Gift Type Parity: An Emerging Best Practice for 2014

Bob Dylan said it best, The Times They Are a-Changin’.

Nearly one week away from the 40th anniversary since the album was released*, and Dylan is on my mind. But what does Dylan’s changin’ times have to do with gift type parity?

Recurring giving grew by 27% in 2013, becoming a preferred way for donors to engage with organizations online. Despite this growth, many organizations fail to create an equal playing field for the recurring giving gift type on their donation forms.

I certainly understand the benefits of single gifts, and desire to acquire a greater number of higher, one-time gifts from your general donation form, but this may be a missed opportunity for your organization if the objective is to grow your recurring giving program in 2014.

What do I mean by gift type parity?

First, look at your general donation form to determine how the one-time gift type is positioned in context to the recurring giving ask. Does your organization put greater value on a one-time or a recurring gift? What is the lead-ask? Your lead-ask is critical to informing donors what is most important to your organization, one-time or recurring gift.

If your organization adopted the best practice to date, the gift array will contain donation amounts that are followed by a recurring giving check box. See example below.


This is a solid best practice, but even the best of best practices deserves to be put to the test. As my team knows best, determining nonprofit best practices is an iterative process. And even though what is deemed a *best practice* should always be tested by your organization, I sense the recurring giving check box (example above) is on track to becoming obsolete.

Not only does the growth of recurring giving programs signal a change in times, but the adoption of the gift type by donors is evident in all facets of online payment systems (e.g. automatic bank payments). Furthermore, the 2013 Next Generation of American Giving report found that the greatest participation in recurring giving is baby boomers: two-in-ten Boomers are involved in a monthly giving program with a charity – more than any other generation (note: baby boomers are expected to make the greatest contribution to American giving, 43%).

If the recurring ask check box is the incumbent best practice, what is the challenger?

Answer: greater balance of gift types on the general donation form. Instead of positioning the one-time gift type above the recurring ask, thus potentially devaluing the importance of recurring giving, the one-time ask and the recurring giving ask have equal footing on the donation form to allow the donor to choose which means of support is more favorable. A few examples below.


*The Times They Are a-Changin’ is the third studio album by Bob Dylan, released on January 13, 1964.