A colleague consultant asked me this question last week, and I was discussing this very same thing with another organization myself. Great timing!

A nonprofit in the process of launching its monthly donor program has its annual gala coming up this spring. It’s a fancy event—heavy hors d’oeuvres, silent and live auction, including a “fund-a-need” focused on something they need for their program. Donors typically pay $100 to $150 for a ticket to attend. Usually this is the event where you’re looking for “people who can show you the money.”

Should you ask for monthly gifts at this event? The answer: not directly.

Typically, the ask for money where everybody can participate happens during the fund-a-need. The auctioneer starts with the highest amount they can get away with, and then keeps going down and more and more hands go up in the air. In my experience, most stop at the $50 giving level, but some of you may go down to $25.

Then the question is: How do you receive the fund-a-need donations? That’s where the monthly giving option can come into play.

If you have bid numbers and the fund-a-need donations are checked out by bid number when donors leave the event, that’s that.

What you can do then is a follow-up invitation to join your monthly donor program in a month or so after they’ve received the event thank-you letter, and you’ve told them how their gift has made a difference.

However, if your fund-a-need check-out happens by having pledge cards at each table and volunteers going around picking up those donations, there is a monthly donor ask opportunity!

You’d ask your donors to fill out the amount they just “promised” in the fund-a-need and include a monthly donation option on the pledge card. Just take a look at the below example. Some may feel so moved that they’ll sign up to give monthly, then you’ll have everything you need to get started.

Also, if your event is more informal and the entry fee is lower (say, a picnic, music event or a gathering where you expect donors who cannot afford to write the big checks), you could consider a monthly donor ask.

Have a client tell their story followed by a monthly donor who tells the audience how they feel about making a difference to the organization in this way. Or you could show a video showing a monthly donor who explains how it works. Then ask your donors to fill out a pledge card and collect them and you may be pleasantly surprised.

In other words, your target group and check-out process drive the monthly donor ask.

If your donors can write the big checks, ask for the big checks and reserve your monthly donor ask for those occasions where you meet donors who want to help, but can’t write the big checks (yet). Everybody wins.

By the way, if you haven’t yet sent out your tax letter to your existing monthly donors, you have a few more days left. Just check out this post.

First posted on NonProfitPRO Today on January 29, 2018.