Recurring giving is important to sustaining your organization for the long haul.
A strong monthly giving program can turn one-time givers into longstanding supporters. That can bring a degree of certainty and predictability to your nonprofit’s funding. Suddenly, there’s less pressure to make one-time fundraisers a smashing success in the middle of, say, an economic downturn or nonpeak giving seasons. Instead, monthly gifts steadily roll in each month, which means you can breathe a sigh of relief.
In addition to the predictability of monthly income, these monthly recurring revenue (MRR) programs actually bring in more money in the long run. In 2014, the average online one-time annual gift was $104. In that same year, the average monthly gift was $23 per month, or $276 for the year, according to M+R’s 2015 Benchmark Report.
So how do you create and grow an MRR program? That’s what I’ll share with you in this three-part blog series detailing best practices and examples from industry-leading nonprofits. Let’s get started.
Success takes vision and a plan.
Step one is to huddle with your nonprofit’s leaders and outline your goals for the MRR program. Here are some questions to consider:
- What resources do we have to dedicate to the development of this program? What resources do we have to dedicate to sustaining this program?
- What initiative should MRR revenue specifically support? Remember that monthly givers will likely be your most loyal supporters and they’ll want to support a project at the core of your mission.
- What are our achievement metrics? How many MRR donors do we need to recruit in the first year to fund such and such program? Be specific about your organization’s goals. An example: “Recruit 1,000 recurring donors with an average monthly donation of $25 by December 31 to fund the annual cost of [insert name of project].
Essential Elements and Best Practices
Once you have clearly defined your program goals, it’s time to plan how you’re going to design and set up your program.
Here are five best practices to incorporate into the branding, design and messaging of your monthly program.
1. Name It
Giving your MRR program a name will strengthen its brand and emphasize its importance. Name it something that aligns with your broader nonprofit brand or goal. For example, Pencils of Promise calls their MRR program “Passport,” Liberty in North Korea calls theirs “Liberty,” and charity:water calls theirs “Pipeline.”
The brand of the program starts with the name and trickles into the design of the program, both in terms of messaging and graphic design.
2. Dedicate a Space
You’ll want a separate page or microsite dedicated to your MRR program. Giving your recurring revenue program a dedicated webpage will put it front and center for donors. It also distinguishes it from other types of giving.
3. Emphasize Community and Use Social Proof
Effective monthly recurring programs communicate to donors that they are part of something bigger than themselves: a community, a movement, meaningful change. Successful programs make donors feel part of a community working together to do good. A branded page, with a focus on the community aspect of monthly giving, will encourage your supporters to join.
How can you prove that you’ve got a community behind you? Social proof.
Social proof is also a powerful tool to encourage monthly gifts. It’s a psychological tool that shows potential supporters that others have also chosen to give monthly. Some examples of social proof include testimonials and photos from current monthly donors, a ticker or thermometer tracking the number of donors in your program, a list of monthly donors’ names, or simply stating, “You’ll be member #XXX.”
Pencils of Promise
Liberty in North Korea
The key is to remember that people want to belong and join a strong community of folks committed to supporting the cause. For more tips on employing social proof, look here.
4. Make the Impact Measurable
Donors like to know that their gift is making a specific and measurable impact. That makes them feel like their investment in the nonprofit is matters. When determining specific giving levels, take the time to calculate exactly what those giving levels achieve. Be specific. Be measurable. For example, charity: water’s $50/month giving level can fund three water quality tests in India.
5. Hype Your Premiums
Most recurring revenue programs offer a mix of tangible and intangible premiums to their donors. Examples of these premiums may include: exclusive communications (impact stories, quarterly updates, letters from the CEO, and behind the-scenes looks at program development), sneak peak announcements, discounts at the nonprofit’s merchandise store, t-shirts, annual “surprise” gifts, and a chance to win a trip to see the organization’s operations overseas.
These premiums further incentivize donors and adds an air of exclusivity to the monthly recurring program, which can be a powerful appeal for individuals looking for a greater sense of connection to the nonprofit they support.
Here’s a great example from Liberty in North Korea.
In the next blog, I’ll discuss how to enhance the donor experience of your recurring revenue program. Until then, get planning!