4 tips for building an effective monthly donation program

Monthly contribution programs give nonprofits a steady and predictable income, a segue into larger donations and a wide base of avid cause supporters. With quality donation management software, building a recurring payment strategy is relatively inexpensive. Plus, it's an effective way to boost your donor retention strategy. Here are four tips for implementing a successful monthly payment program in your nonprofit:

1. Advertise it everywhere
To get the program started, you need to get the word out. Though you must engage multiple channels to reach the most people, turn to the Internet as your first solution, since the monthly giving program will likely work through this medium. Provide the recurring payment option for people already filling out online donation forms by advertising the program on your nonprofit's website. Additionally, utilize all platforms of social media, send out mailings, make phone calls and tell everyone about it at your next fundraising event.

Fired Up Fundraising blogger Gail Perry also suggests directly reaching out to your prospects who are most likely to give on a monthly basis. These are the people who give several contributions a year. Make this your target audience for any promotional campaigns, and you'll have a higher chance of garnering supporters. In all of these methods, your organization should also convey a sense of urgency. Demonstrate the real need for regular donations.

2. Set up an automatic payment plan
Programs that allow for direct deposit from a debit or credit cards make giving even easier. Donors will be able to actively track their financial activity, but they won't have to deal with the hassle of sending a check through the mail every month. Plus, the electronic automation means less work for your staff. By putting the responsibility on a payment software, they can focus on other important aspects of your nonprofit, such as organizing fundraising events or recruiting more people to join the recurring gift program.

3. Build trust among donors
Online shopping is becoming more popular, but it's usually a one-and-done deal, which makes people more comfortable with paying over the internet. You can create this same safety zone for contributors by providing a date at which the payment plan will end. The light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel strategy prevents people from feeling trapped in a payment plan.

However, you should present this method as an optional choice rather than a requirement. For some supporters - and for the nonprofit - an end date can be more of a hassle than anything else. You don't want to force benefactor to put forth extra effort if they want to keep contributing past the one- or two-year mark. Sidestep this obstacle entirely by allowing supporters to continue sending donations as long as they want.

Additionally, with identity theft and cybersecurity threats constantly making headlines, your nonprofit needs to devote efforts to making people feel safe when they contribute. This not only means that you should have effective donation software and use safe Internet practices, but you also need to build your charity into a reputable brand. Donors tend to trust big-name organizations with a good track record, so marketing your nonprofit is more important than ever.

4. Continue communication
Recurring donors are easy to forget about because they contribute with little interaction. However, to keep them in the monthly giving program, you still need to engage them in your nonprofit. Follow up the initial thank-you card or package with subsequent emails, newsletters and reminders about upcoming events. Not only does continued communication demonstrate your appreciation, but it can also be an opportunity to show donors what their contributions are going toward.

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