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What is recurring giving? A guide to recurring donations

January 18, 2021
This supporter can opt in to recurring donations from her laptop so she can give monthly gifts to her favorite nonprofit organization.

Recurring giving is when a donor chooses to make regular, ongoing donations to your nonprofit organization. These consistent gifts, known as recurring donations, help your organization achieve long-term fundraising success and meet your retention goals. Like monthly subscriptions to streaming services, recurring donations can provide a sustainable and reliable revenue stream for your nonprofit. 

In this guide, we’ll look at the specific ways recurring donations can benefit your nonprofit and the tools you’ll need to implement a successful program. 

Five ways a recurring giving program can boost your fundraising results

As part of your nonprofit’s overall fundraising strategy, well-positioned recurring donation options allow you to increase both the size and volume of your overall funding. 

1. Recurring donations lead to more total donations

According to 360MatchPro’s fundraising statistics, the average recurring donor will donate 42% more money in one year than a donor who gives a one-time gift. With a strong recurring giving program, longtime supporters can easily multiply their annual donations and make a lasting impact.

2. Recurring giving programs attract new donors

According to research on nonprofit giving, donors need to feel that their donation makes a difference in order for them to continue giving. A smart monthly giving program will help you reach new segments of your audience by showing donors how much more of an impact they can make by fitting recurring donations into their monthly budgets.

For example, although Millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z) may not be ready to give larger individual gifts, the Millennial Impact Report found that 52% of Millennials are interested in monthly giving as a way to donate smaller amounts on a more frequent basis. This makes monthly giving a unique opportunity to capture the interest of new donors and raise more over time.

3. Donors who make recurring donations are more engaged

Recurring donors will often become your most engaged supporters, actively volunteering, advocating, and fundraising on your organization’s behalf. A recurring giving program offers you the opportunity to regularly communicate with these loyal supporters, keeping them engaged, updated, and inspired by your purpose.

4. Recurring giving programs have high retention rates

While new donor retention rates average less than 20%, monthly giving programs typically have retention rates of more than 80% after the first year and over 95% after year five. Ultimately, you’ll get a better return on your donor acquisition investment if you can encourage more one-time donors to become recurring donors.

5. Recurring donations increase donor lifetime value

Having more loyal donors directly equates to an increased donor lifetime value. According to fundraising expert Dr. Adrian Sargeant, a 10% improvement in your donor retention rate can result in a 200% increase in donor lifetime value. Since you only need to convert your recurring donors once—compared to having to solicit multiple, separate donations from one-time donors—your organization saves money for your marketing and programming.

Choosing the right tools to accept recurring donations online

Ready to start accepting recurring donations? The right online fundraising tools, like Bonterra Donor Engagement’s Guided Fundraising solution (formerly Network for Good), can make the recurring giving experience as easy as possible for both donors and staff. Choose a platform that includes the following features:

  • A donation page built for giving: Your online donation page must offer an easy and clear monthly giving option. Create a page dedicated to recurring giving campaigns, and add a robust monthly giving ask to your standard campaign pages.
  • A branded design: Your online giving experience should look and feel like your nonprofit’s website and campaign materials. Having a professional and familiar design will help your donors trust your donation page–making them more likely to give.
  • Easy follow-up and administrative functions: Your online donation platform should automatically send receipts and thank-you messages for each donation. It should also allow donors to easily update their payment information so they can continue giving seamlessly.
  • Customizable options: Your online donation page should allow you to provide suggested donation amounts and add impact labels to reinforce what a monthly donation can do.
  • Reports and tracking: Your online giving system should offer real-time reporting of gifts and allow you to track monthly donors over time.
  • A clean and clear website: Make sure to include details about recurring donations and why they matter on your key website pages, including your “Why Give” page, your home page, and pages that highlight donor impact.
  • Email marketing: Use a reputable email marketing tool that will allow you to segment your email list and tailor your messages for monthly donors and recurring giving campaigns.

Before launching your recurring donation program, make sure you have these tools in place and ready to go. We recommend using an all-in-one solution that allows you to run your entire recurring gift program from a single dashboard. 

Put recurring giving tools to use

Once you have the tools to get started, create detailed fundraising and marketing plans for your recurring giving program. Use these additional resources to optimize your plan to find and capture recurring donations: 

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