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Recurring donations are one of the most impactful things you can do to raise more support for your nonprofit. Recurring giving is an incredibly successful fundraising tool, and your nonprofit can benefit greatly from the money raised through recurring donations as well as the deeper relationships you’ll build with your donors and community.
Recurring giving programs, often centered around monthly giving, are a popular tool to build deeper relationships with your donors and raise more money for your nonprofit. It’s a simple way to let your donors support you in the way they would like to while also staying top-of-mind for your supporters throughout the year.
Being able to rely on a steady stream of giving from your recurring donors can be a lifeline for many nonprofits, especially smaller nonprofits. Recurring donations mean consistent money coming in, month after month. For nonprofits that experience a big seasonal swing in donations, having some consistency to your fundraising can help financially and can allow you to prioritize fundraising during the seasons with the most giving. For many nonprofits, the summer is a difficult time to raise money—recurring giving can help solve this.
Donors who set up recurring giving or monthly giving are more likely to keep donating to your nonprofit long-term. They are likely to increase their giving as time goes on, moving from a low- or mid-level donor to a high-level donor over the years. Each time a donor gives another donation or keeps their monthly donation active for another month, they are building a deeper connection to your nonprofit and the work you do. Recurring donors consistently have a higher lifetime value for your organization.
Keeping an existing donor or moving them to become a recurring donor is much more cost-effective than acquiring a new donor. Monthly donors have very low maintenance costs in terms of fundraising outreach like direct mail or email and can bring in significant amounts of money with low overhead. Many will even set up their monthly donation through ACH or direct deposit, which can help your nonprofit save money on processing fees—just make sure you have a tool like DonationXchange & iBid Mobile Auction Software that is set up to accept those kinds of donations.
Monthly donors are some of your most faithful supporters. When someone decides to set up an automatic, recurring gift, they believe deeply in the mission of your organization. By creating a recurring donor program and intentionally connecting with these supporters, you will identify and nurture some of the strongest donor relationships your nonprofit will have. Recurring donors are often a great place to look for new board members, volunteers, and other opportunities for them to engage more deeply.
When you start a recurring donor program, it’s important to set some goals to let your organization measure the success of the program. This can also help you keep track of the trajectory of your program, if it is growing, and notice any trends about who is joining and staying in your monthly donor program.
The total number of recurring donors your nonprofit has is a great metric to track since it can help you see the growth of your program. Any donor you sign up for a monthly giving program is a win, even if it’s for a small amount. Set an ambitious goal of recurring donors for your program and do some targeted outreach to current donors who may be a good fit.
The power of suggestion is important when it comes to fundraising. When you suggest a few recurring donation amounts, you can help set your program up for success. Tracking the average amount of your recurring donations is a great way to see how engaged your donors are and what return on investment your recurring donation program achieves. You can use this number to see the total impact your recurring donation program can have.
Once you have a group of recurring donors, an important stat to track over time is how many of your donors upgrade to a higher level of monthly giving. Recurring donors that increase the amount they give are demonstrating a deep belief in your organization and cause as well as a positive reaction to the donor stewardship efforts you are engaging in. You should aim to upgrade donors each year in your recurring donor program as this can grow the impact of the program and deepen your relationship with this important group.
How to Start a Recurring Donation Program
Launching a new recurring donation program can feel intimidating, but with a little planning, you can find the right donors for a monthly giving campaign. With all the benefits recurring donation programs offer, it’s an important step for your nonprofit to take to grow your fundraising and deepen your relationships with your donors.
When launching a recurring donor program, take a look at your donor database. Who are some donors that could be more engaged? You’re typically going to look for donors who have given a handful of gifts in the last year, regardless of the amount. Mid-level donors who have given even one gift a few years in a row can also be a good group to connect with, as this shows a longer-term commitment to the cause. Some of your high-level donors may be worth reaching out to if you have noticed an interest in being more engaged. In general, this is an offer you want to make to donors who have started to engage but have so far held back fully committing to the organization.
After you’ve put together the list of donors to reach out to for your recurring donation program, it’s important to think through what you will offer. Any successful recurring donation program should be more than just a fundraising tactic. Invite your recurring donors to be a part of your organization in unique ways, giving them chances to interact behind-the-scenes or connect with your leaders. This can include:
By creating a special group for your recurring donors, you’ll help them feel special and important to your organization. It’s one more way to deepen your connection with this faithful group of donors, which often helps increase the retention and chances of upgrading donors in the long run.
Starting a recurring donation program is bigger than a single launch day. You’ll need to plan out how your recurring donation program fits into your fundraising plan throughout the year. Is there a certain time each year you’ll reach out to a select group of donors to invite them to join? By integrating your monthly giving program into the rest of your fundraising plan, you can avoid accidentally asking your recurring donors for more money when it doesn’t make sense and you can set your organization up for success.
How to Grow Your Recurring Donation Program
Starting a recurring donation program is a big step, but it’s also important to make a plan to grow your recurring donation program over time. Monthly giving programs can be an incredible support for your organization, so having a strategy to build a bigger and more robust program will have a long-term payout for your nonprofit.
One important component of your monthly giving program strategy should be an upgrade component. You’ll want to ask your recurring donors to increase the size of their gift as this can drastically increase the amount of funding generated by your recurring donation program. Aim to ask your monthly donors to increase their donation once per year, with the option of an additional ask if it’s tied to a significant event or project.
When you’re engaging your recurring donors through special events like Lunch with the President, give them the option to invite a friend or guest. They’ll enjoy the chance to bring along someone they know to show them the cause they care about and you’ll get the chance to have a personal interaction with a potential additional donor. Their guest will already be primed to listen to you, giving you a great chance at building a new connection. These connections can lead to new donors and even new monthly donors.
Another part of growing your recurring donor program is inviting your high-dollar donors to join the group. You’ll want to make sure that you include this ask at some point throughout your annual fundraising plan, as these are some of your best candidates for joining the program. You can even try inviting some high-level donors to the special events you host for recurring donors as a way to inspire both groups to engage and give more.
At your next fundraising event, consider asking for donors to join your monthly giving program. Make sure that you have the right software set up to allow them to easily set it up—tools like iBid and Events.org can make running your event and bringing on new recurring donors simple. When you ask donors to join in, make sure you tie the recurring giving to a specific long-term impact as part of your organization’s mission. If you have someone speaking about the impact of your organization at the event, this can be a helpful way to connect your donors to the ways their monthly giving can make a difference.
While creating a recurring donation program is an important step for your nonprofit, you should avoid some of the most common pitfalls that nonprofits face when launching a monthly giving program.
Ask too many times, and you’re going to lose donors. Donor churn is a real phenomenon, and asking people to support your mission too often can cause them to feel unappreciated, tapped out, and unrecognized. Be careful when asking people to join your monthly giving program that you don’t burn out donors that you’ve asked too much already. Consider allowing some time between your last donation ask and when you ask people to join your recurring donation program. You can exclude this list from your other fundraising communications for a month or two before the ask to make sure that you are reaching fresh eyes and not frustrating any faithful donors.
The most common mistake nonprofits make with their recurring donation programs is ignoring the monthly givers. It is incredibly important that you create intentional ways to reach out to your recurring donors and recognize them. These are some of the most faithful supporters of your organization, so stewarding those relationships should be a top priority. Put together a proactive communications plan to reach out to your recurring donors in special, personalized ways throughout the year, including the special events you’ll invite them to.
Not all monthly giving is equal! Make sure your donation processing software allows donors to set up recurring donations as ACH or direct deposit donations as well. Tools like DonationXchange and iBid can save you a lot of money in processing fees by pointing donors towards this low-cost option. Your recurring donors will love the ability to make sure that more of their donation is going towards making a positive impact—make sure you highlight this opportunity in your communications.
Monthly giving is a great way to engage your faithful supporters and grow your fundraising revenue. With some careful planning, your recurring donation program can be a valuable part of your fundraising strategy.
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