Erica Waasdorp, Monthly Giving Guru

Can you pull in new monthly giving donors from your regular appeal letters? Yes, you really can. It’s actually quite easy to generate new monthly donors via your regular direct mail fundraising program.

Today we have a Guest Post from Erica Waasdorp, Monthly Giving guru.

Erica Waasdorp is an international consultant, trainer and speaker with deep direct response experience.  She’s author of Monthly Giving, The Sleeping Giant, an excellent guide to setup a profitable monthly giving program. Erica has directed acquisition, monthly giving, major-donor and planned-giving programs in seven countries: US, Canada, UK, the Netherlands, Germany, Australia and South Africa for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. Her upgrade strategy for the monthly giving program in the UK won IFAW and their telemarketing agency the Gold UK DMA award and the Gold FEDMA Award in 1998.

Erica recently gave an Advanced Monthly Giving Presentation for us:

Advanced Monthly Giving: How to Develop, Manage, and Execute Sustainable Monthly Giving for Your Non Profit 

If you’d like to create or upgrade your own monthly giving program with 49 examples of how to ask and close monthly gifts clink the above title link.

These ladies could be your next monthly donors!

These ladies could be your next monthly donors!

Here’s Erica’s guest post:

The two rules for closing monthly gifts via mail: 

1. Ask the right donors

2. Ask the right way

So who are the right donors, you might ask? The most likely monthly giving prospects are are donors who just gave! They can be existing donors, but even new donors who just gave for the first time.

The most likely monthly giving prospects are the ones who just gave.

They are also donors who gave less than $100. They are not your big check writers. Timing is crucial. They are enthusiastic right now, just after they have given. They have given their support to your cause. They’re happy! Now’s the time to ask them to either join your monthly donor program or for that second gift.

Senior Man Using Laptop --- Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Thank you mail — Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Ask for a monthly gift in the right way – even in a thank you letter!

If you ask the right way, you’ll be able to convert new donors as soon as they join your organization. Here’s an example of the approach to use, right in the thank you letter:

Thank you so much for your gift of xx$xx to [name of organization]!

[Focus on why the gift is important for you and the impact it’s making on the people/animals/mission you serve].

That’s why I’d like to invite you to join a privileged group of special supporters, called [name of program].

[Focus on benefits and ease of program for donor]

Note, the benefits should really focus on the donor, how easy it is for them, how they can donate even smaller amounts, convenient. Then include a paragraph on how important it is to the mission you serve that the funds come in on an ongoing basis and that you can count on it. Print the text in large letters so it even looks easy and convenient from just looking at the appeal.

Where to make the monthly giving ask?

Include the option of monthly giving first on the reply form and add this option:

Make a one time donation.

Not everybody may be ready to join your monthly donor program but you will still receive donations.

I have seen response rates of 1.5 to 2% of donors joining the monthly donor program and response rates of 4 to 5% of donors making a one time gift in the thank you letter.

Consider doing a simple variation of this letter and send it to donors who just donated to your direct mail appeal.

What do you have to lose by starting to ask your donors to join your monthly donor program early?

They’ll stay with you a lot longer if you do!

Don’t forget to get Erica’s presentation if you want more help.

You can find out more and purchase the $49 webinar recordings here.



Today I am sharing the #1 fundraising strategy you need to implement for the coming year. Here’s where the easy money is for your deserving nonprofit.golden key

#1 Strategy? Build Up Your Donor Loyalty

Here’s how you create and nurture a whole cadre — an entire bandwagon, even — of raving fans and donors who just LOVE your organization and would do anything in the world for you.


Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have that kind of rabid base of supporters? Bet you could change the world a lot faster if you had donors like that!

All the pundits and gurus  – Roger Craver, Lisa Sargent, Pam Grow, John Lepp, Jay Love, Lynne Wester, etc  – we are all also saying the same thing:

Donor Retention Is Your Place of Greatest Fundraising Opportunity.

WHY is building donor loyalty such a profitable strategy?

Because it’s one of the most cost effective fundraising strategies around. And it’s simple.

It’s even fun – because it focuses on cheerfully connecting with your donors instead of asking for money all the time.

If you spent time and energy on your wonderful donors, if you could show them such a totally lovely experience — then they would brag about you, spread the word, jump on your bandwagon, and even bring their friends to your cause.

They would love giving you money over and over, too.

Then you would not HAVE to emphasize the ask so much.

This is a Sea-Change Shift in Your Fundraising Philosophy and Strategy

It’s a huge deal.

Renewing donors is the easy part of fundraising.

We all know that it’s much, much easier to get a current donor to renew than it is to secure a brand new donor. #fundraisingnobrainer!

But alas, we are failing to renew our very special, fabulous, generous current donors!!

We are actually failing quite miserably.

And because of our sloppy attempts to communicate and thank them, they are abandoning us. We’re even pushing them away. 

Our donors are slipping away, like the proverbial leaky bucket.

Are you losing your current donors like a leaky bucket?

Roger Craver says we are losing our donors just like a leaky bucket.

Across the nonprofit sector, nearly 6 out of 10 donors do not give again in the next year.

What’s YOUR donor renewal rate? Dare I ask?

And check out your brand new donors.

These are the ones you are working the hardest to bring in the door.

Only about 30% of them are likely to renew their gift. (What kind of business could survive with customer retention stats like that?)

So here is the money you are leaving on the table.

You May Not Even Know How Much $$ is Just Flowing Through Your Fingers

Not convinced? Then try this and shoot me an email when you finish.

  1. Pull a report from your database of the donors who gave two years ago, but who did not give last year.
  2. Add up the money that these donors were giving – money that didn’t get renewed.
  3. When you see the total that walked out the door, you’ll probably faint.
  4. Then pick yourself up and take donor loyalty seriously.:)

So how do you build up your donor loyalty?

What you want to do is focus on the experience your donors are getting from your organization.

And you need to thank them in amazing ways. Download Pamela Grow’s Thank You Letter Template here for some quick guidance!

20 Ideas To Garner Donor Loyalty and Raise More Money

  1. Organization-wide commitment.

Get everybody on board – from the from the front desk to the CEO – to adopt donors as a HUGE high priority.

  1.  Tell better stories.

Send your donors fabulous, emotional stories about how they are helping make your important work happen.

  1. Give your donors credit for the work that YOUR organization is doing.

This is what donor-centered really means. Remove your organization as the intermediary between your donor and the wonderful results you achieve.

  1. Thank your donors over and over!

John Lepp says “say thank you until your donors tell you to stop.”

Remember the old fundraising axiom: “Find 7 ways to thank your donors and they will give again.”

  1. Ask your donors their opinion.

It’s so easy to survey your donors.

Check out Pam Grow’s story about the amazing donor survey she received.

And Lynne Wester’s sample donor survey here. And Mary Cahalane’s survey here.

  1. Try creative thank you’s like:

Fun hand-written or drawn thank you notes.

  1. Thank donors via social media.

Lori Jacobwith says “Hold a special Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, or some other social media “Thank a Donor” day, week, or month. (I love this!)

  1. Host a focus group of donors.

Bring donors together to share their experiences and give you feedback.

I once facilitated a focus group for the NC Symphony – and the donors loved it!

9. Have board members hand write thank you notes.

Bring note cards to your next board meeting and take a few minutes for them to pen personal notes.

10. Ditch your “Donor Appreciation Event.” (Yawn)

Instead have a fun cookout, or throw a porch party honoring all your donors.

  1. Recognize long-time donors.

Based on how long they have been giving, not their gift amount, says Tom Ahern.

  1. Celebrate holidays with your donors:

Send them Valentines, Thanksgiving cards, April Fools notes – you get the idea!  (have some fun!)l

  1. Send them videos of your work in the field.

You could even stream live videos for them. (!)

Nothing would make your donor feel closer to the cause!

  1. Hold a Thankathon for your donors.

Check out how Benevon organizes thankathons.

  1. Have your board members make thank you phone calls.

It’s a great way to introduce your board members to fundraising. AND donors will give substantially more when they get a phone call thank you!

  1. Tell them over and over about all the wonderful things in the world THEY are making possible.

Tom Ahern says “make your donor the hero!” Send your donors special newsletters like these from Sandy Rees.

  1. Give them special “donors only” events.

Like tours, briefings, conference calls. And yes, parties!

  1. Make personal thank you visits.

What an easy and nice way to connect deeply with an important donor!

  1. Send them a thank you very very very quickly. And it needs to be perfect.

Steven Shattuck of Bloomerang says that “Over half of donors lapse because of poor appreciation; gift acknowledgements that are slow to arrive . . .

  1. Make your thank you’s gushy, personal, emotional.

Write to them like you are just thrilled to receive their money. Which you are, of course.


Are you ready for an organization-wide shift in how you treat your donors?

Let us know your favorite ways to love your donors with a comment below:

Your donor has just sent in another gift! Hurray!donor love Heart

So you reply with a wonderful, personal thank you note. And then you call her to say thanks. In addition to the paper letter that you send.

Then what?

You have to communicate with her . . .  so you can continue to build that warm, close relationship with her.

You’ll send your newsletter. And you’ll send email alerts and updates.

But will it matter? Will she pay attention? Will she care?

Here are 5 smart tips from my favorite communications expert Kivi Leroux Miller on how to make her pay attention and love you even more.

1. Ask donors to do something besides give money.

One of our great rules in fundraising is “Involvement breeds investment.”infographic people who volunteer

You and I both know that involving our donors is an important goal. But how many organizations really pull this off?


  • Inviting your donors to volunteer – then they’ll experience your work in action – and everything just may change.
  • Asking your donors for feedback about your organization. (try a survey)
  • Asking your donors to take some sort of action to help the cause.


2. Use a clear call to action.

When you are inviting your donors to get involved – don’t be vague.

Ask your donors to DO SOMETHING in a clear call to action!

Ask your donors to DO SOMETHING in a clear call to action!

Kivi says that these words are not clear enough: Participate, Engage, Believe, Understand, Support, Help, Promote, Share . . .

Instead, be extra specific about what your donors can do to help.


  • Making your call to action so specific that you could take a picture of someone doing this.
  • Giving your donor step by step instructions on what to do: Get a Kit, Make a Plan, Be Informed in an Emergency.


3. Don’t bore them!

Want to know what bores your donors? Lengthy articles! Dense print. Kivi says that the days of 1000 word newsletter articles are over.

Will your donor even read your stuff?

Will your donor even read your stuff?

You and I both know that long, complex communications don’t really fly with donors. But how many people are tackling this seriously?

How many traditionally long newsletters am I seeing both in snail mail and email? Wayyyy too many!


  • Sharing short videos. (I’m really intrigued with this idea!)
  • Sending short, sweet and interesting news tidbits.
  • Breaking up your newsletter into 3 or 4 different pieces that go out at different times.
  • Sending a tiny infographic to your donor.

4. Send them snail mail in addition to emails.

Are you cutting back on your print mailings in order to save money? I’ve seen too many nonprofits who have eliminated their print newsletter so they can cut down on their expenses.

Many donors WILL read your snail mail - don't cut it out to save money!

Many donors WILL read your snail mail – don’t cut it out to save money!

We both know better – but the urge to save all those postage and printing costs is just too great! PLEASE don’t cut back too much on your print materials!


  • Many donors will read both types of communications – building up your wattage in their attention span.
  • Older donors tend to actually read print materials – and they are the ones who give the most.
  • Communicating via different media channels reinforces and amplifies your message.

5. Find the stories.

Kivi says that telling a story in a series of different communications is a wonderful way to draw your donors in and keep them interested.

We all know that humans are wired for stories – look at the success of People Magazine! I know whenever I’m giving a workshop and my audience looks tired – then I switch to telling a story and every eye in the room is riveted to me. Everyone just wants to know what happens next!


  • Finding the funny moments and sharing them with your donors.
  • Creating a “story arc” – that you spin out slowly over time. (Love love love this idea!)
  • Find clients and people you’ve helped to tell their own story.


You as a fundraiser need to get much better at how you communicate – because it’s these happy touches that will prime the donor to be ready to give again.

Fundraisers these days can NOT rely just on a strong appeal letter!! Instead you have to give your donor an entire experience via your communications.

Then you can create your pool of consistent donors who provide ongoing sustainable funding to your nonprofit. Hurray!

We all know that donor retention is where the easy money is for you, your team, and your organization.

It’s the key to sustainable fundraising for your organization. money on wings drawing
Getting current donors to renew is far, far easier than bringing in new donors.


So let’s focus here this week!

What can we do to improve donor retention and keep our donors giving, giving and giving again?

It’s really a matter of making them feel connected. And making them feel like we care about them.

No problem! We CAN do this!

These 6 steps are based on a webinar that Bloomerang CEO Jay Love shared with my Fired-Up Fundraising INSIDERS this week.

Jay and I both credit these ideas to Dr. Adrian Sargeant – the donor retention guru himself.

1. Drip feed your donors hard data about your successes  and accomplishments.

I love the concept of “Drip Feeding.”

You get the idea – drip, drip, drip.

A steady flow of reassuring information that you are doing your job and that you are accomplishing great things.

Drip feeding performance data builds your credibility.

It builds your donors’ confidence that they made a smart investment in you.

It makes your donors happy and satisfied that they are helping to make the world a better place.

Drip feed great info to your donors continuously!

Drip feed great info to your donors continuously!

Here’s how you do it:

“We reached this many parents in this amount of time.

“We fed this many kids this year. 

“We helped these many families with their ____ needs. 

2. Connect with your donors often, especially the first 90 days.

Jay Love said it was absolutely critical to be in touch the first 90 days.

That is, if you want to forge a strong relationship with your donor.

Your donor just sent you “love” via their checkbook, and they want some love and attention back.

So many typical boring newsletters just don’t cut it with donors.

Many donors don’t read your newsletters because they are simply not interesting.

Here’s how to do it. Just say:


“Join us and get involved!

“Thanks for joining the team!

3. Be personal with your donors by mailing about their specific interests.

This is all about segmenting your list.

You should be tracking your donors’ various interests and their participation with your organization.

Hopefully you and all your staff are feeding this kind of information into your donor database.

If you are not tracking this kind of detail, you might want to start.

It lets you send mailings tailored to your donor’s specific interest.

The most important word in every single letter to your donors is YOU.

The most important word in every single letter to your donors is YOU.

And that says to the donor “They know me and they care about me.”

Here’s how to do it.

“You are a parent, so here is parent information.

“You attended this concert, so here is info on these types of concerts.

“You responded to our survey so here are the survey results.

4. Develop like a good personal friendship.

Gosh, what does “friendly” look like?

And WHY is “friendly” so very difficult for many nonprofits?

It’s all about the words you choose and the tone you take.

Use contractions. Say things in a casual way.

Be approachable. Don’t be fussy, lofty or formal.

Don’t use your typical jargon or acronyms that donors just don’t understand!

Here’s how to do it.

Use “you” twice as many times as you use “we.”

Have a casual tone.

Invite them to participate often – like you would a close friend.

5. Have many different people connect with your donors.

Jay and Adrian call this “human connectors.”


Human connectors are different people who make contact with your donors.

What if the ballerina connected directly to donors?!!

What if the ballerina connected directly to donors?!!

You need many different people associated with your organization to be in touch with your donors in multiple ways.

Here’s how to do it.

“I’m a parent and wanted to tell you . . . 

“I’m a table captain and want to thank you for attending our event.

“I’m a ballerina and want to share my story.

6. Always communicate to donors what their monies are doing.

Ah, this – I think – its the most important!

Your donors are always a bit nervous about their investment in you.

More than anything, they want to know what their hard-earned money is accomplishing!

And this is easy . . . you can do this!

Hopefully you are doing it already.

Here’s how to do it.

“Your gift helped feed this many people.

“Your contribution helped bring food and shelter to this number of families.

“Your generosity supported 15 concerts around the state.

BOTTOM LINE on Donor Retention:

Whether your donors give again is almost entirely up to you and your team.

You CAN increase your donor retention!

And it can pay off with amazing financial returns!