donation goes towards helping your mission, since there are fewer admins costs to cover.
  • They can avoid the hassle of re-entering their details every time they make a new payment.
  • They can contribute to the longevity of your organization by providing regular support.
  • They can give in a sustainable way, with donations that are manageable for their budget.
  • They can see a long-term impact in the projects they donate to.
  • They can become part of a community of regular donors.
  • It’s easy to view, edit or cancel recurring donations.

What Do You Need To Start a Monthly Donations Program?

From an administrative perspective, starting a monthly donations program is not difficult. The difficult part is actually promoting the program and attracting monthly donors, but we’ll get into that in just a moment.

To get your monthly program started, you’ll need:

1. Board Buy-in

There are no disadvantages to starting a recurring giving program, so you shouldn’t have any trouble convincing your board. Simply prepare a presentation outlining the program’s benefits, your plan for implementing it, and your revenue goals. Chances are, your board will be more than happy to support your initiative.

2. Program Manager

For most organizations, having one dedicated staff member to manage the monthly giving program is more than enough. Oftentimes, this person also takes care of lower-level one-time or annual gifts — since they already have a relationship with these donors, it makes sense for them to be the one who transitions them into monthly giving.

Read More: Project Management for Nonprofits: How It Can Help + 18 Software Tools to Consider

3. Existing Donors

Having a brand new donor sign up to give monthly is not impossible, but it’s quite uncommon. More often than not, people start as regular annual donors and spend some time building a relationship with the organization. When they’re ready to deepen their support, they may upgrade to giving monthly.

If your organization is brand new, you can still offer the option to give monthly as you’re building up your donor base, but don’t expect too many takers — after all, it’s quite a commitment. If your organization has already been collecting donations for quite some time, target your promotional efforts at the existing donors who might be ready to take the next step.

4. Fundraising Software

One of the benefits of setting up a monthly giving program is that it runs automatically and saves you from doing tedious administrative work. To fully take advantage of this, you’ll need software that will automatically charge donors’ credit cards once a month.

This can be a dedicated fundraising software or an all-in-one donor management system. With a tool like WildApricot, for example, you can create an online donation form where people can sign up to be monthly donors, send automated emails to thank them for signing up, process credit card payments, send receipts, and much more.

5. Communications Plan

Once you’ve set up your monthly giving program, it’s time to spread the word about it. We’ll go into more detail about how to do this in the next section, but at the very least you’ll need to update your website. Consider adding a “How to Donate Page” where you include monthly giving as an option and outline its benefits.

You’ll also need to come up with a plan for how and when you’ll try to transition your annual donors into monthly donors. The timing of your ask and your message matter, so consider segmenting your donors and sending them a personalized ask whenever appropriate.

How to Find Monthly Donors

Here are a few things you can do to kick start your recurring giving program and attract your first monthly donors.

1. Optimize Your Donation Page

Including an option to give monthly on your online donation page is a great first step, but there are a few other things you can do to encourage people to sign up as monthly donors.

One great tactic is making the monthly option the default — it reminds donors that this is the option that will bring your organization the most benefit. If someone really wants to switch to making a one-time gift, they can take the time to switch, but many people go through with the monthly option simply because it’s already selected for them.

Sometimes, people hesitate to donate monthly because they’re not sure what amount to give. Help them out by providing suggested monthly donation amounts right on the donation page. You can even take this one step further and outline what each monthly donation will help support. For example, $10/month will help you buy food for 20 animals, while $20/month will help you purchase first aid supplies.

2. Include a Monthly Option In All Appeals

Asking people to become monthly donors doesn’t have to take extra effort. Think about what you’re already doing to attract new donors and simply include a brief reminder that they can also donate monthly.

For example, if you’re sending a donation form with a direct mail appeal, you can include a box people can check off if they want to give monthly. As with the online donation form, don’t forget to include the benefits of monthly giving, suggested amounts, and what each amount would support.

3. Target Existing Donors

One of the best ways to secure new monthly donors is by asking your existing donors to deepen their commitment. These can be past one-time donors or people who give on an annual basis. They are already familiar with your organization, have the desire and the means to support it, and have seen the impact that their donations can help create.

To turn your existing donors into monthly donors, set up an ongoing campaign that targets people based on specific criteria. For example:

  • One-time donors whose donation amount falls within a specific range
  • Annual donors who’ve given for a certain number of years
  • Annual donors whose giving anniversary is coming up

Segment these donors and make sure your appeal to them is highly personalized. The more they feel like you’re talking directly to them, the more likely they’ll be to convert to monthly supporters.

4. Organize a Monthly Donor Drive

A great way to kick off your monthly giving program is by organizing a monthly donor drive. This can be an event or a short fundraising campaign with a simple goal: to gain a specific number of new monthly donors. When people see that you have a specific goal, they’ll be much more motivated to help you reach it.

Read More: How to Start a Fundraiser: Everything You Need to Know in 8 Simple Steps

5. Approach Companies With Corporate Matching Programs

Many large corporations have a corporate matching program where the company will match the charitable contributions of their employees. To take advantage of this, you can partner with a company and promote your monthly giving program to their staff. Many will be encouraged to sign up, knowing that their impact will be doubled.

Just be sure to look for a company whose mission and values align with yours — you’ll be more likely to receive support if they truly believe in and care about your work.

Which Types of Organizations Have Monthly Giving Programs?

Many organizations rely on monthly giving subscriptions to cover their regular expenses like rent, staff salaries, utilities or transportation, while others use these donations to support their ongoing projects like education programs or healthcare services.

Some organizations that have successful monthly giving programs include:

  • Charities
  • Churches and religious organizations
  • Schools, universities and alumni organizations
  • Sports clubs
  • Youth clubs
  • Hospitals, hospices and healthcare services
  • Animal sanctuaries
  • Groups supporting seniors

Skip down to the examples section if you want to see how some of these groups are successfully executing a monthly giving program, or keep reading to learn how you can do it yourself.

9 Ideas for Monthly Giving Programs

With so many demands on your donors’ attention, it can be tough to stand out from the crowd of monthly giving campaigns, or even to know where to get started.

So, here are some ideas to take your campaign to the next level:

1. Set a Target

Set a reasonable expectation for how many monthly donors you want to achieve, so that you can measure whether your program is a success. We’ll come back to why this is so important later in this post.

Depending on your number of existing donors and the resources you have to promote your program, that could be something like achieving 12 monthly donors each year, or 100 monthly donors in the next 6 months.

Whatever target you set, try to make it SMART — Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based.

2. Rewards for Recurring Donors

This could take the form of access to exclusive blogs or newsletters, discounts on membership or event tickets, or a free gift. These added extras could be the factor that makes a frequent donor decide to make a monthly commitment.

See: Restricting page access to specific member groups.

3. Create a Campaign Video

Try engaging your donors by speaking directly to them with a video. This gives you an opportunity to show them exactly what their money can do, rather than just telling them. You could also have some of the people your organization works with speaking to the camera, so your donors can feel connected to how your mission really impacts people’s lives.

Embed your video on your website, link to it in your emails, and post it on your social media so your followers can easily share it.

See: Embedding videos on your website.

Monthly giving program - the spring example


4. Create a Community

Building a sense of community for your monthly donors has three main benefits. It can:

  • Engage donors, so they’re more likely to increase their donation amount.
  • Help them feel valued, so they’re likely to continue with their subscription for longer.
  • Act as an incentive to sign up – new donors will want to be part of the club!

You can create this feeling of unity by setting up a forum or Facebook group exclusively for your monthly donors, or having a page showcasing the names and/or photos of your regular donors (with their consent, of course).

You could also give your monthly donor community a name. For example, charity:water call their monthly giving community The Spring. Whether you call your community your Champions, your VIPs, or something more specific to your organization, it will help make your monthly program a group everyone wants to be part of!

5. Associate Donation Amounts With Tangible Benefits

It’s tough asking people to donate money when they’re not even sure where it’s going. Showing examples of what each amount donors give can achieve puts it into context, so they know their money will have a tangible benefit to the cause. People are more likely to feel more committed to donating if they can see the difference they’re making.

Unicef giving - tangible benefits

(Unicef Canada)

6. Show Your Progress Towards Your Goal

Use the WildApricot donations goal gadget to show how much you’ve raised so far — you can add it to your donations page, home page, members-only area, or all of these!

Seeing how many donations the organization has received can inspire donors with what’s been achieved so far. Even if you still have a long way to go to your goal, this might encourage donors to give a little more to help you reach your target.

See: Donations goal gadget.

7. Explain Why Monthly Donations Make a Difference

Let your donors know how much they mean to you! Try including a section explaining why regular donations in particular are so important to your organization — it might help convince a one-time donor to give monthly.

We’ve already covered the benefits of monthly giving, for both you and your donors, earlier in the post. Click here to read them again.
Monthly giving program - feed the children example

(Canadian Feed the Children)

8. Send Your Monthly Donors Email Updates

Regular contact with your donors can help them feel valued and part of a community of supporters. You could make a list of your monthly donors and send them a special email every month or quarter to share updates, upcoming events, and how projects are progressing.

See: Sending emails and newsletters.

9. Show the Impact of Your Monthly Giving Program

Inspire donors by sharing what you’ve achieved so far through monthly donations. Using specific numbers will give them proof that their money is being used productively, and a sense of pride in what they’ve helped achieve.
Monthly giving program - camp kerry example

(Camp Kerry Society)

Ideas for Monthly Giving Program Names

Choosing an appropriate name for your monthly program may not seem like an important step — after all, it’s unlikely that someone will become a monthly donor just because they like the name of your program — but it does play a big role in its success.

A thoughtfully crafted name accomplishes a few things:

  1. It gives credibility to your program, making it something more than just permission to charge the donors’ credit cards once a month. Instead, donors can expect a seamless experience and the highest level of stewardship and donor service.
  2. It creates a sense of community that donors can feel proud to be a part of. Not to mention, asking a donor to join a community is much more meaningful than asking them to donate monthly.
  3. It allows your organization to recognize and acknowledge your monthly donors in a meaningful way through donor lists and other stewardship pieces.

When coming up with a name for your monthly giving program, try to avoid generic names like “circle” or “society” — these are often more suited for major giving programs. Instead, think about your organization’s mission and your beneficiaries. Is there any way to add a sense of what your organization does into the name?

For example, if your nonprofit helps build schools in developing countries, why not incorporate the word “builders” into your monthly giving program name? Or take inspiration from Charity: water, whose monthly giving program is fittingly called “the Spring”.

3 Examples of Monthly Giving Programs

1. Canadian Feed the Children

Canadian Feed the Children invites prospective monthly donors to “become an everyday hero” with the message that giving monthly helps children in need every single day. They give specific examples of how monthly donations will make a difference in the lives of children and their families, and provide real-life examples of individuals and communities who have benefited from this program.

Monthly giving - charity example

What they do well:

  • Explain why giving monthly is particularly helpful
  • Show links to the donation form at the bottom of every section
  • Let you know what your money will be used for
  • Introduce you to the projects you’ll be supporting
  • Offer FAQs for donors to put their mind at ease
  • Tell visitors about the organization, giving donors confidence that their donation will be used wisely

2. Regents College

Regents College relies on the voices of current monthly donors to convey just how crucial monthly donations are. When prospective donors recognize themselves in their stories, they realize that they, too, can help make a difference.

Monthly giving example - education

What they do well:

  • Emphasize community, with each donor contributing to a big difference
  • Share case studies about current donors, including their reason for donating
  • Highlight peoples’ links to the college as alumni
  • Suggest a donation amount and the difference this would make
  • They also have pages on each of the projects that these donations fund, including a progress bar

3. Good Neighbors Canada

Good Neighbors Canada provides everything a prospective monthly donor might want to know, as well as the donation form, all in one place. The reason for donating monthly is clear, and the process is quick and simple.
Good Neighbors Canada

What they do well:

  • Give examples of what $7, $12 or $18 per month could accomplish
  • Provide suggested donation amounts
  • Offer custom start dates
  • Allow donors to choose which fund to support
  • Allow donors to share a special message
  • Offer the option of dedicating gifts in honor or memory of someone

5 Steps to Make Your Monthly Giving Program a Success

So, you’ve started your own monthly giving program – congratulations!

If there’s one thing that will help you keep your monthly giving program going and growing, it’s being adaptable.

1. Use Data To Check In on Your Progress

Remember the target you set when you were starting out? This is where that becomes really valuable.

Make a note of how many new subscriptions you’re getting to your monthly giving program each month, how many cancellations, and how much money you’re raising each month.

You’ll be able to see all your monthly donations by logging in to your WildApricot account, clicking Donations, and filtering by Monthly.

Check in on how your numbers of donors and donation amounts match up to your original target.

If you’re ahead of your target, that’s great! Maybe think about setting a more ambitious target, or experimenting with some of your promotion strategies to help bring in even more donations.

If you’re running behind your target, it’s an opportunity to adapt your program.

2. Pivot Your Strategy as Needed

Are lots of people landing on your donations page (you’ll be able to see this using a program like Google Analytics or Hotjar), but only a few are signing up? It could be worth adding a video or some images to catch people’s attention, or adding more explanation about the benefits of monthly giving.

Are lots of people signing up, but only giving a few dollars? Try adding a section showing exactly what $15, $25 or $40 each month could help your organization achieve.

In short, if your monthly giving campaign isn’t a runaway success yet, many organizations find that if they take a look at their data and try adapting their approach, they start seeing things improve.

3. Ask Your Current Monthly Donors How You’re Doing

One of the best ways to evaluate the success of your monthly giving program is to ask your current donors how they feel. This can be a simple survey that each donor receives once a year or so. It will help you answer questions like:

  • Why do they choose to give to your organization and to give monthly? (Knowing this can help in promoting the program to more donors)
  • Do donors feel needed and appreciated?
  • Are they happy with the level of stewardship and recognition you’re providing?
  • What do they enjoy about the program?
  • What do they wish was different?

4. Ask Lapsed Monthly Donors Why They Left

Very few monthly donors stay active donors for life, so you’ll inevitably face some cancellations. Donors stop giving for a variety of reasons, but it’s important for you to know what those reasons are. Did someone leave because they didn’t feel like your organization needs the funds? Were they unhappy with how you’re spending the money?

When a donor indicates that they’d like to stop their monthly donations, be sure to ask them why — either informally or through a survey — and see how you can use their feedback to improve your program. If there are other donors who share the same concerns, these improvements may help retain them.

5. Be Diligent and Proactive About Credit Card Expiry Dates

One of the biggest reasons why monthly donors lapse is because their credit card expires and they never get around to giving you the new information. To avoid this, be proactive about asking donors for their new expiry date. Keep accurate records of which credit cards are expiring soon and reach out to these donors before the expiry date. If you don’t hear back, feel free to follow up via phone, email, or even mail.

When you reach out, make it as easy as possible for donors to give you the new information — if it feels like a chore, they’ll be more likely to put it off and forget about it.

Remember that asking for new credit card information is almost like asking them to sign up for monthly donations all over again, so don’t forget to be polite, avoid being too pushy, and show lots of appreciation for their past and future support.

4 Steps to Setting Up a Monthly Giving Program

Every organization’s monthly giving program will work a little differently, but these are some of the steps that thousands of organizations have taken to start their successful programs.

1. Set Up Recurring Donations

  • Log in to your WildApricot account and select Donations from the menu.
  • Click on Donation settings.
  • Check the boxes for the Monthly frequency option.
  • Click Save all changes.

Recurring donation settings
If you already have a donation form on your site, it will be updated to include the monthly recurring donation option. To add a donation form to your site, follow the instructions in the next section.

2. Add a Monthly Giving Form to Your Website

To add a donation form to your site:

  • Go to Website, then Site pages.
  • Select the page you want the form to be on and click Edit.
  • Find donation form in the Gadgets menu and drag and drop it onto the page.
  • Click Save.

dragging donation form gadget
Now, when someone fills out your donation form, they will be able to select the Monthly option to give the same donation automatically each month.

To explain more about your monthly giving program, you could either create a separate page about monthly giving, with a link to your donations form, or you could add information to the donations form page.

You might want to include information about suggested donation amounts, the benefits of monthly giving, or FAQs on how to make changes.

If you or your donors want to edit or cancel a subscription, you can do that easily with a few clicks – this page shows you how.

3. Include Monthly Donors in Your Donation Confirmation Email

When someone donates through your WildApricot form, they will automatically receive an email with details like the amount they gave, the name of your organization and the date of their donation.

You can edit this email to say thank you to your monthly donors specifically. Take a look at the video below to see how.
Monthly giving - edit donations email

TOP TIP: Convert one-time donors into monthly subscribers

Because this email is sent every time someone donates, this automatic email is also a great opportunity to let one-time donors know about your monthly giving program. If people are already willing to donate, they’re more likely to start giving on a recurring basis. Try including some information about your monthly program and a call to action with a link to sign up.

4. Reach Out To Potential Monthly Donors

To get the ball rolling, try getting in touch with existing donors who you think might be interested in signing up to give monthly. Your contacts who are most likely to become monthly donors are people who:

  • Have donated several times before
  • Have donated in the last year
  • Usually donate small amounts, rather than large amounts that are likely to be one-offs

You can set up an advanced search to make a list of these contacts and then send them an email. Take a look at the videos below to see how to do this.

1. Creating a Potential Donor Contact List

Monthly giving - create potential donor list

2. Sending an Email to Your Prospective Donor List

Monthly giving prospective donor email
Other ways to let potential donors know about your new monthly giving program include:

  • In person at events
  • In your newsletter
  • On your website homepage
  • On social media
  • With posters and flyers at your venue
  • Asking your board members, volunteers and members to spread the word

And that wraps up this guide to monthly giving programs! If there’s any other aspect you’d like us to cover, leave a comment in the box below.

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