5 reasons why your recurring giving campaign isn't working

By Anita Gallagher
Training Lead at HIPGive

Board members that are great at public relations, project staff who send in stories from the field, short and uncomplicated grant forms… these are the things that fundraisers dreams are made of! However, if I were to ask what’s on the top of the fundraisers’ wish list, I’d wager that one answer would come out head and shoulders above the others: a strong and growing group of monthly givers. 

Recurring giving campaigns are vital to the health and vibrancy of nonprofits of all shapes and sizes. Having a community of happy and engaged donors not only helps financially with a steady income of unrestricted funds, it also means you have a group of people likely to help out with advocacy, volunteering and peer-to-peer fundraising. 

But you probably knew that already, right? So if we know that recurring giving campaigns are so valuable, the question is why aren’t we better at building them? Why is there such a big gap between our hopes and our reality, the “dicho” and the “hecho”? 

It comes down to this: while the decision to give to a good cause may look simple on the surface, in reality it’s driven by a very complex set of emotions and decisions. From your branding and key messages, to who you ask, how you ask, when you ask, the bad news is that there’s lots of room for error. There’s good news too: if you can identify where you’re going wrong, it’s much easier to get things back on track.  

Here’s five common reasons why recurring giving campaigns don’t live up to expectations, and some suggestions on how to overcome them.

1. You’re not asking the right people.

Finding people who are willing to give money every month is about finding people who are ready to make a commitment. It’s like dating: some people will be fun for a few dates, but if you want a long term relationship, you need to get to know each other first and have lots of shared interests. Don’t waste your time and effort inviting people who barely know you, or who’ve just started to follow you on social media, to give. Focus on the people who’ve already shown their interest in tangible ways: volunteers and people who’ve already given in-kind or on a one-off donation. They’re much further along the path to commitment and your chances of success will be greater.


2. The wrong person is making the ask.

You know the saying, “people give to people”? It’s true, but there’s more: people give more to people they know and to people they respect.  Instead of hoping that a few well crafted but impersonal emails and social media posts will do the trick, start inviting people to give in one-on-one conversations over a coffee, on the phone and on WhatsApp.  And don’t forget to ask the Board members, Director and other colleagues to get involved: whoever the potential donor is likely to respect most, is the right person to make the ask.


3. Your materials are informing, not inspiring.

When we analyze what fundraisers believe is persuasive copy, we often find they’re actually just explaining what the organization does, without any mention of why it’s important or what change it brings. The result is that people know more, but they don’t feel anything.  If you want people to give, you have to give them a “why”. Why it matters. Why it works. Why their contribution makes a difference. Try it! Start your next message with the sentence, “At (your organization)”, we believe that …….” and give people a reason to feel inspired.


4. There’s no clear reason to give monthly.

In case you haven’t noticed, most of us are really good at finding “pretextos” for not giving.  We say we’ll do it later, we remind ourselves that we’ve already given, we think it’s someone else’s turn. Your potential donors are no different. That’s why it’s up to you to be persuasive. Make sure you spell it out: committed individual givers are just as important as major donors that come and go. Individual givers trust us to spend the money where it’s most needed. You should also present the benefits to them: the ease of giving, the enormous satisfaction they’ll feel, and the fun of being part of a unique community of people who share their values.


5. You’re not spending enough time on it.

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and you’re not going to build a community of givers overnight. It takes time to align your communication messages, administrate the leads, update the CRM, coordinate the team effort on the individual follow up, and keep in touch with all of those people who already give so that they want to stick around. Don’t fall into the trap of underestimating the time it takes to build a new recurring giving campaign. Set aside the time in your week and make sure your colleagues see the adjustments you’re making so that monthly giving works as a strategic element in the fundraising plan. It can be exhausting but it’s worth it, because once it works for 30 people, you can scale it up and achieve more with only marginally more time spent.


Are you ready to take your recurring giving to the next level? This year HIPGive is working with 10 nonprofits in Mexico to pilot a new edition of #MxDona. We’ll post results later on in the year, but in the meantime  you can set up your organization’s page on HIPGive at any time.

For more info about recurring giving campaigns on HIPGive check out the Recurring Giving Campaigns guide.

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