In my 17 years of working I have had many different jobs and many different levels of pay. One thing has remained the same: the day before I get paid I have nothing left in my bank account.
The day I get paid I pay off a chunk of my credit card, pay any debts, and put some money in savings if I think I can afford it. And then a whole bunch of companies start to pillage my account. The Direct Debit and Standing Order Mafia start pulling everything they can out of my account over the course of the month: my electricity, my gas, my mortgage, insurance, pension, some weird stuff, and then…8 lovely charities.
There’s no system. Little logic. Just the Bank Account Fairy making sure I finish on zero every month. But sometimes she messes up. Usually in January or if something breaks in my house or if Paul Theroux comes out with a new book or I get engaged or for a whole bunch of reasons. That’s when Direct Debits start bouncing. And the later it is in the month, the higher they bounce.
That’s why you need to be the first direct debit coming out of your supporter’s account.
Most people in Ireland get paid in the last week of the month. And that’s why the level of unpaids and attrition is lowest for charities that debit at the very beginning of the month.
But not everyone gets paid in the last week, and that’s why you need to be able to debit any and every day of the month. And you need to get away from asking people what date they want to get debited (people are illogical) and instead ask them what date they get paid. And if someone’s debit bounces you need to check in with them and make sure they haven’t changed jobs and changed the date that they get paid.
I know what you’re going to say: “We can’t afford to debit every day of the month.”
And I would say, “You can’t afford NOT to debit every day of the month.”
If you can reduce your unpaids and your attrition even by the tiniest of amounts (and you will) then it is worth paying someone to process these debits every day of the month. Think how much you’re spending on recruitment of new donors. Think how much you’re paying Irish banks for an ‘unpaid’. Think of the energy you are putting in to retention.
Instead, make your finance people process the direct debits every day of the month.
If they refuse then make your CEO make your finance people process the direct debits every day of the month.
If they still refuse then offer to pay them cold, hard cash.
If they still refuse then hire someone part-time to process the direct debits every day of the month or outsource to an agency or do it yourself.
Your unpaids will reduce. You will increase your income.
You will be fundraising. Secretly.