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Identify Potential Monthly Donors Using Data

6 min read
June 11, 2021
Erica Waasdorp headshot
Erica Waasdorp
President, A Direct Solution

Donor data has always been important in raising funds for nonprofits. It’s literally your ‘gold.’ It provides you with everything you need to keep track of your donors and know most of what there is to know about them. Especially when it comes to outreach to potential monthly donors.

Why is this helpful for outreach to potential monthly donors? For segmentation purposes, which then leads to personalization in email messaging and direct mail appeals. 

If your data is clean and correct, you can customize every single appeal to a donor. 

If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that it’s vital for organizations of any size to grow their number of monthly donors. They will provide that sustainable revenue. And if the recent study Neon One did, the average monthly gift is $63. That’s $756 a year. 

"The average monthly gift is $63. That's $756 a year."
"The average monthly gift is $63. That’s $756 a year."

Today, I’m going to focus on using data to identify those donors that are most likely to be upgraded to monthly donors. Those donors are already giving to you now. They may simply not yet have been asked to make a recurring gift. 

3 Ways To Use Your Data To Identify Potential Monthly Donors

I will address three different ways your donor data will help you grow your monthly giving program. 

1. Review your current monthly donors

Let’s start by looking at your current monthly donors. 

Write down how many you have. What’s their average monthly gift? What’s their average annualized value? Put that on your bulletin board as the benchmark. 

Then answer the following questions, based upon your donor data: 

  • How do your monthly donors give? By credit card or Electronic Funds Transfer payment? Or does your nonprofit only offer card payments? 
  • How long ago did they make their first gift? 
  • How long ago did they make their most recent gift? 
  • What was their last one-time gift? 
  • What’s their current monthly gift? 
  • How did your monthly donors join? By mail, email, phone, other? 
  • Did you send emails? How many? Who was your audience? 
  • Did you send direct mail appeals? How many? Who was your audience? 

What does your donor data and your records tell you? 

In my almost 30 years of experience looking at nonprofits with mature monthly donor programs, most monthly donors joined within the first year of their first gift. The first gift and monthly donations were given mostly by credit card. Most successful monthly donors were asked earlier on, in a thank you letter or an invite after the thank you letter. 

For those ‘early monthly giving adopters,’ emails have indeed become a game-changer. That’s where the welcome email series was born, including at least one request for a monthly gift very early on in the relationship. 

2. Selecting the best prospects for monthly gifts

Once you know how your current monthly donors came to you, you’ll be able to see some similarities. Of course, if you’re just starting out, you may have received a few organic monthly donors from your website. 

For most organizations, the most common group of monthly donor prospects consists of donors who made a first gift of between $10 and $99.99. For some, this can be expanded to donors between $100 – $249.99. 

Typically, you can expect the highest response from those donors who made a gift within the past 6 months and who have given 2 or more times in that time frame. This assumes that the organization appeals to its donors regularly (at least once every 2 months). 

How to Dig Into the Data

Run a recency frequency monetary value report. How many donors gave which amount in the past 3 months, in the past 6 months, in the past 12 months?   

Then run another report and identify those donors who gave by credit card and those who did not. If you offer Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT/ACH), isolate those who last gave by check. Segment them all out for easy tracking and send your monthly donor appeal. 

What are the results? Then apply that learning for the next time. 

Use the Data for Outreach

Then take those groups you just selected for your appeal and send an email version to those you have email addresses for. Multi-channel is so powerful, so use it to your advantage. 

Donors who gave longer than one year ago are not typically good monthly donor prospects. HOWEVER, once you reactivate these inactive or lapsed donors and they made a gift, include them in a special invitation letter. In the letter, thank them for rejoining and ask them to consider a recurring donation. I’ve seen terrific results with this approach. 

The minute someone makes a monthly gift, add a special flag, attribute, or code to the donor’s record. Make sure your current monthly donors are also coded if you’ve not yet done so. This is crucial so you can exclude them from monthly donor invitations. 

Recently I joined a prominent national nonprofit as a monthly donor, and I didn’t get recognized for a whole month. 

What was worse, I kept receiving invitations to join as a monthly donor. Not good. 

Depending upon your type of organization, you may want to exclude those donors who can write larger checks (gifts of over $250). 

3. Use your donor data to determine monthly giving ask amounts

This is where past donor giving comes into play. Ideally, you’ll want to customize the ask amounts when you send an invitation by mail rather than making them fixed amounts.  

For example, you would not want to ask a donor who has given $100 for $10 a month. That’s too low. 

You also do not want to ask a donor who gave $50 for $50 a month. That’s too high. 

The golden rule is one-third

If someone gave $25, start by asking for $8 a month, then go up from there. A good ask ladder example would be $8, $12, $16, $24 a month, and of course, you’ll always want to include the other $______ a month option. 

I’ve tested the approaches above for years. But, every organization is different, so it’s important to use prior giving data for customization. But don’t worry, that’s not too hard. It’s as simple as a merge field. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain. 

The secret to growing your monthly donors lies in your donor data. 

Use your donor database or CRM to your advantage. Start with running regular reports. Keep planting the seeds of monthly giving

It’s not a one-shot deal, but slow and steady wins the race.  

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