The Ultimate Guide to Monthly Giving Programs (+ Examples)

Fundraising June 22, 2021

Kate Hawkes

By Kate Hawkes

Last week, I was thinking back to one of my first jobs with a nonprofit. 

 

Like many nonprofits, we relied heavily on donations, and we were always trying to think up new fundraising events or seasonal campaigns. We were always exhausted, but our donations were never as high as we hoped.  

 

We felt like we were trying everything we could. But one thing we didn’t try was a monthly giving campaign. 

 

At the time, we felt like monthly donations were something that only well-known charities with big admin resources and even bigger promotional budgets could do. 

 

Now that membership management software makes it so easy to manage online donations, monthly giving programs are a super 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 will have a steady donations income.

 

If you’re a Wild Apricot Payments customer, you can offer the option for recurring donations through your Wild Apricot account. This post will show you how to set up a monthly giving program with Wild Apricot —and if you’re not a customer yet, many of the basics this post covers will apply to any platform. 

 

So, for everything you need to know to set up a monthly giving program and start receiving regular donations with minimal admin work, keep reading!

 

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 Wild Apricot 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 Wild Apricot Payments – click here to find out more.

 

Doing everything through your Wild Apricot account means your donors don’t have to be directed to a third-party donations 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. 

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 money goes to helping you mission, since there are fewer admins costs to cover.
  • Avoid the hassle of re-entering your details every time you make a new payment.
  • Contribute to the longevity of the organization by giving them regular support.
  • Give in a sustainable way, with donations that are manageable for their budget.
  • See a long-term impact in the projects they donate to. 
  • Become part of a community of regular donors.
  • It’s easy to view, edit or cancel a donation subscription. 

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:

  • Nonprofits
  • 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

(charity:water)

 

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 to 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 Wild Apricot donations goal gadget to show how much you’ve raised so far – you could 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 convert a one-time donor into giving monthly. 

 

Some benefits to regular giving that you might want to let your donors know about include the amount recurring donations save on admin costs, so more of their money goes to your mission, and that having a regular income allows you to plan and achieve more each year. You can find more benefits earlier in the post – click here to go back to them.

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 out 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 new donors by sharing what you’ve achieved so far through monthly donations, like this page from Camp Kerry Society. Using numbers – like the 3000 individuals the camp have educated – give donors 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 Wild Apricot 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 Wild Apricot 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 Wild Apricot 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 a regular subscription. 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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