Start with:

● 1 or 2 limes, juiced.

● 2 shots of Tequila,

● 1 shot of Triple Sec

Mix with LOTS of ice. Rub the leftover lime peel over the rim of the glass, and dip it into a bowl of salt. Strain the ice as you pour the drink into the salt-rimmed glass. Find a comfortable chair, settle in and have a sip amigo. Mmmm.

That’s the “classic” recipe for a margarita, but you may have altered it. Perhaps you don’t like salt on your glass and left it off. Others crush the ice in a blender and make it slushy. Perhaps you don’t care for tequila right now and opted for a glass of wine or a cup of tea. You might even be thinking that indulging in a margarita and reading a fundraising article don’t even go together.

Regular Giving’s Secret Recipe

Nevertheless, when I look at the world’s most successful monthly giving programs, I often think of “Margarita Ville”. In particular, the “child sponsorship” recipe served up by groups like World Vision, UNICEF, Save the Children, and others. A bit like browsing a cocktail menu, you can select the country you want to help, select a child to sponsor, or choose to fund specific project areas, like education or health care. Children send you postcards, letters and photos.

It’s a concoction that works great. Hundreds of thousands of monthly donors sign up at $30, $40, sometimes $50 a month. They respond by television, radio, press advertising, online, direct mail, telemarketing, face-to-face and all sorts of other ways. Definitely my kind of party…

A few years ago, we successfully adapted this model for Seeing Eye Dogs Australia. We matched donors up with adorable Labrador puppies in training to become seeing eye dogs. Puppy sponsors get cute-as pictures (plus a picture frame), letters “written” by their dog, and even an open day when they can visit the dog they are sponsoring.

Leigh Garwood, Seeing Eye Dogs Australia’s General Manager, told us: “In just over 3 years, we grew an existing donor base of 750 regular givers to nearly 7,000, thereby creating a vital source of long-term recurrent income for the organisation”.

The Smith Family’s monthly giving program is another exceptional adaptation of the child sponsorship model for disadvantaged children here in Australia. When you sign up, you’re giving an Aussie child his or her fair go in life. Hard to knock that back matey.

The Taronga Zoo’s Zoo Parent program is worth taking a closer look at too. You can adopt something traditional like an elephant or a gorilla, something exotic like a binturong, a bongo, or choose something uniquely appealing to you from the heaps of other animals on their list. You can also visit the animal you’ve adopted any daythey’re on display.

Missing Ingredients

But what if you don’t have poor children or cute animals to match donors up with? For a lot of charities, their mission is not suited to this highly productised form of marketing a monthly donation scheme. It’s just too much to swallow.

Amnesty International Australia’s monthly givers, ‘Human Rights Defenders’ are an interesting case in point. Supporters are often asked to take online actions or send letters and emails to governments, ministers and ambassadors on a wide range of subjects such as the release of political prisoners or calling for a human rights act. But it’s not unique to their Human Rights Defenders. Amnesty wants all their supporters to do that.

Mix and Match 

You can also improve the financial performance of your monthly giving program with good old fashioned testing, tinkering, and trial by error. Start by deconstructing the whole concept of a “cash ask” and a “monthly ask”, and then re-mix them together until you find a combination that works better for you. Experiment with:

Testing the monthly giving amount – not everyone can acquire donors at $50 a month like World Vision does, god bless ‘em. Nevertheless, a “measly” $15 a month donor is still worth $180 per year. Even when you factor in attrition, it’s still a lot more money than a typical cash gift of around $40. Do some tests and weigh up the trade offs.

Asking for a Monthly Gift and Cash – give donors the option. The cash contributions subsidise the cost of the monthly donors. Test the asking strings of both asks. How much you ask for per month can affect the cash response rate, and vice versa.

Developing a strong Conversion to Regular Giving program – Not every charity can acquire monthly donors on the very first ask. Many programs are more geared to cash giving, by the nature of their work. The Red Cross is a great example. Consider developing a strong conversion to regular giving program, using telemarketing, direct mail, email and other methods. Experiment and find the right combination for you.

There are many ways you can mix yourself a successful regular giving program. Be true to yourself first and foremost. Don’t blindly ape the competition or try to be something you’re not. Find the way that works best for you. Create your very own special recipe!