This blog post was also published in Direct Marketing Advents, the publication of the Direct Marketing Association of Washington, DMAW.

If you’ve seen or heard me present about monthly giving before, you know that I always recommend the following first step of running a monthly giving program: Put one person in charge!

(Note, If you’re a large organization, the above guideline could be expanded to: put ONE department in charge, but it will make life easier if you put one person within that department in charge anyway).

This may sound like a strange recommendation, but there’s a really important reason for it. If you don’t have one person in charge, things start falling through the cracks!

I’ve personally managed several big monthly donor programs and I’ve reviewed numerous other size programs and every time, I find that the number one reason why the program is not growing (and in some cases even decreasing) is because nobody is in charge of it.

Monthly donors probably touch most other programs in you organization. For example, if you’d like to send a special branded appeal to your monthly donors, this impacts the appeals department.

If you’d like to run an on line monthly giving campaign, you’ll impact the online/digital department and your communications department. If you’re trying to add new campaigns in the mail or via the phone, you’ll need to make sure it fits in the overall communication schedule, so you may impact the appeals, the IT and data-entry folks and perhaps your outsourced agency and production folks.

If you need to check on trends in your monthly donors and especially in monthly donor declines, you may have to get with your database vendor partner, Finance and IT department and ensure they start creating and feeding you the information you need.

In short, your monthly donor program is very dependent on others in your organization.

So, it’s important that one person ‘steers the monthly giving ship’ to keep it straight and moving forward. This does not mean you have to do everything yourself, by no means, but one person must be in charge and connect all of the dots. Because most other departments are concerned about their own work and campaigns. And they may think they’re doing the right thing. but if nobody is really in charge, there’s no clarity of what needs to happen when.

Often, others may not see the tremendous revenue monthly donors generate. Having one person in charge allows you to not only provide clarity, but also enables you to do ‘promote’ your monthly giving program internally.

Show on a regular basis what the value is of these monthly donors and people will be blown away! Ah, now, other departments are seeing why they have to create that new code, why they have to pay attention to the new forms being used, etc. etc. Because it’s part of the bigger and very powerful picture.

Start by presenting the revenue of everything you do on an annualized basis . And if you just keep doing tha,  people will start seeing the importance of this ‘small donor’ program. Don’t just think net in the short term ,but present this as a net revenue program in the long term. (And yes, believe me, I’ve personally had numerous discussions about sacrificing short term campaigns for long term monthly donor campaigns, but it’s important to keep having these conversations, because monthly giving revenue will help your organization in such a major way!)

Now, we all know that there’s a lot of turnover within organizations, people coming and going, so having the one person in charge can be a challenge. That’s why it’s also really crucial to create clear documentation on processes and who does what.

I recommend: Create a process flow chart

It does not have to be the next Pablo Picasso or Vincent van Gogh, but rather, a simple listing or flow chart that shows at least the following:

  • What is the process when a new monthly donor comes in, online, via direct mail, via telemarketing, other media if you use them. What do new monthly donors receive when they join?
  • What types of monthly donors are you accepting? Credit/debit card, EFT/ACH, check reminders, electronic banking?
  • What is the coding used for each type of the above?
  • Who tracks monthly donors whose cards decline or change? What is the process to keep or reactivate them?

This sounds rather obvious, but you’ll be amazed at the things you’ll find when you start documenting this for the first time. It requires you to ask questions of the departments in charge of parts of these processes and it will also clarify things a lot for new people joining in all of these departments.

And, especially if you outsource parts of your activities, it becomes even more crucial to have a clear overview of the processes so everybody is going in the same direction… GROWING YOUR MONTHLY DONOR PROGRAM.

And, if you need help creating this flow chart or if you’d like me to review your program, just contact me at or via (508) 776 1224.

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