Encourage Recurring Giving: 3 Simple Digital Strategies

The average recurring donor gives an astounding 42% more per year than one-time donors. In other words, if your organization isn’t actively offering and promoting recurring donations, you’re likely missing out on a decent portion of potential revenue.

These programs are widely adopted across the nonprofit sector as part of organizations’ regular fundraising efforts, because they provide a consistent, predictable source of income while also helping donors feel like they’re making a positive impact. When implemented effectively, recurring gifts have the potential to increase supporter engagement and multiply your earnings. That way, you can invest even more into your mission than you already do.

So how can you best share this valuable giving opportunity? Get recurring gift options in front of your donors where they already spend most of their time: online!

Shifting to online fundraising tactics allows you to easily develop your program and reach a wider pool of donors. Plus, there are plenty of tools available to simplify the management of recurring giving.

Here at Donately, we’ve helped thousands of organizations take charge of their digital fundraising and grow their revenue. Over the years, we’ve worked to optimize the recurring giving process for nonprofits, and we’re confident that we fully understand how to make these programs stand out. Based on this firsthand experience, we’ve created a quick guide to help organizations build out their programs. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Prioritize the donor experience.
  2. Actively promote your recurring gift program.
  3. Segment communications for recurring donors.

Whether your organization promotes literacy, shelters animals, or impacts another worthy cause, recurring donations have the power to increase your funds so long as you take a smart approach to optimizing your program. Let’s dive in!


1. Prioritize the donor experience.

One of the core benefits of a recurring gift program is that it makes supporting your cause easy for donors. Not to mention, these programs are incredibly simple for nonprofits to manage, and by going a few steps further, you can capitalize on those benefits even more.

The more convenient and enjoyable it is to give on a regular basis, the more likely it is for donors to opt-in. So that you can capture and retain consistent support, let’s walk through a couple of ways that you can prioritize the donor experience with recurring gifts:

  • Allow donors to manage their own plans. Rather than reaching out to your team to make the updates, donors should be able to easily adjust their own plan’s details. Enable each one to log into their account and adjust their payment information, donation amount, and giving frequency. As best explained in Donately’s online fundraising guide, “the level of control donors receive for adjusting their plans creates a sense of trust since they can stop donations at any point. This way, they’ll be comfortable in their decision to…connect with your team for the long term.”
  • Make donor participation easy with technology. One of the most convenient parts of today’s digital landscape is that technology can do the heavy lifting, freeing up donors’ time. Allow donors to easily opt into your program when filling out your donation form. Then, let technology handle the rest by automatically billing donors on a regular basis based on their preferences.

If donors find it difficult to opt-in or are afraid they won’t have control over their giving, they may avoid joining your recurring gift program altogether. Make sure your fundraising tools support these options with recurring billing and by allowing donors to adjust their own plans. Otherwise, it’ll be a rocky process for both your donors and your fundraising team.


2. Actively promote your recurring gift program.

Once you’ve built out a convenient program, you’ll need to promote it across various outreach outlets to spread awareness. After all, you can’t expect donors to opt-in if they’re unaware that the recurring gift option exists.

Marketing your program online allows you to reach a much wider audience than traditional outlets, especially when used strategically. According to AccuData’s digital marketing guide:

“Digital marketing works best as a multichannel outreach strategy. A marketer going digital should discover the digital channels (ex: social media, email, digital advertisements) that appeal most to their desired audience and use a combination of those channels to reach that audience.”

To capture as many prospects’ attention as possible, build out your multichannel marketing strategy for your recurring gift program platforms such as:

  • Social media. Chances are, your nonprofit has already developed a social media presence, providing a fantastic way to connect with supporters. Make the most of these platforms by sharing posts that promote recurring gifts. For example, you could share an anecdote about one of your existing recurring donors and the impact they’ve had on your work. This is an effective way to help prospects visualize their impact.
  • In recent years, email marketing was responsible for 28% of all fundraising revenue. Incorporate email strategies into your program by featuring recurring donations in your regular newsletters and other email outreach. Members of your fundraising team may even include a line about recurring gifts in their email signatures. That way, they don’t have to think twice about it.
  • Your donation page. Your donation form is prime real estate for promoting recurring donations. Directly on your form, provide an easy-to-select checkbox alongside the donation amount field that allows donors to opt-in. All donors will have to do is select it as they submit a donation. Take a look at the example below to see how you can easily incorporate the option!

recurring giving, nonprofit fundraising

There are plenty of other outlets you can also use to promote recurring donations, from text messages to on-site content like blog posts. These three tend to make up the foundation of marketing strategies for the majority of nonprofits. However, the other outreach platforms you choose are highly dependent on your intended audience.

As more donors sign up for recurring donations, pay attention to which marketing platforms yield positive results and which don’t quite capture as many recurring donors as you’d like. That way, you can invest even more time into the platforms that seem to appeal to the most prospects and optimize the lower performing ones for better results.

Just be sure to define your program’s value proposition before reaching out. In other words, ask yourself, “Why should someone become a recurring donor?” Define the exact benefits prospects should expect out of participation, like improving a specific program. Use these as the core of your messages, and you’ll produce much more effective outreach that gains traction.


3. Segment communications for recurring donors.

While promotion is certainly a key part of your outreach strategy, consider how you’ll remain connected once people opt into the program. Your main goal with recurring donors is to nurture those relationships so that they stick around for the long-haul. Targeted communication is the key to connecting with these individuals on a deeper level and retaining their support, and the easiest way to create personalized messages is by segmenting your outreach.

Simply put, segmentation involves separating constituents into meaningful groups based on common characteristics, such as giving history, contact preferences, and so on.

Start by placing recurring donors on a separate email list with help from your nonprofit software. The primary goal here is to send them only the messages that pertain to them. Otherwise, you may ask someone to join your recurring gift program when they’ve already opted into monthly donations. Not only is this a waste of your team’s time — it may also irritate the donor by painting the picture that you don’t pay attention to their giving. This mistake sounds like a no-brainer, but it happens!

Further, keep in mind that while you certainly can ask recurring donors for one-time gifts, save that for major or one-of-a-kind campaigns. Soliciting one-time donations from your recurring donors on a regular basis can come across as ungrateful. Segmentation can save you from these awkward encounters.

As fundraisers continue navigating the pandemic, recurring donations present an incredible revenue opportunity for organizations. You just have to build out an effective program that prioritizes the donor experience and makes participating an enjoyable experience. Then, you can establish a foolproof outreach plan for getting people on-board and then communicating regularly once they decide to participate.

By taking the time to establish an effective program upfront, you can effectively gain traction and secure long-term support right away. Now that you understand a few fundamental strategies, go take your recurring gift program to the next level. Good luck!