Improve your monthly giving program – Part one: Welcome to the club

publication date: Jan 11, 2016
author/source: Samantha Barr

Samantha BarrMonthly donors are special. They are a caring group of people who trust your organization so much that they allow you to charge their credit card or withdraw money from their bank account every month. However, a monthly donor program is not without its own unique set of challenges. The following post describes how your organization’s monthly giving program can create lasting impact.

Give your monthly donor program a name

Such a special group needs a special name. Consider giving your monthly donors a name such as Medecins Sans Frontieres’ “Partners Without Borders” or CNIB’s “Partners in Vision”. Alternatively, you can give the program a name as a whole, such as Cystic Fibrosis Canada’s “Breath of Life” monthly donor program or Canadian Cancer Society’s “Until Cures are Found” program. Naming and branding your program will highlight its importance and foster a feeling that monthly donors are part of a team dedicated to the same goal.

Make your new monthly partners feel like queens and kings right away

In the 2014 edition of The Burk Donor Survey (Canadian results), donors were asked whether they would give again or give more generously the next time to a charity that acknowledged their first gift promptly and in a meaningful way and reported their progress in measureable terms before asking for another gift. Penelope Burk’s study found that 58% of donors would definitely or probably renew, 43% would make a larger gift, and 61% would continue to give indefinitely, assuming they received the above considerations each time they gave. These findings make it clear that proactively providing recognition to donors as soon as possible is crucial to retaining them long-term. When it comes to monthly giving, donors want justification for joining your program. They want to know that they have made the right choice and that your organization values their involvement. A great way to impress your new recurring donors is by sending them a specially designed welcome package. In order for the welcome package to have its intended effect, it needs to be sent right after the donor signs up. The schedule to send welcome packages should be trigger-based, not calendar-based. For example, instead of sending out all welcome packages quarterly, send them on a schedule based on when the donor signed up. Most importantly, ensure that a process is in place to track when a donor signs up and when/if he or she has been sent a welcome package so that your new donors aren’t forgotten during this vital stage.

What is the best way to welcome new monthly donors?

The goal of a welcome package is to make new monthly donors feel valued, appreciated, and like they have just joined a team with a common goal. But what should be included in this welcome package? When including premiums in a welcome package, ensure that whatever you include is meaningful to your donor. Burk’s research found that 70% of individual donors who receive plaques or certificates in recognition of their giving either throw them away or store them where they are not seen – only 23% of donors display them. If you do choose to include premiums, be sure to analyze the cost versus the benefits and don’t be afraid to get creative! Burk’s survey revealed that experiential recognition is substantially more popular with donors. She cited examples such as thank you letters, personal calls, donor recognition events and other activities that involve person-to-person interaction. This means that your organization has flexibility to send a welcome package via whichever channel is most convenient for your donors, whether it be email, mail or a welcome phone call in lieu of a package. No matter the channel you choose, as Burk’s research reveals, your welcome package must be highly personal and make donors feel like it was created just for them. Consider adding a handwritten note if sending your welcome package by mail or send photos or a video of your organization’s work if sending by email.

Let donors know their opinions matter

The welcome stage is an ideal time to ask new donors about their communication preferences or specific interests. Sending a survey in your welcome package or including a brief survey as part of your welcome call gives donors a chance to feel that their relationship with your organization is a two-way street and their opinions matter. The bonus for your organization is that this information can be used later to segment your lists so that donors receive communications in their preferred format, achieving greater efficiency and a personalized touch. As with the welcome packages, ensure that there is a process to capture this information so that your organization is able to act on a donor’s communication preferences. Your organization might also want to consider developing a process to act on donors’ specific interests to send them relevant solicitation materials in the future.

Stay tuned for the next part of our series on monthly giving that will focus on retention, upgrading, and recovery.

Samantha Barr is an Account Supervisor with Cornerstone Donation Processing and Fundraising Services, which provides Charities throughout North America with end-to-end outsourced online and offline donation processing and donor database management services. Find out more at


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