How to best manage your monthly donors
Posted February 2, 2015 by Chris Bicknell

Well-managed monthly or recurring giving programs are wonderful for both the donor and the organization they support. Poorly managed programs a) upset donors, b) upset staff, and c) lose the organization current and future philanthropy.

It is easy to tell if an organization is pursuing monthly/recurring giving in a way that will work well vs. an organization that is pursuing it poorly. When an organization invests in a well-thought-out plan that includes added staff capacity for increased stewardship and pairs monthly/recurring giving with building a Legacy Society (planned giving) program they are likely to do it well. If an organization approaches the goal of building their program hoping to do so with no staff investment and with a “set it and forget it” mentality, it will likely be a poor program.

With the rapidly growing use of online donations (like LGL Forms from Little Green Light), we are seeing an increasing number of our clients ask us, “We want to do monthly/recurring giving, but how do we do it well?” If you need a detailed plan for building a monthly/recurring gift program, we recommend working with a consultant. We can, however, give you a few pointers on things you can do in LGL and some big-picture pointers to consider.

Staffing. Great donor relations depends on ensuring that the manpower exists to meet best practices. Put simply, staff need enough time to properly thank donors. If your organization has had a good history of sending two appeals a year and running one event a year, your development team is likely well suited for a donor stewardship burden that primarily involves sending two thank-you letters a year for appeal gifts and managing a third set of thank-you letters/calls relating to the event. If you want to add a monthly giving program, your staff will now need the capacity to manage 12 thank-you related activities as well as maintenance and reporting duties for a dramatic increase in activity. Starting and maintaining a strong monthly/recurring giving program requires four times as much activity as your organization performs currently. Typically that could be managed by expanding a part-time position to full time or hiring a dedicated part- or full-time person for the monthly/recurring gift program.

Coding gifts. If you want to start a monthly/recurring gift program, you will need to be in a position to separate gifts received as part of that program from gifts made through your typical appeals/events. One of the simplest and most effective things you can do in LGL is create a new Gift Category and call it “recurring” or “monthly” and code all such gifts that way. This will give you easy visibility into the numbers and people. Setting up an Appeal for each year for the purpose of managing and tracking your monthly/recurring donors may also be advisable.

Coding constituents. In addition to setting up a gift category, some LGL clients set up a constituent category or add a value to their Groups so they can see who is a monthly/recurring donor when viewing a record and designing segments for their appeals.

Automation? At LGL we don’t attempt to fully automate monthly/recurring giving. LGL Forms with donations can automate the act of transferring money, but it won’t automate a complete acknowledgment process or the monitoring of the monthly/recurring gift program. For example, if a payment stops there are a number of different reasons for that to happen. Here are a few:

  • Expired credit card
  • Unhappiness with organization
  • Replaced credit card due to fraud
  • Deceased donor
  • Bankruptcy
  • Temporary change in financial situation
  • Unemployment
  • Medical emergency

When you look at a list like that we hope you’ll see that the best thing you can do is utilize the coding suggested to run a monthly report for yourself that shows you who among those you expected a monthly payment from didn’t make one. Then you’ll need to plan a set of communications (e.g., step 1: phone call; step 2: email; step 3: physical mailing) that provides really good stewardship of the donor and their relationship to the organization while, at the same time, requesting that they renew their monthly support if they are able, or, provide you with guidance as to why they choose not to (or cannot) continue. LGL’s task management functionality can help you keep track of this.

As you can see from the list above, some situations require only a reminder, another means you may have lost a donor due to organizational behavior, while still others trigger the need for organizational sympathy.

We hope this article helps you and your organization improve your monthly/recurring gift program!

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