Regular giving programs are a proven method for charities to increase their revenue whilst reducing administration fees.
The most commonly used acquisition methods for new regular donors are direct approach and purchasing cold lists for direct marketing (mail, telephone and email) efforts. These methods typically come with a hefty cost per donor. Whilst the lifetime value of these donors make the acquisition costs a worthy investment, you might benefit from attempting to convert supporters already familiar with them into regular donors.
These donors may already be supporting your organisation financially as a one-off cash donor. Any strategy to convert these donors into regular donors should involve a bit of data mining or segmenting to ensure you are targeting the right people. For example, donors who make cash gifts by credit card rather than cheque are more likely to want to sign up to a regular giving program where there payments will be automatically debited.
Different organisations have had success with different strategies for converting to cash donors to regular donors. Many will run rolling conversion campaigns where all cash donors are being contacted within a month of their first gift. Other organisations prefer to use donor loyalty as part of the selection criteria and will wait until a donor has made several cash gifts before attempting to convert them to a regular donor. There are benefits to both methods, and you should take into consideration your budget, staff resources and the volume of donors when deciding your conversion strategy.
Another thing to consider would be the source of the first cash gift and whether that merits a particular conversion strategy. For example, if new donors are acquired through an event or a major emergency appeal, perhaps they should be communicated to about the success of that event or the effect of their donation on the emergency situation. These newsletters or reports can be part of a moves management strategy to prime them to become a regular donor.
Conversion does not necessarily need to be from a cash-donor to a regular donor. Supporters that have made a commitment to your organisation in non-financial ways, such as volunteering, signing up to your newsletter or participating in advocacy efforts, should also be considered potential regular giving prospects. A smaller, regular contribution might be an easier way for them to become a financial donor.
Something important to remember is that just because a cash donor is converted to a regular donor, does not mean that you should stop asking them to also make one-off cash donations. As illustrated in the graphs below, a recent report prepared by Blackbaud based on data from some of its Australian clients showed that revenue and retention increase significantly when a donor gives both regular and one-off donations.
It is important to note, however that there should be a strategy put in place to segment and communicate with regular donors differently than cash-only donors for these single gift appeals. For example, you may want to only ask them once or twice a year rather than with every appeal and ensure that there is variable text in their letter acknowledging their ongoing, regular support.