Don’t Forget Your Monthly Donors, Advice from Erica Waasdorp

When we surveyed AFP-Greater Madison members in March, Max Nguyen with Society of St. Vincent de Paul mentioned that he’s found Erica Waasdorp’s work on monthly giving extremely helpful. She literally wrote the book on it, and over the past year she’s also released a number of articles and appeared on podcasts around the fundraising internet. 

One of the points she comes back to most often? Don’t forget your monthly donors. It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of a recruitment campaign, but maintaining a strong group of monthly donors requires work in the long term. Waasdorp encourages nonprofits to make a particular staff member responsible for the monthly giving program and give them the support they need to: 


  • Retain monthly donors. Unlike major gifts donors, monthly donors might drop out of your program simply because their credit card expired. If a donor’s card is declined, Waasdorp recommends following up right away—within the first 30 days—by any means necessary. Create a process to get these donors’ names and contact info to the person responsible for monthly giving, so they can follow up accordingly. 


  • Communicate with monthly donors. It’s one thing to send monthly donors fewer additional appeals, but they should still hear from your organization! In addition to at least an annual thank you, you can keep sending monthly donors newsletters and annual reports based on their communication preferences.  


  • Cultivate monthly donors. Depending on how your organization works, you might consider offering monthly donors some additional benefits—maybe behind-the-scenes tours or sneak peeks of new facilities, or special networking events. These events can make monthly giving more attractive to new donors and can help build a community among your donors.  

At Madison Public Library Foundation, we completed a successful campaign to grow our group of monthly donors (our sustainers) in April. Now, we’re setting up processes to make sure that we can retain those donors in the long term, even if their credit cards expire. To help cultivate our sustainers, we’re also working with library staff to brainstorm and plan special donor events like art tours and chances to peek behind the scenes at different neighborhood libraries. Waasdorp’s articles have been a helpful checklist of things to think about!

In addition to her advice for maintaining an existing monthly giving program, Waasdorp’s work includes information about how to stand one up from scratch or expand one that’s been left to languish for a while. If you’re interested in working on monthly giving, it’s worth checking out.