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The Power of the Monthly Donor - A Petrus Development Show Episode

Building a Monthly Giving Program

In this week's episode of the Petrus Development Show, we continue our Q+A series with Petrus president, Andrew Robison.  Listen as Andrew and Rhen discuss the special blessing that monthly donors are for organizations.  To that end, they offer suggestions on how to begin and grow your monthly giving program.  



Show Notes: 

Nonprofit and ministry leaders tend to underestimate the power of monthly donors.  Fundraisers receive pushback asking why they are focusing on monthly donors when they should be going out and making asks for big major gifts.  In this episode, Andrew and Rhen clearly state the case for growing a strong monthly giving program.


Specifically, Andrew answers the following questions: 

  • Why should fundraisers put effort into monthly giving?
  • What can you expect in terms of monthly gift size?  Do you send monthly tax receipts for donors?  
  • What would a monthly giving society look like?
  • What should you do when a monthly donation fails?
  • What are some methods you could use to encourage more monthly donors?  How do you get people to sign up?
  • What is a senior class gift program?


Listen to this episode and learn the answers to these questions and more!  As mentioned at the end of the episode, Petrus has a worksheet about personality strengths and weaknesses in  fundraising.  Sign up to receive this free resource by clicking here.  


Finally, we welcome your fundraising questions for potential use in future shows.  Are there questions you'd like to hear Andrew answer?  If so, email us at [email protected] with your question, and it just might appear in a future Petrus Development Show episode. 



00:33.27 aggierobison Well, howdy everyone, and welcome to the Petrus Development Show. We're back for another episode, and this time we're gonna talk about monthly giving, one of our favorite topics. I'm here today. Well, I guess first I'll introduce myself. I'm Rhen Hoehn from Petrus Development, and I'm here today with Petra's owner and president, Mr. Andrew Robinson. Hello, Andrew.

00:55.48 AROB Howdy, Rhen, and um, sorry, you were, as you said, something "howdy Rhen." Yes, I am happy to be here and I am happy to talk about monthly giving. It is one of my favorite topics, and I have been doing it for a while and tried to learn a few things and pass them along, and I'm excited to talk about it with you on this episode. Once upon a time, many, many moons ago. Yes, ah.

01:18.41 aggierobison I know once upon a time you did a master's degree and in the process, and the process of that, your capstone project was on monthly giving, if I'm not mistaken.

01:29.28 AROB It was, yeah. I was working at St. Mary's Catholic Center, Texas A&M at the time, and we had a pretty strong monthly giving program that was fairly unique among campus ministries at the time, and we're always looking for ways to get it better and make it better. And so when I had to write my capstone, I don't remember if it was my boss or I suggested, I think my boss suggested, "Why don't you write it on monthly giving?" and I said, "That's a great idea." So that was my... I think the actual title of it was something like, "What are the benefits and challenges of an Electronic Funds Transfer program for your nonprofit ministry?" So yeah, EFT was the term that it's still a term but and certainly we use it a lot more than we do now.

02:12.99 aggierobison And this was but when monthly giving was a thing but not as much of a thing as it maybe is today.

02:18.13 AROB Yeah, definitely. It was kind of, I would say, cutting edge because it's hard. It's hard to think of the nonprofit community as having anything cutting edge, tragically, but it was fairly novel in its use. In fact, my... The reason that we had a strong monthly giving program at St. Mary's was because my boss at the time had previously been in insurance sales, and insurance was very quickly making the transition from people paying their monthly premiums by check. Or, you know, meeting with the agent and giving them money at the time to automatic transfers of that, you know, $10, $20, $100 to pay their monthly premiums. And so he had seen that work in insurance sales and had thought, "Well, that should work in nonprofit as well," and so he was very much a pioneer in that regard in St. Mary's is in a very strong position financially now in part because of the monthly giving program from what he started many years ago.

03:24.80 aggierobison I can echo kind of that as an alum of the University and Campus Ministry was at, I was always trying to convince the campus ministry to take online monthly donations. The website didn't support it. They said, "Oh, people send this checks," and like, I haven't had a checkbook in years.

 03:43.68 aggierobison So when I had a chance to go back and work there as development director, the first thing I did was set up a website, set up monthly giving, and put some effort into that. Some of the pushback that I got right away from members of the community is, "Why would you put a lot of effort into monthly donations? We should be going out asking people for 4 or 5 six-figure donations."

03:49.53 AROB Nice. Ah.

04:01.13 aggierobison Who wants, you know, why spend time asking for twenty-five, fifty, hundred dollars a month gifts? So maybe let's start there as you talk about monthly giving, why put any effort into it in the first place.

04:03.22 AROB Yeah.

04:08.49 AROB Sure, so that's a good question, and I think it's a fair question, especially for a board member or executive director to be asking. What the heck is the benefit of these small gifts when we could be raising serious money? There are a couple of reasons. One, monthly giving is very much a cultivation activity. So when we think of the four types of meetings that you would go on or the four types of interactions you would have with donors, you think of discovery, getting to know somebody; cultivation, and moving that relationship along; solicitation, actually asking them for a gift; and then stewardship, thanking them for the gift and showing them the impact. So we think of solicitation as that act of "Would you consider a thousand-dollar donation? Would you consider a $100,000 gift to transform this ministry?" But in reality, oftentimes our solicitations can actually act as a form of cultivation for the next gift, right? So stay with me on this. So if we think that an individual, let's say, has the capacity and at some point maybe not the interest, not the propensity now, but the capacity to make a much larger gift but we don't have that relationship, do you just not ask them for that larger gift while you wait for that relationship to develop? No, practically speaking, it's a way to further engage them and draw them in and cultivate them for that $100,000, $1,000,000 gift down the road, maybe to ask them for a smaller gift along the way.

05:44.64 AROB And monthly giving serves that role of asking our donors to make a gift now, to make that a regular part of their giving, and then ultimately, when they are in a position to give more, they will have had that history and that culture of um.

05:52.82 aggierobison Right.

06:02.62 AROB That practice of giving to the organization.

06:03.50 aggierobison Exactly, it starts building the overall level of trust between the donor and the organization. They start paying a little more attention to what you're doing because they are supporting you, and over time, that can progress.

06:14.40 AROB Yeah, I had a donor, this is many years ago. So, um, like I said when I worked at St. Mary's, one of the things that we started initially was the class gift program, and it was a great program. We can talk more about it later on the episode if you want, but um, we asked our seniors at the campus ministry to pledge a $20 and oh five cents because it was two thousand and five, twenty dollars and zero five-cent gift per month for fifty months to ultimately make a thousand dollars pledge, and the program was really successful. That first year we had 52 seniors commit. So we had a $52,000 class gift, and all these people, most of them, were giving $20 and five cents a month. And about a year after we started this, I was at a program and I saw one of the seniors from that year. Ah, yeah, um, so I said that it was successful. They $52,000 gift. Oh yeah, um.

07:27.82 AROB So about a year after this program had started, I was at a church function, and I saw a young lady from the class of '05. She said, "Andrew, I got to thank you for starting that class gift program and for asking me to give $20 and five cents a month." I was like, "Oh, that's nice. Oftentimes, people don't say thank you to me for asking them for good." And she said, "Every time I see on my credit card statement that $20 and zero five cents to St. Mary's Catholic Center, I'm reminded of my time there, my experience, and it makes me happy every time I look at my credit card statement. It makes me happy." I think, "Wow, that's a really great story." So, monthly giving can be a way to, like I said, cultivate for a larger gift, and it can just be a way to allow our donors to kind of take that next step and either remember the experience they had or just, in a way, really continue to live their ministry through their generosity even though they're not there anymore.

08:29.70 aggierobison That's excellent, a great story. So when people think about starting a monthly giving program or asking for monthly gifts for their ministry, for their organization, a lot of times those fifteen, twenty dollars a month gifts are what come to mind. Is that true? Is that kind of the average size monthly gift across nonprofits, or what should a religious organization, for example, expect in terms of monthly gift size when they start asking for them regularly?

08:54.28 AROB Yeah, so it's going to depend on the maturity of the program. As you get more volume of gifts, your average is going to go down. When you're just starting out, sometimes you'll have a higher average gift, but in religious nonprofits, the average actually is $59 per month is the average gift size of somebody that does a monthly gift. So when you think about, let's just round it up to $60 because I'm a history major and I don't do math that well, 60 times 12 is $720 a month, right? I mean seven hundred and twenty dollars a year, right? Okay.

09:26.57 aggierobison Right, a year or out, and yeah.

09:31.82 AROB Yeah, so $60 a month, seven hundred and twenty dollars if that's your average. Let's say you have 10 people, 20 people, a hundred people, all of a sudden that starts to really add up. You're talking about a hundred people at $59 a month, that's $7200 per month times 12. Oh gosh, we'll be over eighty $5000 a year. So it all of a sudden becomes real money. That's an extra salary or that is, you know, underwriting an entire part of your program or your organization. And that's just that, you know, relatively modest numbers of 100 donors giving $59 a month. So average is a moving target as you grow; the average is going to go down. But if you start now and you continue to ask for gifts and make it easy for people to sign up, actually talking about kind of real money. Not just $15 a month, $20 a month, which really doesn't sound all that big in the grand scheme of things, compounded though, you're talking about big dollars. So.

10:31.26 aggierobison Exactly. That was like when I started focusing on monthly giving in the organization I was working for, I got some pushback from the board and such, and a few years later, everybody looked up, and suddenly, at that point, our monthly giving program was making twice in a year what our annual fund had been just a few years before, totally right? And then all the major gifts that come in on top of that are just allowing more growth because you kind of got your day-to-day funded by your monthly giving program. So it does really add up, and that $59 average that you mentioned comes from Bloomerang database provider. It was based on.

10:51.72 AROB It's crazy.

11:07.74 aggierobison And an inventory of the organizations that they host in their database, that was within religious nonprofits. $59 a month is the average, and that's what I've seen with the organizations that I've worked with as well.

11:17.36 AROB Yeah, and going back to my earlier story about working at St. Mary's when we started, when my old boss Greg started it. We were just trying to get 30 new monthly donors per year, fifty new monthly donors per year as we kind of got going, and so it wasn't significant money at the time, but we were committed to it. Well now they are annually they bring in over a million dollars per year from over fifteen hundred monthly donors, which is if it's not half, it's very close to 50% of their annual budget and so if I was to tell anybody on your board or anybody on staff at a nonprofit that 50% of your budget could be virtually guaranteed every month every year if you start this monthly giving program who's going to say no to that right? I mean, that's... but you don't think of it.

12:06.93 aggierobison Exactly.

12:11.79 AROB When people aren't familiar with this and they're looking at that $15, $20, you know, maybe $25 is a big gift. That's what they see. They're not thinking about those large numbers that compounding will ultimately do. I mean if you look at, you know, let's take Netflix for example, what is Netflix? Ah, it's easily a billion dollar company now right? Probably they do multibillions of dollars in revenue at what is it $7.99, well it's probably more I don't know, probably by eleven ten ninety-nine now or whatever it is but you know those are small numbers but compounded with volume is where you see the actual.

12:31.96 aggierobison Ah, right.

12:48.34 AROB Gale of those small doe small dollars small amounts add up to significantly more over time.

12:54.47 aggierobison Exactly. So let's move into some of the nuts and bolts. If you're just kind of starting to focus on a monthly giving program some of the questions that come up immediately if I sign up a monthly donor, you know, to give recurring every month. Do I have to send them a tax receipt every month?

13:08.92 AROB No, in fact, most of them if you do they will tell you to stop now. A lot of systems will automatically generate. Ah, an email receipt which is fine. Um, some people might tell you hey take me off of that email or receipt I I don't need it. Um, but from a kind of a legal standpoint. No, you don't have to send it every month if you send them an annual receipt at the end of the year right? And that's only if they give over $250 in total for the year are you required to send them a receipt but you send them an any of your receipt. Maybe you list all of their guest. Maybe you just cumulative. So but that is. Sufficient for and replacement of a monthly receipt. So that's sort of on the legal side practically speaking though it goes back to what I said most most donors will say please stop sending me receipts every month. It's just I don't need them I know I'm doing it. That's why I'm doing this because I want to set it and forget it I don't want you to so you to spend the time sending a letter send the cost of putting a stamp on it every month for what I know is going to your organization.

14:10.15 aggierobison Yeah, that Year-end tax summary just has to go out by January thirty First of the following calendar year I believe and if you're using any type of fundraising database. They should be able to automatically generate those letters for you in my experience almost all of them do pretty simple.

14:21.72 AROB Yeah, and it actually gives you, most people don't use that, most nonprofits don't use that year-end tax receipt as anything but a tax receipt. But I've found that if you have to send that tax receipt, so instead of just sending it with "here's your giving amount" send your giving amount and then make a bullet list. Here's 10 things that your gift helped to accomplish. So then it's a stewardship piece. It's a cultivation piece as well as serving as a tax receipt as well.

14:47.98 aggierobison Great. Love it. Can you talk about the concept of a monthly giving society? This is something that you'll see a lot of ministries doing when they're starting to build their monthly giving. Talk about what that is and why you might do that or why you might create one.

15:02.96 AROB Yeah, So um, this is a question that people ask all the time hey we have monthly gifts, but we don't really call it anything. That's just the way that people give which is fine and um, some organizations they can grow a really big pool of monthly donors that way. What I have found is that by sort of branding and labeling all your monthly donors as a society or a club or as a group then it gives you the language to be able to thank them as a group. It allows you to be able to market that style of giving to other people that are not. In ways that you just can't otherwise. So let me give you a couple examples. Um, so your nonprofit the ministry that used to work at had the monthly giving program was called the living faith society and that was actually came from St. Mary's at Techan and M they also had living faith society a lot of campus ministries sort of copied that because it was easy.

15:46.52 aggierobison Right.

15:56.90 AROB Um, but they called it that because once a quarter they would mail these little catholic devotional books that had thirty ninety days worth of devotions and they called the living faith devotional so they would mail that to all the monthly donors and so out of that came the living face society. It gives you a common language to kind of thank your donors and to kind of classify them as a group that is making an impact right? So for example, you're writing a newsletter story and you want to kind of. Talk about an activity at your organization and you also want to use it as a kind of a double feature to highlight some a development piece. So what you can do is you can write this article about how all of your students went on this great spring break mission trip and um. The cost of it was kept to a minimum for the participants because of faithful because of generous support from your living faith Society members. Our living faith society is our group of monthly donors. Supports with an automatic transfer on their credit card or their debit card if you would like and information about how to join our living faith society contact our development officer Ren Hayn at this number or go online and sign up right there so it kind of gives you a way to easily talk about a group that's making an impact. In a way that's just easier than saying our mission trip was underwritten or funded because of a lot of monthly gifts that made it possible right? It just kind of gives you a little bit more language. It's not required by any means. So if you have a board or a staff. That's you know.

02:23.67 AROB Hellbent on saying nope we're not starting another club. We're not starting another society that's fine, all right? Give it time. Um, but it just does help you in that. Um, there also is this idea you know, kind of the psychology of fundraising is that um people like to give communally. Ah, giving generosity is a communal activity and so that's why we see things like crowdfunding right? Um, whether it's kickstarter or whether it's go fund me um those part of the reason why those are so successful is because you as the as the potential donor you see other people are donating and you say oh. Well if they're giving then I want to give to so giving supporting really as a communal activity whether it's showing up to volunteer at a food bank or whether it's giving and so the more we can emphasize that community of supporters I e through branding and labeling your monthly donors as a. Society the more opportunity you give your donors to feel like they are part of something bigger than just their fifteen twenty fifty dollars gift every month

03:27.20 aggierobison Exactly and it gives you a chance to communicate with them a little more right? So when ah in my you know in my case when somebody sent for a new monthly gift. We'd send them a welcome letter saying welcome to living faith society here's what you can expect. We're going to send you a quarterly update from the ministry just telling you what's happening because of your monthly gift. Going to send you this living faith devotional like you mentioned which really just that's something that was low cost less than a dollar per booklet and they gave us a reason to mail those donors something every three months and just stay in contact with them without making an ask just kind of stewardship.

04:01.23 aggierobison And then that welcome letter would tell them, "Hey, we're going to send you a year-end tax summary, not a monthly receipt, and if you need to change your gift for any reason, here's where to do it, here's who to contact. Thank you so much," right? And then we would just follow up with a very casual kind of feeling stewardship letter every quarter, along with that living faith booklet, just saying, "Here's what happened. Last three months because of your monthly gift. Thank you so much," and people just love that. They love being part of an inside club, right? Of seeing the things that are happening around the ministry with that kind of extra exclusive letter of record.

04:32.82 AROB Yeah, there's another organization that we work with, the culture project, and maybe two or three years ago, they started their John Paul the Second Society. It was a similar thing. Because John Paul the Second is kind of the patron saint of their organization, so that's how they branded their giving organization. And what they do is that when somebody joins, they send them a thank you letter, and then they also send them a coffee mug, a Tumblr, not like this but you get the idea, kind of a nice Yeti or Arctic Tumblr, and it's got the culture project logo on there. That's their sort of introductory welcome to the club gift. And then every quarter, they get an email that says, "Thank you? This is what the J P Two society is allowing us to do as a ministry. Thank you very much for your support," and then also it gives them kind of an opportunity to ask for increases or ask for them to recommend other people or get other people on board with giving in this way. Is you know? Ah they can talk about the group the communal impact of the group um and sort of you know, asking people to increase their gift or to add other people, invite other people without saying, "Hey, Ren, would you do this?"

05:41.15 aggierobison Great. Yeah, I love that. Then when you get that coffee mug, yeah, just thinking about that ministry morning when you pour your coffee. That's a great way to stay front of mine. So what happens, this is something in my experience. It happens more often than you expect when a monthly donation fails for whatever reason. What's the follow up? What's the procedure?

05:47.31 AROB Yeah.

06:00.45 aggierobison Then.

06:01.63 AROB Yeah, so um, the simple answer is try to fix it, right? Because your best future donor is a current donor or a past donor, right? So as somebody's gift fails, generally speaking, it's not because they don't like you anymore.

06:11.65 aggierobison Right.

06:19.68 AROB But it's because they had, you know, an issue with their credit card and the bank closed it and gave them a new number or they moved and relocated their bank and so now the EFT doesn't work. So generally speaking, if you can reconnect with them, then asking them to continue their gift is an easy ask? um.

06:38.13 AROB You can do that. Ah you know, calling and saying, "Mr. Hayn, I see that your credit card declined this month, I'm wondering if maybe you got a new number, I'd love to set you up." Um, or you could do it by email. Now I'll flip it around and ask you because I know in your experience. You had a lot of success with recapturing. Failed credit cards and failed monthly gifts. Um, through a strategy that maybe was a little bit. Um, it worked um, but maybe even a little bit counterintuitive but tell us about your experience.

07:06.57 aggierobison Right? This is all anecdotal from my experience. Not necessarily scientific, but it was kind of counterintuitive when you think of fundraising, getting somebody on the phone is always like number 1 if you can't seem in person but when it came to monthly gifts, I found when I called somebody up and said, "Hey, your donation failed because. Your cards expired or you know a lot of times is because they got a new card for whatever reason they had fraud whatever on their card and they get a new one from the bank. Um, hey would you like to start that back up," they were almost always, when I called them, say, "Oh yeah, let's get it going again. Here's the new number here's an expiration date just keep it running what it was running at right," and so it was great. We recaptured a lot of donors that way. I had for a long time I had a lot of good email addresses for my donors but not phone numbers so just by necessity I had to email them and when they when the card failed I would send each person a personalized email that made it clear. It wasn't just a you know like ah a system email. It was ah you know you know mentioning their family mentioning. Whatever I could to make it feel personalized and saying, "Hey."

08:01.85 aggierobison Your card failed; your donation failed. If you'd like to set it back up, here are the steps to do that. I got a huge percentage of those people to sign back up, and a lot of those people signed up at a higher giving amount than they were at before. So, my best...

08:12.64 AROB Ah.

08:15.93 aggierobison Hypothesis there is that instead of just saying, "Can I sign back up?" "Yes, or no," "Yes, here's my card number," I got the phone call when they had to kind of think about it, like, "Oh, I'm going to sign back up, and as long as I'm doing it, I may as well up it by twenty bucks a month" or something to that effect. When I sent them that personalized email, I just had really good success getting people to increase their gifts without even necessarily asking them to, by giving them that option in the email. So, something worth trying and testing out.

08:38.82 AROB Yeah, I agree. Something worth testing. The bottom line is, though, don't assume that they don't want to give to you anymore because their drafts discontinued. The vast majority, it's a technical or clerical or something totally unrelated to your organization.

08:47.82 aggierobison Exactly.

08:57.41 AROB And it just stopped. So, if you can get a hold of them, some way, shape, or form, then they will continue their giving.

09:02.71 aggierobison Exactly, and it does become a big task as your monthly giving grows. In my experience, about 3% of my monthly donors failed every month. So if I had 100 monthly donors every month, about 3 of them would have a card that failed for whatever reason. It became almost a weekly thing, especially as you get into a couple of hundred monthly donors. It's almost a daily thing to follow up with somebody whose card failed. So, it's something you've got to stay on top of, and most of the time, they don't even realize it failed, in my experience.

09:26.54 AROB Yeah, definitely. Yep, that'll be my experience if I had a gift that was going, and all of a sudden somebody called me, said, "Your credit card just stopped," I would say, "Oh, all right? Well, let's get that fixed."

09:42.35 aggierobison Excellent. So let's go back to kind of growing that monthly donor base. What are some methods you could use, any organization could use, to try to encourage more monthly donors? How do you get people to sign up for monthly gifts?

09:55.80 AROB Yeah, so, monthly giving is one of those things that people have to hear about multiple times. I don't know the number, but I would say between 7 and 10 times before they are going to sign up. It's not necessarily the same ask as just asking somebody to support your Christmas appeal or your interview, your giving. It is a more involved ask, and so it takes people multiple times. They may decide the first time they hear about it, "Oh yeah, that's something I'd like to do," and then they don't get around to it until the fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth time that they see you mentioning it or they see an ask about it. So, the number one way to grow your monthly giving program is to ask and to ask a lot. Make it easy, make it sort of convenient for people to see, and then make it easy for them to sign up once they are ready to. If they want to sign up from their phone, let them sign up from their phone. Don't make it to where they have to call you, email them a form, and sign it out. They have to sign it with a real ink pen and mail it back to you. That is so counterintuitive to what monthly giving is, which is convenience and simplicity, right? You want to make it convenient and simple for them as well. So, allow people to sign up on your website, allow people to sign up on their phones, anytime you send an appeal, on your response piece, allow them to say, "Make my gift a monthly gift." Funny story, one time we had...

11:20.78 AROB That was somebody who had written a thousand dollars on their credit card and then they had checked to make my gift monthly. I think this is what we probably want to confirm before we start writing this. So it was a one-time gift, but who knows, maybe someday somebody will sign up for a thousand dollar monthly gift in the mail. Who knows? So allow people to sign up anywhere and everywhere they can: appeal letters, newsletters, website, phone. In person, we did something one time when I worked at a campus ministry and we were doing a student registration drive. So really, we just wanted to know who the students were and what organizations they were interested in. Well, as we had extra room on the forum, we put a sidebar that says, "I want to make my financial commitment as well," and I put that everybody. We got a couple hundred back, and that, you know, here's my name, I'm an original student, and here are the ministries. And then I think there were like 35 or 36 that came back as, "Here, start my monthly gift." So making it easy and simple. And then one last strategy that I'll talk about, which is something that I know you guys did really well, is use matching campaigns and using online or in-person giving days as a way to sign up for monthly gifts. What I mean by that is it's very common for your organization to say, "On this date, from this time," but in these 36 hours, everything that you give will be matched by some generous donors. That's a very good strategy for.

12:41.62 aggierobison Definitely.

12:53.91 AROB Sort of moving people to action and giving. A lot of organizations, they say, "Make your one-time gift these days," but it's a great opportunity for you to say, "Make your monthly gift, start your monthly gift, or increase your monthly gift on these days as well," and that will be matched. So that can be a really easy and simple way to encourage giving. They're already motivated to give because they're seeing your social media posts. They're reading the emails. They say, "Oh, this is the day I want to give," so make it easy for them to sign up for a monthly gift then as well. So those are a couple of strategies. The key point is to get creative and never stop asking because it takes people a couple of times before they're going to say yes.

13:31.26 aggierobison Exactly, that matching gift challenge is key in my experience at least, saying, "Hey, we've got this $10,000 challenge gift from these generous donors. Everything's going to be matched if you set up a new or increased your existing monthly gift. The first three months or the first six months of that is going to count toward that $10,000 match." We even moved on to the point where we solicited the challenge gift as a monthly gift. So we approached a bunch of recent graduates who hadn't signed up for our class gift program, said, "Hey, would you consider a monthly gift?" And we brought that as a challenge to the rest of our list and we said, "Hey, we've got a thousand dollars a month, a new month of giving from these 30 recent graduates. Can you, the rest of our alumni, parents, friends of the ministry, match that in monthly gifts?" And we raised $2,000 per month in new monthly gifts from 80-90 people. That was a huge boost to the month of giving, so just finding creative things to do like that that.

14:18.40 AROB Yeah, yeah.

14:26.43 aggierobison Doubling your gifts are really motivational for people.

14:29.71 AROB Yep, I love that, and that was just an idea born out of, "We want to do this thing. How are we going to figure out a way to make it happen?" You got creative and it took off, and now that has become kind of a regular habit of the organization there.

14:42.89 aggierobison Yeah, that started as, "I don't know if we can raise enough to hit the total challenge goal, but if we include monthly gifts..." and I think the first time is the first twelve months are matched, and that adds up real fast. That got us over the goal.

14:55.35 aggierobison And we said, "Okay, we could probably do it with six or three months. You can kind of tweak it to fit the size of the challenge gift if you need to."

15:01.51 AROB Yeah, when I worked at a different campus ministry at Ohio State University, the first matching collection we ever did, we allowed people to sign up for monthly gifts, and we had a pretty big parish community there, a couple of hundred families, a lot of students as well. Um, and um, the first matching collection we did, we had a $21,000 challenge. That's kind of what we posted. We saw about $25,000 or $30,000 come in through one-time gifts, and the monthly gifts when you added up the first twelve months of their monthly gifts, it was over $55,000 per year in new monthly gifts for people just signing up. Um, this one weekend. And so um, it really is a way for you to again make it easy, get creative, and people will sign up to support monthly.

15:47.30 aggierobison That is great. So I mentioned the senior class gift, and you mentioned earlier on, so what is a senior class gift program? Can you describe it a little bit? Maybe give us a little more depth there.

15:57.90 AROB Yeah, so it really is asking your... This is for our campus ministry. Although it doesn't have to be campus ministry, again, I mentioned the culture project. They're instituting a class gift as well for their missionaries. Um, so it can be creative and use it in different ways. But for campus ministries, it's kind of a perfect tool to get your young alumni giving before they're young alumni. Um, so when the seniors are approaching graduation, then you or a committee of other seniors ideally will actually go and ask these seniors to make a pledge.

16:18.80 aggierobison Right.

16:32.79 AROB Typically, it's a thousand dollars pledge per senior. They sign up to give that monthly. So like I said, $20 and zero five cents. It could be $20, could be $30, could be $50, could be $10, but they are committing to a monthly gift until they complete their pledge of $1,000. The nice thing about a class gift program structured in that way versus just asking your seniors to give is that what you can do then is you can calculate how many people there are, how many thousands of dollars, and then the total sum of their collective gift is the class gift back to the ministry. And so like I said, that first year that we had 52 seniors, so we had a $52,000 class gift. We continued that tradition every year, and in fact, it all kind of culminated with an end-of-school-year dinner specifically for the seniors that had pledged at a fancy restaurant in town and capped off by the committee of students. Um, presenting to the priest a big kind of one of those big novelty checks. You know that says this is from the class of 2005, class of 2013 to St. Mary's, here is your gift, and we took a picture. So actually if you go and you look on different places in the campus ministry, there are pictures of all of these checks over time of the class gift, and I think that, you know, it can work in a variety of different ways. Colorado State University started this a couple of years ago, and their student involvement was pretty low for a while. They were seeing kind of a resurgence.

18:01.60 AROB Um.

18:07.40 aggierobison Ah, retreat center. Ah, you know, consider setting up a program like this for people who go on retreat, right? The different ways you can approach something like this don't have to be a campus ministry specifically, I want to.

18:48.58 AROB Again, going back to our earlier point, it's that communal giving. That's why the seniors get so excited, because they know they're not signing up for $20 a month on their own; they're doing it with their classmates and...

19:00.19 aggierobison Yeah.

19:04.00 AROB We talk about the impact of what does a $50,000 gift mean? What does a $10,000 gift mean? What's the impact of that? It gives them that understanding that my $20 is actually making a much greater impact because I'm joining in community in this gift.

19:20.14 aggierobison Exactly. Let's end with a somewhat controversial question: if somebody signs up to be a monthly donor, should you still send them appeal letters from your organization?

19:23.83 AROB No.

19:32.41 AROB Yes, so the um, I guess the natural response to this would be to say no, right? Nope, they're already giving monthly. I don't want to mess that up. Don't send them any more appeal letters.

19:38.99 aggierobison Right.

19:44.33 AROB What the data shows is that your monthly donors are actually more likely to also give to your year-end, your appeal, or your matching campaign than your non-monthly donors. The reason for that is kind of a couple of reasons. One, they're obviously very connected and invested in the success of your organization. If they're signing up for a monthly gift at any level, they care about you and the work you're doing. So when they see another opportunity to make another impact, they do it. The other reason, though, is practically speaking, like we talked about, many of them sign up, and that gift may go for years. They know it's happening in the back of their mind, but they don't actually remember signing up, and it's just sort of like, "I think I'm giving to this organization I really like." So they get an appeal letter or an email about giving to a monthly or giving to a giving day, and they say, "I love this organization; they obviously keep me in their thoughts and prayers. I want them to do well, so I'm gonna give." So don't take them off of your list. And consider that many of them will actually give additional gifts because they are invested in your organization.

20:52.87 aggierobison Definitely, especially at the end of the year. It seems like, you know, they calculate their taxes or whatever the equation is for each individual donor. They say, "Oh, I still want to give away this amount of money." Who are they going to give it to? People they're already supporting because they already love that organization, and you're one of them. So...

21:06.69 AROB Yeah.

21:11.37 aggierobison Give them that opportunity to make a gift.

21:11.82 AROB Completely. Yep, you never want to answer no on behalf of your donors.

21:18.27 aggierobison That's exactly right. So I know we could probably talk all day about monthly giving. You and I have done it in the past. But maybe we should wrap it up for today. What do you think?

21:22.60 AROB Yeah, that sounds good.

21:31.76 AROB Did you get all your questions?

21:35.81 aggierobison Um, pretty sure I did. Sorry, just making sure you're yeah. Okay, let's go to announcements.

21:51.61 aggierobison All right. Well, if you would like to learn more about monthly giving and about building development programs in general as a whole, you could check out our course called Basic Online Advancement Training. It's a ten-week-long cohort-based course. And the next cohort is open for registration now. It's going to start the week of April Fifteenth and run through June Twenty-First. It'll give you the blueprint for how to build a fundraising program. And if you're a brand new fundraiser, it'll kind of give you that overview of all the pieces within the program and how they all fit together, what all the lead activities are, and how they complement each other. As you build a program, if you're just starting a fundraising program, it'll kind of show you the steps you gotta take over time to build that up. So we invite you to check that out. Go to

22:34.40 AROB And this is perfectly in line with what we've been talking about because we say giving is a communal activity. Well, so is learning about fundraising, right? And so one of the greatest things about BOAT is that you do it in a cohort. We've already had what, 4 cohorts go through the BOAT program?

22:49.75 aggierobison Right.

22:52.54 AROB Almost or close to 50 people have gone through, have succeeded, have completed the BOAT, and are now implementing those strategies in their nonprofit. I like a lot of aspects of this, but I especially like how it is a cohort-based program. So you get weekly contact with your peers, you get weekly instruction and guidance from somebody from the Petrus team. If you are new to fundraising or new to development in any way, you all of a sudden have a network of people that you can call, text, email, and say, "Hey, I've got a question that I just don't know who to ask. My boss doesn't know; he said I should reach out to some people. What do you think about this?" So it definitely is a way to help build your professional and personal network, but then also just learning about fundraising, learning about some of these topics in community, makes it more fun.

aggierobison Exactly, so that's basic online advancement training, or BOAT for short. You can go to And if you have a question you would like one of our other expert fundraisers to answer on the podcast, you can send it in to [email protected] and it may be featured on a future episode.

24:18.62 aggierobison Great. Well, thank you for joining us today, Andrew. Some good stuff on monthly giving, and we'll see you again in a couple of weeks.



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