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When can we ask monthly donors for special one-time gifts (and to upgrade)?


Dear Kim,

Our organization has been having discussions about whether and how we can approach monthly donors, particularly those who are already giving $100+ per month, to discuss an extra single gift or an increased monthly gift. When speaking with high-end monthly donors about a special gift, some have responded strongly that, “I have done the math in my budgeting and this is the most I am able to donate. It pisses me off when charities ask for more,” while others have responded by making very large single gifts, and increasing their monthly gifts voluntarily. We are looking to develop a protocol about this so our development team has some guidance. Do you have any advice?

~When Is Enough Enough?

Dear W.E.E.,

We love all our donors, but our monthly donors do occupy a special place in our hearts and our budgets. A strong monthly donor program will often keep an organization out of cash flow binds, and their faithfulness can enable more long-term planning. Further, these programs allow people to make gifts that reflect how much they really care about the organization by allowing them to pay every month. But many organizations find that their monthly donors present the two dilemmas you mention: Can you ask them for additional gifts, and when do you ask them to increase their monthly donation? In theory, this problem is rather easily solved. Make this your baseline protocol: Donors are asked to increase their giving every two or three years, and all donors are invited to make extra gifts for special needs a few times a year. Then look for exceptions. Take Fred Donor for example. He gives every time you ask him. He loves your organization, but he also loves the interaction. Fred is above the baseline. Mabel Donor, on the other hand, has told you her monthly gift is all she can give. You realize, either because she actually tells you or common sense prevails, that if you ask for more, you risk losing it all. She is below the baseline. José Donor gives monthly but loves big campaigns. You ask him for very large gifts for big campaigns every two or three years.

~Kim Klein


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