Nonprofits love monthly donors for obvious reasons. Monthly donors give consistently, require less frequent fundraising, and tend to be more loyal.
But to get regular donors to opt into monthly donor status, you have to make this seem like something they would want to do. Which makes this email effort so puzzling. It begins:
I’m deeply grateful for your support as we work together to bring needed resources to our neighbors experiencing homelessness.
As our partner, you’ve truly provided a lifeline to many local community members, especially with the current high cost of living and the uncertainty that accompanies it.
That’s the opening. And for these two paragraphs, I’m wondering why they’re writing to me at all, except to express gratitude and suggest that our work is completed, since I’ve apparently already “provided a lifeline.” I’m thinking “what’s this about? Is it a thank-you email?” It goes on:
Because I know we share the vision of a community without homelessness, I’m inviting you today to join the [monthly donor program name], the [nonprofit’s] monthly giving circle.
Members of [monthly donor program name] donate monthly to ensure vital services are available all year long. This support is critical in ending the cycle of homelessness.
Oh, so that’s it. They want me to become a monthly donor. But wait a second, I thought that as an occasional donor I was already ‘sharing the vision’ and ‘ending the cycle of homelessness’ with the gifts I give, at least that’s what they’ve been telling me. It continues:
With your [monthly donor program name] membership, you can help countless neighbors regain self-sufficiency and hope for the future.
Again, I thought I was already doing this with the gifts I currently give. It continues:
And by signing up online, you can automate monthly gifts, save money on postage, and help reduce administrative costs, too — all while providing access to vital care for community members facing homelessness.
It’s only at this point, at the end of the email, that I see some reasons why I might actually want to become a monthly donor. But these reasons are only tacked on as an afterthought.
A couple things about this. First, there’s this idea that every communication to a donor has to open with gratitude for their support. Sure, there’s a time for thanking and appreciating donors. But not in every communication. What’s more, by telling me that I’ve already provided a lifeline to community members, they’re suggesting that the job is completed, so what do you need me for as a donor?
Second, if you want me to change my pattern of behavior – like going from an occasional donor to a monthly donor – you better give some pretty good reasons to do it. And those reasons should probably be at or very close to the beginning of the email in order to get my attention.
Even more to the point, those reasons should be compelling. In this email, I’m offered the opportunity to “automate monthly gifts, reduce postage costs, and help reduce administrative costs.” These aren’t exactly barnburners. Not many donors are sitting in front of their computer thinking, “Gee, I’d really like to automate monthly gifts.”
There are good, solid reasons a donor would consider becoming a monthly donor, but you have to lay out those reasons explicitly and do it in a way that’s interesting and advantageous for the donor. You can’t expect donors to fill in the gaps on their own and convince themselves. They won’t. Instead, they’ll just move onto the next email.