Guides & Resources

Building a Recurring Giving Program: 4 Steps for Nonprofits

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As a nonprofit professional, you know that community support is critical to furthering your mission. Your supporters spread awareness of your cause, volunteer their time, attend your events, and, most importantly, provide the majority of your organization’s funding through donations. Naturally, you need a plan for keeping your supporters engaged over time.

At the same time, your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts are most effective when they’re sustainable. Especially during challenging times like periods of economic turbulence, bringing in reliable funding puts your organization in a stronger financial position and allows you to continue running all of your programs.

Creating a dedicated program for recurring giving addresses both of these issues, whether you’re battling low supporter engagement or financial uncertainty. Supporters who join will stay involved with your organization, and you’ll be able to rely on their donations for financial support. In this guide, we’ll walk through the following four steps to build your nonprofit’s recurring giving program:

  1. Leverage your CRM data.
  2. Optimize your online donation form.
  3. Market monthly giving.
  4. Thank your recurring donors.

Recurring donations can be made at any interval (such as annually or quarterly), but these programs tend to be most successful when organizations ask donors to give monthly. Nonprofit fundraising is typically at its highest at the end of the calendar year and at its lowest in the summer. Bringing in monthly donations helps your organization budget more effectively and cover essential costs no matter what month it is. Let’s get started!

1. Leverage your CRM data.

A successful recurring giving program starts with a data-driven strategy. Your nonprofit’s constituent relationship management (CRM) software is an essential tool for developing your plan because you can use donor data to figure out who among your donors would be the best recurring giving candidates and how much you should request each month.

To find potential recurring donors in your database, look for individuals who donate significant amounts on a semi-regular basis. Let’s say one of your supporters has given $100 once a year for the past three years. They may be receptive if you ask them to give $10 each month instead, as you’re only asking for an extra $20 each year and they can give more conveniently through a monthly giving program.

Send these candidates a survey to gauge their interest and see what they would want from a monthly giving program using the contact information stored in your CRM. You can then use their feedback to determine what donation amounts would be reasonable to ask for each month. Then, create a plan that lays out the goals of your recurring giving program, what amounts you’ll request and why, and your donor conversion strategy.

2. Optimize your online donation page.

Once you’ve created a plan for your monthly giving program, you’ll need to enable the ability to make automatic recurring gifts through your online donation page. To optimize the form for recurring gifts, try these tips:

  • Brand the page to your organization. Including your nonprofit’s logo, color scheme, and mission statement on your donation page builds trust by reassuring donors that their monthly contributions will go to your cause.
  • Offer suggested giving amounts. Determine these amounts based on the data-driven strategy you created in the previous step. To strengthen the connection between donation and your mission, list some concrete ways each amount could make a difference. For example, an environmental nonprofit could frame their suggested donation amounts in terms of how many trees they could plant per month.
  • Use a secure payment processor. Considering that your organization will receive automatic donations via donors’ credit cards and bank accounts, their data needs to be protected. A PCI-certified payment processor will keep donors’ information safer than any other type.

CharityEngine’s page on recurring donations points out that your organization can save time if you don’t have to bill your recurring donors individually. Plus, donors will be more likely to join the program if they can automate their donations instead of having to remember to give each month.

3. Market monthly giving.

To motivate your donors to make recurring gifts, you’ll need to spread the word about your monthly giving program. Reaching out through multiple nonprofit marketing channels allows as many supporters as possible to learn about your program and set up their gift through your optimized online donation page.

Consider creating content about monthly giving for the following platforms:

Once donors start signing up for recurring giving, reach out to them to ask if they would be willing to give short testimonials about why they chose to set up a monthly donation and what your organization’s mission means to them. You can then include these firsthand perspectives in your marketing materials in different formats, such as embedded videos in emails or pullout quotes in direct mail messages, to encourage more donors to join the program.

4. Thank your recurring donors.

Getting donors to set up recurring gifts is only the beginning of the process. You’ll still need to develop strategies to retain your monthly donors, so they continue to be part of the program. These supporters are more likely to continue giving if they feel like your organization appreciates them, so you’ll want to thank your monthly donors in multiple ways.

You can easily set up your donation form to send out an automatic thank-you message each time your nonprofit receives a recurring gift. Personalize this message by addressing the donor by name, and show that your organization values their gift by mentioning some concrete ways their contribution will further your mission.

To show your recurring donors how important they are to your nonprofit, you can also send them a special message each year—preferably handwritten by your staff, board members, or volunteers. Offering additional perks as part of your monthly giving program, such as priority event access or free merchandise branded to your organization, can also encourage recurring donors to continue giving.

Building a recurring giving program requires a data-driven approach at every step, from leveraging donor data in the planning process to tracking conversion rates for each marketing platform you use. Following the four steps in this guide takes time, but the benefits you can receive from improved donor retention and financial sustainability will make it worthwhile.

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