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How to awaken the sleeping giants in your donor database

Posted January 4, 2015 by Guest Author

By Erica Waasdorp, President of A Direct Solution and author of  Monthly Giving – The Sleeping Giant.

In this guest blog post, Erica Waasdorp, author of Monthly Giving – The Sleeping Giant, provides 6 tips to awaken the sleeping giants in your donor database: Monthly donors. According to Erica, “it truly is possible to start and grow a program with even a small staff in a very short period of time, as long as you keep these six tips in mind.”

1. Commit

Building a monthly giving program is definitely a long-term investment. This isn’t a fast way to boost your Annual Fund! Make sure everybody understands this, especially your Executive Director and Board. Many programs can break even in the first year though if the right media are used.

2. Invest time, treasure, and talent

It may take staff and dedicated volunteers some time to set up the program, but that investment will pay off. Make sure you build money into the budget to develop the program and stick with it!

3. Appoint a leader who is accountable

Monthly giving requires someone to take full responsibility for the program. Remember, accountability doesn’t mean that person has to do everything! A good program requires collaboration with other departments, and sometimes outside partners, so a good leader makes communication more effective. The donors will benefit.

4. Start with the end in mind

Think through the process from start to finish before you begin. Key items to get in place:

  • Special acknowledgment letters for these special donors
  • Dedicated section of your Annual Report to highlight and list these donors
  • Accurate tracking and reporting system (such as Little Green Light) to monitor when gifts come in and when they don’t (get phone scripts and email templates ready so you can react quickly if for some reason the recurring gift doesn’t happen)

5. Find your small but regular donors in your current donor base

Don’t assume you need to look for major donors. You might even save the $100 donors for a mid-level program. Rather, look at your donor base and identify those donors who have made small gifts, even $5 or $10 twice a year. If you do one annual fund appeal, look for donors who have given less than $100 in the past year. While a full Recency, Frequency, and Monetary Value (RFM) analysis would be great, focusing on recency and frequency of giving is most important. Ask low, get high response; you can upgrade later, trust me!

6. Annualized results

Because these are donors who (often) give small amounts, the results should be measured in years rather than weeks or months. A good recurring gift program will inspire donors to stay with you for many years to come, so focus on measuring and projecting using year-over-year charts.

About Erica Waasdorp

Erica lives and breathes direct response and fundraising and considers herself a Philanthropyholic. She is an expert on Recurring Giving. She is President of A Direct Solution which focuses on the direct marketing needs, with a focus on Monthly Giving, of its nonprofit clientele. She has helped the nonprofits she works with raise millions of dollars through monthly giving programs and has over 30 years of experience in nonprofits and direct response. Erica contributes to various industry publications, both in the U.S. and abroad, and speaks at nonprofit conferences on a range of topics related to fundraising, from the fundamentals to international fundraising, as well as monthly giving. She presents webinars for Charity How To, Network for Good and Simple Development Systems. She is also the U.S. Ambassador for the International Fundraising Congress (IFC), held in Noordwijk, the Netherlands, in October. Erica is happy to answer questions you may have about building a successful recurring gift program. You can reach her via email or by phone at (508) 776–1224, and her website is She lives on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

Did you know that Little Green Light  offers a way for you to easily collect recurring donations right from your organization’s website? For more information, visit

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