I’m the vice president of a local grassroots nonprofit that does amazing things in my community. It’s a place where those with particular challenges can access free education, programs, and services that will make their lives measurably better. We work on a shoestring budget, and stretch every penny. We have one major benefactor who matches donations, and many others who keep the doors open. Of course, we could do more if we had more funding, which is why giving is so important.
I often find myself daydreaming about how even a few extra hundred dollars a month for rent will allow our nonprofit to better serve those in need. For example, clients facing depressing situations would benefit from a more “cheerful” environment with freshly painted walls in calming colors, with subdued, but upbeat décor. A lighted parking lot and a central location would help us be more effective in outreach. Plumbing that worked and a nicer reception area would communicate “welcome” to our clients, community leaders, and visiting benefactors. Friendly office neighbors would bring the synergy of sharing ideas over coffee.
I also think about how to get that extra $500 per month. That’s only 20 people committing to give $25 each month, which is less than a $1 a day. The key word here is commitment. One of the benefits of a monthly giving program, such as My Class Gift is that it allows students to come together for a common goal. To give back. To commit. When decision-makers know that the funding will be coming in month after month, they can make plans to increase outreach, programs, services, and staff, or in my case, sign a lease for better and safer facility. Which is why everyone’s contribution makes a difference.
I worked with the monthly giving program at St. Mary’s Catholic Center in Texas for almost ten years, and watched it grow from infancy to a major funding source. I have also helped a client grow their monthly support, which was a major factor in them tripling their budget year-to-year and hiring more staff to deliver programs and services. Over this time, I’ve observed the following:
- Monthly givers tend to stick around for a long time. Even if they are making monthly gifts based on a pledge, many if not most, will continue giving even after the pledge is paid off.
- Monthly givers are engaged in your mission and want to learn more. They are a great place to start when you need board members, volunteers, in-kind donations, or a sounding board for ideas.
- Monthly givers especially respond well to peer fundraising. When a friend communicates his or her commitment, it’s contagious!
- They often increase their monthly gifts, if asked.
- Surprisingly, these monthly givers also give to your organization’s other appeals and capital campaigns. They donate goods and services from their businesses, and host special events.
So, what motivates these folks? Why do they make this commitment? After speaking with many of them, this is what I’ve learned:
- They want to join your mission and be part of something greater than themselves.
- They feel privileged to be asked to join in this mission. This means that we should never, ever be afraid to ask. While a person may say “no” to giving monthly, they will not be insulted! And asking for a monthly gift also primes them to give at other times.
- They want to “give back,” so that what they experienced from your organization is available to those who come after them. Or, if they have no direct experience with your organization, they recognize the good you do and want to be a part of it.
- While they might not have the financial means to make a big difference themselves, they welcome the opportunity to be part of a community that together can make a difference.
- They like the basic math of monthly giving. A modest gift each month turns into a big, impactful gift over time. A modest gift each month, combined with the gifts of others, empowers your organization right now to do great things.
- Finally, they love being appreciated (who doesn’t!). Thank you notes, newsletters, and invitations to special events keep them engaged and giving.
As a board member and decision-maker, I am VERY interested in growing our current base of monthly support. Someday soon, our monthly givers will be the backbone of our fundraising. Thanks to them, my organization will be able to grow in outreach and services.
For this to happen, we have to invest NOW in the time and good fundraising practices to make this future come as soon as possible. While we won’t be able to rent our dream office space now, with focus, patience, and by implementing proven strategies, we WILL reach this goal! For colleges and universities, they look to their alums for support—your gift, combined with your fellow classmates, will make a significant difference. So why wait to start giving?
Mary P. Walker is the founder of Charity Architect, a consulting organization that educates and empowers nonprofits to go out and do more good in the world.