When, Who, How (And How Often) to Ask for Monthly Gifts

monthly gifts

Of every fundraising strategy out there, monthly gifts boost the highest ROI.

How much? A mere 2 to 5 cents for every dollar raised, according to Erica Waasdorp, author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant.

But having a successful monthly giving program is more than just offering the option to ‘make your gift monthly’ on your donation form. Done right, monthly giving will give you…

  1. A reliable, predictable, growing source of ongoing fundraising revenue.
  2. A pool of planned gift (and major gift) prospects 
  3. Retention as high as 90%
  4. More revenue – sustainers will give 2-4 tikes more annual than they would making single gits.  
  5. Better donor lifetime value (as much as 10 times that of a regular donor!) 

How can you get results like those? I’m here to help with some tips on when, who, how and how often to ask for monthly gifts.  

When should I ask for monthly gifts?

In short: everywhere you can. The best recruitment channel will be the one you used to recruit the donor. Channels to recruit monthly donors include  

  • Your donation form 
  • Social media
  • Email 
  • Telemarketing  
  • Direct mail  
  • Radio
  • Text messages with follow up call 
  • Ask events
  • Face to face and door to door (think street canvassers) 
  • Direct response television 
  • Ads and inserts

Who should I ask?

Your best prospects are current donors, especially current donors who:  

  1. Make at least 2 gifts over 18 months  
  2. Are new or recent 
  3. Were acquired by mail 
  4. Give through multiple channels 

Source: Harvey McKinnon, How to Create Lifelong Donors with Monthly Giving

How should I ask for monthly gifts?

One of the most common questions about monthly giving is ‘What should the gift ask amounts be?’ On many nonprofit websites monthly giving options typically start at $10 or $20.  

If all you have on your donation form is the same ask amounts for one time and monthly gifts you are doing it wrong and likely have few people enrolling in your monthly giving program.  

You need different, lower ask amounts for monthly gifts. You also need a reason for people to make their gift monthly. It isn’t enough to give me the option. Tell me how much more good my gift will do if I make it monthly, i.e. “$25 a month feeds a kid for a whole year.”  

Many organizations successfully tie their ask amount to a tangible outcome. These organizations are able to do this because they know how much it costs to deliver a service.  

Strategies to calculate monthly gift ask amounts 

The strategy you use to determine your monthly gift ask amount may depend on the donor. Are they a prospect who has never given to you? Or are they a donor with a giving history with you?  

To identify a monthly gift ask amount for prospective new donors, Erica Waasdorp founder of A Direct Solution and author of Monthly Giving: The Sleeping Giant suggests the following:   

Step 1: Figure out what your average gift amount is from one of your last appeals. (Not tracking that?  Get out your calculator and run a couple reports.)

Step 2: Divide that amount by 3. That amount is what you should be asking for as an entry-level monthly donation – 1/3 your typical appeal donation.

For example, if you know your average gift is $35 when you send out an appeal, then $35/3 = $11.66

Step 3: You could ask for $10 as an entry level gift. Or go straight to $11.66 if that’s a number that means something tangible for your organization. Make it easy to understand what their gift will accomplish, i.e. “Your $10 will provide food for an abandoned dog.” The more specific and tangible, the more likely people will say “yes.”  

What about donors with a giving history that you want to upgrade to monthly giving?  

Your goal is to try to double or triple your donor’s yearly giving. Try this sample formula from Harvey McKinnon, author of How to Create Lifelong Donors Through Monthly Giving. For a $100 single-gift donor, ask for $20, $30 or $40 a month. A $20 sustainer would contribute $240 a year, a nice upgrade from $100.  

How often should I ask for monthly gifts? 

The option to give monthly should always be present on your online donation form and direct mail reply device but in addition to that you can promote monthly giving through special email and mail campaigns, telemarketing campaigns, social media, ask events and more.   

How soon should I try to upgrade a new monthly donor?

After at least 6 – 10 months of being a monthly donor and learning about how their gifts are making an impact you can ask your $10 monthly donor to upgrade their monthly gift $2 to $3, then later to $15 (then $20 etc.).

Eye candy examples of monthly giving asks

When I’m preaching the gospel of monthly giving to nonprofits, I mention organizations with successful monthly giving programs, and I encourage them to make a small monthly gift and experience it firsthand.

But since I give a lot of advice that people don’t take me up on (just ask my twin teenagers) I’m here with some eye candy examples of organizations doing monthly giving to inspire you.  

Eye Candy Example #1: ACLU donation form 

monthly gifts

Three things this donation form does right:

  1. Different (smaller) ask amounts for monthly gift. 
  2. Says why a monthly gift is needed.
  3. Offers option to give through bank account (EFT – electronic funds transfer). Bank accounts are typically open for 16 years on average, compared to credit cards which can be open 9 months on average.  

Eye Candy Example #2: Charity Water donation form 

monthly gifts

  1. Prefilled, preselected gift amount.  
  2. Describes tangible impact monthly gift will have. 
  3. Features photo of person helped by the organization looking directly at the camera.

Eye candy example #3: Donation form: Best Friends 

  1. Prefilled, preselected gift amount.  
  2. Tells donor the communication they can look forward to getting after they make their gift.  
  3. Features photo of animal helped by the organization looking directly at the camera.

Eye Candy example #4: Soi Dog’s Facebook Page fundraising for monthly donors 

Soi Dog is a Thai charity that fundraises internationally. This international animal organization in Phuket, Thailand went from $300,000 income to more than $5 million in 5 years. In one 9-month period they increased their monthly donor program on Facebook by 350%. Their page uses imagery, videos and stories that are ongoing and unfolding to make readers want to come back. They consistently demonstrate the impact donors know they can have.  

Part of their Facebook monthly giving acquisition strategy was a two-step digital approach asking people to sign a petition, then targeting them to become a monthly donors.  

Soi Dog’s success with US and Canadian donors may seem surprising but if you care about dogs then you care as much about them in Phuket, Thailand as you do in your own hometown.  

If you’re thinking about how to enhance your monthly giving program window shop these organizations’ pages to get inspired.  

Better yet, get an insider view of how to pro’s do it by joining one!

The Art & Science of Digital Donor Retention

Rachel Muir

Rachel Muir, CFRE transforms individuals into confident, successful fundraisers. When she was 26 years old, Rachel Muir launched Girlstart, a non-profit organization to empower girls in math, science, engineering and technology in the living room of her apartment with $500 and a credit card. Several years later she had raised over 10 million dollars and was featured on Oprah, CNN, and the Today show.

Rachel Muir
Rachel Muir
Rachel Muir

Latest posts by Rachel Muir (see all)

Originally Published by

Is a Bigger Email List Always Better? Nope.

4 Tips for Effective Donation Buttons by Campaign Type