Updated: Apr 9, 2021
This was a really great chat. Regular Giving is such an important part of your fundraising portfolio. But it’s not a quick win – it takes time to build, and effort to nurture and grow it. But done well, and with some smart ways of working, it can be a brilliant reliable source of income for your charity.
1) Finding new Regular Donors from your warm supporters
For many charities, their regular donors wanted to give as a way of paying it forward. People who had families cared at a hospice, or someone who had benefited from medical research or support for example. As we talked about in our In-Memory session a few weeks ago, it’s important to think about how you could sensitively engage with the people who have been impacted by your charity. It’s not about “making the ask” but letting people know how to give if they so want to.
For volunteers in particular, special communications that recognise and thank them as volunteers first and foremost are so key. For many, volunteering is a part of their identity and before you ask them if they want to support in another way, you need to make sure their supporter care as a volunteer is excellent.
Cross-team fundraising. How can regular giving be woven through other areas? Start with your Community Fundraising in particular. How could you put the ask out to your groups and volunteers who are already engaged?
Event sponsors – ie those who support their friends with a sponsored event – was an interesting conversation. Generally, I’ve found this isn’t an optimal audience – those people want to support their friend, not the cause. However, one fundraiser shared great success with an ambassador who has friends support them multiple times, and who are now engaged with the cause because of that ambassador. In this instance, work with your supporter. Find out if they’d be comfortable making a regular giving ask in lieu of their next sponsored event. Really involve them, and talk to them about the importance of regular giving. See if you can track donations in the same way they would with their fundraising page so you can let that ambassador know how much they helped you raise. If it’s an authentic ask and you can empower that ambassador – it could be a huge success.
If you’re not going back to your campaigners and activists to talk about fundraising, you’re doing your supporters a disservice. They care about your cause and want to help – tell them about the different ways they can. Don’t keep them separate because of internal politics. All your teams should be working together. They’re not “your campaigners” or “your donors” they’re “your charities supporters”.
2) Retaining your Regular Donors – excellent supporter care
We started the conversation by talking about Payroll Givers. Does Payroll Giving sit in Corporate or Individual Giving? I’ve found the most successful answer here is – both! Your corporate fundraiser should be empowered and knowledgeable to promote this as another way employees can get involved. But once the donors sign up, they should get the same beautiful thought-through supporter care and donor journey as all your other regular givers. And normally that sits in IG. So, make sure you’ve got your processes and database tight to make sure your Payroll Givers don’t slip through the cracks.
One fundraiser really inspired many of the group as she talked us through the new donor journey they’d set up for new regular donors. Some of the things she and others talked about that they do for their donors included: - Welcome email – with impact. A strong story or personal video is brilliant. - Welcome pack by post – this doesn’t have to be elaborate. Often a simple handwritten note is more effective in making your donor feel loved and appreciated than a pack of “stuff” with no personalisation - Milestone emails at the points most donors are likely to drop off – often around 1, 3 and/or 6 months. (Again – test! And look at your historical data). A warm engaging email telling a donor why they’re so important is key to minimise attrition. - 1 year anniversary comms – either email or post. The fundraiser talked about what all regular donors had raised that year “as a team”. Not only is this brilliant social proof (“hey others give regularly too – this is a great thing to do”) but also meant for donors giving smaller amounts it still felt really impactful. It also works on the other end of the scale. If on their 5-year anniversary a donor learns they’ve given £2,000 for example, they might decide it’s time to support another cause. - Other engaging content such as surveys, quizzes and videos. Remember your videos do not need to be super swish Hollywood quality. A simple message, recorded selfie-style will feel really genuine and authentic. Especially if it’s from someone delivering your work “on the ground”.
Remember to mix your channels. Just because someone signed-up on line doesn’t mean a phone call, handwritten card or a photo of your work with a note that says “thought you might like to see this” won’t go a long way. We’re all so excited to get something lovely in the post – so why not surprise and delight your donors with something lovely too?
Which brought us on to - Christmas cards. Every fundraisers ‘favourite’ but we all agreed SO worthwhile. But also think about other times of year that would work for your charity. If you are a charity with supporters of other faiths, recognise that. For instance, it’s Ramadan next week, how many charities with a large Muslim supporter base will be sending Eid Mubarak cards I wonder? If not religious holidays, is there a National day or week that suits your cause better?
Short, sweet, often and impactful. We only have to look at the amazing comms that anyone who’s ever donated blood receives to see that. This fab blog post from Louisa shares more – a great read with loads to learn!
3) Inspiring your current Regular Donors to increase their gifts
The most important thing here is…why? Why do you need them to give more? There’s two ways you can approach this. I’ve done both and seen both work – think about what would work best at your charity.
An increase in services. At one charity I worked at the need for our helpline spiked by 45%...and stayed there. That was an easy ask. We asked donors to increase by 45%. That sounds a lot, but actually if you’re giving £5 a month, it’s only asking for it to be increased to £7.25. At a £2 a month donor, we asked for just £2.90. Because the ask was so authentic, and relatively small, many donors chose to “surprise us” by increasing their gift significantly more. If you have a need, make that ask in the most genuine and honest way you can.
Ask your donors to stand with you. A regular gift isn’t just a gift. It’s a pledge – it’s saying you stand for something. This image from David Burgess sums it up perfectly.
Think about how often you ask donors to increase their gifts. If you never have, this could be a good time for a large uplift campaign. But actually, it should be something you do little and often. When you’ve put lots of time and effort into recruiting donors, especially at lower gift levels, make sure you’re asking them to increase their gift at an appropriate time. When is that time? Only testing will tell. Some charities have found just under one year – around the 9 or 10 month mark successful, others just after around 14 or 15 months. Test it, but make sure your donor care and supporter journey mean your donor feels appreciated and that they know how an increase will make a difference.
4) Cold donor recruitment
For many a multi-step approach works best for recruiting cold donors – especially with digital fundraising. Don’t go straight in with the regular giving ask, even to warm audiences.
We talked about “hand raiser” campaigns, especially on Facebook. Testing different creatives and different audiences, then scaling up the ones that work. The ask is generally to put your name to something you believe in (can also work as a petition) and this is followed up with an email journey and a phone call.
A few people asked “when is the right time to make that Regular Giving ask” and also should we ask for a cash gift first then work up to a regular gift or go straight into a regular gift? The short answer is – you need to test and keep testing. It’s so dependent on so many things and really depends on your cause, audience, proposition an channel. When looking to invest in RG, you need to invest in testing – even if it’s on a small scale to give you some starting points of what might work best for your charity.
Text fundraising we touched on briefly. We talked about charities that do regular giving by text message and this can work well for younger donors in particular. Especially because this also has the option to “skip a month” – which appeals to demographics who are used to having more choice month to month, and use challenger banks such as Monzo or Tide. More on that in this article on SOFII.
If you’re a charity that has a local presence, be sure to maximise that opportunity. Doordrops have seen a huge resurgence this year, and for many charities this has included actually making a profit, where before they would have aimed to barely breakeven. Especially for NHS, Hospice or community-based charities, don’t underestimate the power of a really good piece of post. Make sure you stand out, engage your donors and not look like another piece of junkmail. I’d also recommend looking into Royal Mail’s Partially Addressed mail.
There's a lot we covered, and I added in a few more tips and references here too. I hope this has been a helpful place to start. And if you've got any more questions about Regular Giving - or any areas of Public Fundraising, please do come and chat more in my Facebook Group. I'd love to see you there!