Skip to content
We are now Bonterra

How to turn one-time gifts into recurring ones using letters

January 09, 2021
A group of nonprofit staff members write letters to turn one-time gifts into recurring donations.

Your one-time donors give because they care about your nonprofit organization’s purpose and want to be part of your impact. But life is busy, so supporters may forget about your organization and the important work you’re doing. 

Only 20% of first-time donors give a second time. This level of attrition is usually unsustainable, leading to burnout from staff and loyal supporters trying to attract new donors. Fortunately, there’s a simple way to convert one-time donors into monthly supporters through a recurring donation club. 

When supporters sign up to give recurring donations, they know they can expect regular communications from you and they don’t have to worry about sending a check each month. In this guide, we’ll walk through how to write a compelling letter to solicit recurring donations and retain donors for the long haul. Let’s get started!

Recurring donation letter essentials 

While your recurring donation request letters should be customized to fit your nonprofit, there are two core aspects every nonprofit must consider when creating their letters. These include:


Donors should be able to immediately recognize that your appeal letter came from your nonprofit. An original appeal that aligns with your nonprofit’s identity will be more genuine and persuasive than a generic request. Work with your team to develop a unique voice for your recurring donation letter that represents your purpose and values.

Here are some elements of a strong appeal:  

  • Active voice
  • Clickable calls to action leading to your donation page 
  • Straightforward and emotional diction
  • Images of beneficiaries
  • Your nonprofit’s visual branding
  • Testimonials/donor stories
  • A brief summary of your recurring donation program
  • Specific data on how recurring gifts would support your organization
  • A message signed by the president or the development director

Ultimately, it’s important to tie together these different components to showcase your nonprofit's unique identity. 


Beyond the actual content of your letter, there are several logistics that are important to determine ahead of time. Your team should:

  • Segment your audience based on your analytics. Your supporters are more likely to read and respond to your letter if they can relate to its content. You might choose to segment your letters based on age, preferred mode of contact, or time spent supporting your organization.
  • Determine your communication frequency. If you send too many letters, you might overwhelm your audience. But if you don’t send enough, you may not inspire enough readers to take action. Determine the right frequency to send your appeals (which should probably be biweekly or once a month).
  • Change up your appeal. Inform your audience of new events and other updates to keep them interested in what you have to say. Try to create a new appeal letter every time to ensure that your donors keep reading your messages.
  • Alternate who the letters are from. They could be from leadership, development officers, or beneficiaries themselves.

Even if you have the most persuasive appeal ever written, you’ll need an optimized delivery process to set it up for success. After all, your audience won’t be able to join your program if they don’t see the letter! Adhere to these phases to make the delivery process as streamlined as possible. 

Recurring donation email template  

One of the easiest ways to get first-time donors to sign up for your recurring donation club is to follow up with an email inviting them to the program. This email should be personalized, reminding donors why they gave the first time. It should also clearly communicate what they’ll receive as part of the club and how the upgrade will impact your organization. 

Here’s a customizable email template that you can use to solicit the recurring support of new or one-time donors:

Subject line: [Beneficiary’s Name] says thank you!

Hi [First Name],

Thank you for your support of [beneficiaries].

Thanks to your generosity, [One beneficiary’s success story].

Your support has already had an impact on [beneficiary] and others like them. But the reality is, [two or three sentences explaining statistics that represent the bigger problem].

Today, you can make your valuable support go even further by joining the [Recurring Donation Club Name]—a monthly giving program that [explain main purpose]. Your ongoing monthly support will:

  • [action verb + beneficiaries]
  • [action verb + beneficiaries]
  • [action verb + beneficiaries]

That’s why I’m inviting you to join our [Recurring Donation Club Name]. You can easily sign up online [link here] to make an impact without ever worrying about writing another check! Become a [Recurring Donation Club Name] member today and you’ll enjoy:

  • The knowledge that your donation is put to work immediately.
  • Monthly newsletters on the difference your gifts are making.
  • Hassle-free automatic monthly donations.
  • The ability to change or suspend your donations at any time.
  • Complete statements provided for tax purposes.
  • The joy of knowing that you’re improving someone’s life.

With just [$ amount] a month, you can [impact of donation] and experience the fulfillment of changing a life. 

Thanks for all you do,

[Name of Founder/ED/Board Chair]

P.S. Your monthly donation of [$ amount] will go to work immediately to [impact of donation]. Visit [website] to become a member today. Thanks in advance!

Let’s break this letter down further and highlight some of its most effective components. 

Primarily, it puts the reader first. For instance, it explains how the reader can personally make a difference instead of just vaguely referencing data. It also references specific beneficiaries and provides space to explain their stories, adding a layer of personalization and empathy to the letter. Ultimately, the best appeals will be tailor-made to the reader and make them feel like a changemaker for your cause.

Leveling up your recurring donation email campaign

To level up your recurring donation program, consider creating advantages to joining. Offer members perks such as exclusive event invitations and branded merchandise. Then, leverage your letters to promote this club and facilitate the signup process with a link to your donation page. Including benefits makes giving convenient, meaningful, and fun for your donors. And by receiving your messages, they’ll never forget how important your cause is!

Ready to Get Started?

    Guided Fundraising
  • Nonprofits
  • Digital communications & marketing