SeanChisholm
Sean Chisholm
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Launching an Effective Recurring Giving Campaign

There are a whole host of compelling reasons to implement a recurring giving program at your nonprofit. Among other things, monthly donations allow you to  increase the amount donors give on average each year, improve retention rates, and decrease long-term administrative costs. And thanks to technological improvements, it is now easier than ever for nonprofits to execute recurring donation campaigns (targeted periods of outreach when you try to convert supporters or potential supporters into your monthly giving program).

Below, we’ve outlined five steps to launching an effective recurring giving campaign. As you read through them, think about what gaps exist in your current system and how applying these strategies to future campaigns might increase your success – from a fundraising standpoint, and from the standpoint of improving the overall health and growth of your organization.

1.Commit to Data-Driven Decisions

It’s hard to build a strategy when you don’t have a clear understanding of what you are working with. The first step is getting your data in order. This requires an organization-wide commitment to prioritizing donor information, with commitments from interns all the way up to the Board. Every touch point with donors and potential donors should be recorded to create individual and collective giving histories. It helps if the platform you use for this is easy to use, transparent and available to everyone that contacts donors or potential donors.

2. Segment, Segment, Segment

Not everyone is the same. That’s why it’s critical to take the time to separate your supporters into distinct groups. Fortunately, with a solid donation platform and back end CRM in place, this task becomes a lot easier.

Start by analyzing the data you’re collecting by looking for patterns in donations and demographics. You can also look at your past recurring donors to figure out what your typical recurring donor looks like. All of this will help you identify distinct giving patterns that will help you customize your recurring giving campaign for the various donor groups you identify. It will also guide you as you develop the default donation levels for your campaign.  Here are some specific questions that will help you differentiate groups:

  • Are there any differences in amount donated by region, age, gender, marital status, or other demographics?
  • What differences do you observe between donors and potential donors, one-time donors and recurring donors, donors who gave within the last 3 years and those who gave more recently?

Identifying some high level  giving patterns will allow you to segment your list into a few different groups.  You can then develop profiles for each of these groups and tailor your recurring donation asks to fit the characteristics of each group.  Keep in mind that some donors might not be a great fit for a recurring donation ask. Not everyone needs to be contacted for your recurring giving program – and not everyone needs to be asked to give the same amount. In fact, doing so can wind up costing your organization revenue.

3. Set Campaign Target Goals

Goals not only help define what you’re hoping to achieve, they also help unify your supporters. Once you have your donor profiles in place, you can start setting goals for your recurring giving campaign. Try breaking down your overall campaign goal into smaller goals for each of the groups you’ve identified  This helps make sure everything is as digestible and actionable as possible.

Once you’ve set your sub-goals, you’ll need to start developing content and figuring out what resources you’ll need (email, direct mail, social media or a combination). Develop specific content for each targeted group and method of delivery. If possible, associate your ask with something tangible (i.e. instead of simply asking for $10 a month, inform the potential donor what $120 a year converts into in a tangible way). To avoid donor and fundraiser fatigue, plan on a campaign timeframe of no more than 10 days.

4. Organize & Mobilize

Organize your staff and/or volunteers into teams and assign each team to one of the donor groups you identified earlier. Let each team know what their sub-goal is and how that goal wraps up into the overall campaign goal. Also, make sure you train each team on the platform (or platforms) you will be using for the campaign.

Before the campaign starts, be sure to set up reporting templates that you can run in real time throughout the campaign to assess performance. If you’re using StayClassy’s integration with Salesforce, we’ve already created reports that you can customize for your campaign. It’s also helpful to arrange a leaderboard of key metrics that are updated in real time and displayed on your organization’s dashboard so that each team can track progress towards its individual goal. Also, as the campaign unfolds, make sure you are reaching out to donors and thanking them in real time.

5. Be Prepared for Post-Campaign Action

Follow-through can make or break a campaign, but it’s never more critical than when you’re trying to build a long-term relationship with a recurring donor. Thank your supporters by empowering them with information about the campaign and highlight the role they played in its success. When the dust starts to settle, assess the campaign critically, with input from all levels. What worked and what didn’t? Take the time to understand and document any best practices,you identify as well as any ideas for improvement.

As you move forward you’ll want to make sure that a system is in place to track cancellations and credit card expiration dates. Assign a staff member to keep track of these and to contact donors before their cards expire. Set up alerts for failed transactions so that staff members can reach out for new payment information. If someone cancels his or her recurring gift, find out why and document the reason so you can get more efficient with retention in the future. If the reason is financial, express your gratitude and ask the person for permission to continue sending updates about your organization

As you move on from your dedicated recurring giving campaign, you’ll also want to set goals for the number of recurring donors you’d like to add each month and quarter throughout the year, and goals for upgrading existing recurring donors periodically into higher giving levels. Keep in mind that while you may only have one or two dedicated recurring giving campaigns throughout the year, you should always be making it easy to convert into your monthly giving program through your other fundraising activities. You can also promote your recurring giving option in a softer way by including calls to action on your blog, periodically on social media, or in your newsletter.

To learn more about how to leverage to build an effective recurring revenue program through StayClassy, please join us for our webinar on 10/31/2013 at 11 a.m. Pacific / 2 p.m. Eastern.

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