Regular giving success is about strategy, effort, time and patience. While some fundraisers and board directors seek a silver bullet to overcome growth challenges, the charities most likely to find success are travelling tried and tested ground and relying more on hard work to drive growth. It may sound less attractive and it might not inspire excitement and enthusiasm in the boardroom but, in reality, great fundraising success rarely comes from silver bullets.
Before you reach for your revolver, consider the following recommendations that will help you tame an elusive werewolf.
HOW EFFECTIVE IS YOUR PROGRAM AND HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO THE MARKET?
It’s critical to understand how well your regular giving is currently performing. What metrics are important? What has worked in the past and which activities performed poorly? How many new donors and what level of investment is required to grow or stand still? Which acquisition channels deliver the best return on investment over time and how might investment in those same channels perform today?
(Not a) silver bullet recommendation: Before you invest in acquisition, make sure you understand the success of past activity. Transactional and longitudinal analysis must be part of your long-term planning
and review process. An analytical review should be undertaken each year – across all your programs – as part of your overarching fundraising and communications strategy. Such a review will inform investment decisions, channel selection, business processes and, ultimately, your approach to revenue growth and delivering organisational goals.
DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT FUNDRAISERS ON YOUR TEAM?
A good regular giving program will be managed by an experienced professional fundraiser – and those are hard to come by. Before you spend money on your regular giving program, ensure you have the right team to take it forward.
(Not a) silver bullet recommendation: Consult independent advisors to review your fundraisers’ capabilities and capacity. Managing a regular giving program is a specialist skill and having the wrong team – or hiring the wrong candidate – could be a very costly mistake. Your regular giving fundraiser/s will be responsible for delivering a multi-year business strategy and it might be many months and years before a weakness in their expertise is identified, by which time much damage may have already been done. Your team should have experience across multiple fundraising disciplines and good relationships with third party suppliers including face-to-face, phone and analytics agencies.
DOES YOUR PROGRAM HAVE EFFECTIVE BUSINESS PROCESSES IN PLACE?
Are gifts processed and banked properly? Are declines and cancellations managed? Do you have a best practice upgrade, reactivation and conversion strategy for your program?
Unfortunately, most charities could be doing a better job of processing and managing gifts. It’s not uncommon to discover that successful programs are actually haemorrhaging donations due to poor processes.
(Not a) silver bullet recommendation: Invest in a comprehensive review of regular giving practices and business processes before you plan to grow your program. Business analysts who specialise in regular giving can significantly increase income, improve backend processes, reduce lost payments, identify opportunities to improve and automate systems, and help train fundraisers to manage your program more effectively.
WHAT DOES YOUR STEWARDSHIP AND RETENTION PROGRAM LOOK LIKE?
There is no value in recruiting more donors if you’re not looking after the people who already give to you. While in the past consultants would advise charities not to spend money contacting regular givers and face- to-face recruits, this is no longer the prevailing advice.
(Not a) silver bullet recommendation: An integral part of a successful program is a strong stewardship – or donor care – strategy. Your communications calendar should include thanking, engagement
and activation activity as part of a holistic, multi-channel fundraising and communications strategy that will help retain and cultivate more valuable relationships with your monthly givers.
IS YOUR MONTHLY GIVING AUDIENCE SEGMENTED?
Regular givers form a broad audience that requires further segmentation. A good communications strategy segments regular givers on behaviour, commitment, source channel, recency and value.
(Not a) silver bullet recommendation: As part of your program, review and analyse data, develop a better understanding of who your regular givers are and identify opportunities to segment and personalise communications to them. Consider breaking down your regular givers by: active vs inactive; recency of first transaction; recency of other gift types; gift value; source channel and solicitation (eg face-to-face, two-step, online, direct mail, phone conversion); commitment level; and proximity to the cause.
UNDERSTANDING YOUR REGULAR GIVING POTENTIAL
Monthly givers have provided reliable income for many charities since the early 2000s. But those earliest regular giving charities didn’t seek quick wins or easy solutions. They saw regular giving as a potential growth area that needed a robust testing strategy and well-developed measures of success. They understood the need to manage internal expectations and that success would take many months and years.
Great regular giving programs are constantly being analysed and reviewed, comprehensive processes are in place and they are run by dedicated, analytical fundraisers with many years of experience. There is no innovation that can replace hard work, and getting the basics right will cost far less money and involve fewer risks than searching for a mythical silver bullet.