Regardless of your point of view of last week’s historic presidential election, half the country is in deep pain right now (actually, more than half when you consider the results of the popular vote).
One salve, as we’re already seeing, is philanthropy. Those who are angry, frustrated and in pain, want something meaningful to do…right now. I’m heartened that so many people are talking about making gifts to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood, among others.
Those organizations deserve our support and have the infrastructure to handle an influx of contributions.
But what about smaller, community-based organizations?
Earlier today, someone posted a query in the Facebook group Nonprofit Happy Hour looking for ideas on how to get a monthly giving program going. So I’ve put together my thoughts.
But before I share my ideas, I want to say this. The national groups I mentioned above are wonderful organizations and deserving of support. But many people want to support local groups as well. So many community nonprofits have a role to play in healing. Groups that provide counseling services, promote LGBT rights, monitor for over-surveillance of Muslim communities, or tend to spiritual needs – they are all vital. Arts organizations can put the challenges we face into context. Parks can provide respite for weary souls.
So no matter what group you represent, these ideas are for everyone. Here we go.
1. Make sure your website can handle it.
Your program will be a nonstarter if you can’t figure out the technology. Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.
You MUST make online giving easy. If your website already has the back-end capability to accept monthly gifts, make sure that you are sending people directly to that page. Don’t make them jump through a variety of pages.
Now, if your website isn’t set up this way, don’t despair. There are companies that can get you up and running quickly. Network for Good, Just Give, and Razoo are three options. (I have not evaluated these and make no endorsements. I’m just giving you a place to start.) You might also inquire with your local community foundation about services they might provide.
2. Ask for a monthly gift, rather than a one-time gift.
Many of you have got your year-end solicitations under way (hopefully). But if there’s time to change your letter, consider asking for a monthly gift, with a one-time contribution as an alternative. Most solicitation letters I see only ask for a one-time gift, but have a monthly option listed as a check-off on the response device. Turn it around…now and going forward.
3. Link gifts to outcomes.
If you try the strategy in #2, give a range of options, and directly link those gift amounts to an outcome. For example:
- Your gift of $25 a month could allow us to add 10 hours of counseling services each week.
- A gift of $50 a month might enable us to add 25 more kids to our after-school programs.
- Giving $75 a month will help us meet our goal of feeding 100 more families a month.
4. Find a challenge donor. Or two. Or three.
Find one or more individuals or local business owners who will match new monthly commitments. People are motivated to give right now. The joy they receive will be heightened knowing that someone is going to match their philanthropy.
Where do you find these challenge donors? Look inside. Are there individuals who are already supporting your mission with $10,000 or higher gifts? Why not go back to them? What about individual board members? How about the board as a whole? Challenge the board to increase their giving this year to help you launch this program.
5. Put a time frame on your campaign.
You can launch your monthly campaign with specific goals during a specific timeframe. (If you’ve ever listened to public radio during their fund drives, you know just what I’m talking about
Think about setting goals for dollars raised and the number of new monthly donors over, say, a month. This works especially well by leveraging the generosity of challenge donors (see #4 above). I think a 30-day campaign might be a good timeframe to consider.
6. Take to social media.
Use all of your social media channels to promote monthly giving…especially right now at year-end, and during any time-specific campaign you may create. People have taken to social media to share their anger and grief with others. They’re using it to mobilize. You need to do the same thing.
7. Take a look at your middle donor program.
I’m a big proponent of programs that attract donors who can give between $1,200 and $10,000 a year – through monthly giving. Many organizations have a so-called society that recognizes donors in this category, but are you really promoting it.
If you aren’t proactively using it as a top fundraising strategy – or you don’t have such a program – it’s time to get going.
There are a lot of people who cannot write a check for $1,200 (I like that number because it’s an even $100 a month), but can very easily give you $100 through credit card giving. (Think about how much money some people spend in Starbucks a month.)
8. Thank the hell out of your monthly donors.
The importance of proper acknowledgement and stewardship should go without saying. Regardless, here are some thoughts on this:
- Make sure you get your acknowledgement letters out within a day or two.
- If you can’t get it together to do it that quickly, then at least send an email to acknowledge that you received their monthly pledge.
- Even better, call the donor to thank them.
- On top of all that, consider using a video thank you. Take your phone or tablet and make a video to say thanks. Your executive director, a board member – or better yet – recipients of your services – should be featured. It doesn’t have to be complicated or over-produced. Just record it, and start emailing it to your donors. They’ll love it.
- If you produce a donor honor roll in your annual report, newsletter or some other print or electronic publication, have a special list for your monthly sustainers. It might inspire others to add their names to the list.
- In your newsletters, consider highlighting some of your monthly donors. It will inspire others, and could be a useful cultivation tool to get people to increase their support.
There are probably other best practices, ideas and tips to share. If you have something to add to this, leave a note. I’ll update the post!
Glenn is a fundraising strategist who loves working with small- to mid-size organizations that want to innovate and grow. Check out his website at http://www.gkollaborative.com, and to find out how he can help you, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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