Recurring donations: how to unlock sustainable giving

Mar 14, 2024
Sage Avarda
Content Marketing Manager

With so many people accustomed to monthly subscription services like Netflix, BarkBox, and HelloFresh, now is a great time to consider asking for recurring donations.

Recurring donors give an average of 42% more per year than one-time donors. They also tend to be more engaged with the nonprofits they support. And engaged supporters are more likely to spread the word about the causes that matter to them and bring new donors into the fold.

In this post, we’ll talk about the advantages of monthly giving, how to encourage recurring donations, and how to manage recurring donations with technology that supports nonprofit teams.

What are the benefits of recurring donations?

In addition to creating a steady and predictable stream of support, recurring donations offer these outcomes:

Fewer lapsed donors

With recurring donations, there’s just one initial ask. Organizations will want to continue engaging with donors, of course, but they don’t have to repeatedly ask for donations.

Lower operating costs

Trying to recapture lapsed donors can use a lot of resources. People who donate monthly are less likely to lapse, which means organizations can devote fewer resources to reengagement campaigns.

Convenience for donors

The “old way” of donating — writing a check, putting it in an envelope, and mailing it — just isn’t convenient for most donors today. A recurring donation option lets supporters contribute without any administrative tasks on their end.

Stronger relationships

Whether organizations send monthly donation receipts or annual recaps, they have an opportunity to communicate to donors how they’re making a difference. That kind of outreach improves retention and can make donors more open to an upsell.

How to increase recurring donations: lessons from successful nonprofits

Organizations that excel at securing recurring donations use these tried-and-true practices.

Showing appreciation

What can organizations offer recurring donors to show appreciation? A “thank you” goes a long way, but other incentives may be stronger motivators, like:

  • Apparel or other branded swag, like a wall calendar, tote bag, or planner.
  • Access to an online community for recurring donors only.
  • Public recognition in the organization’s newsletter, or on their social channels.

Strengthening their story

A nonprofit’s story and impact statements should be clear, specific, and focus on how donors are helping people. For example, consider the difference between these two statements:

  • Your recurring donation can help feed local families.
  • Your recurring donation of $35/month can feed a family of four for a year.

Using the best tech

Mobile-friendly technology can make it easy for donors to choose a recurring donation. And with AI, organizations can zero in on which donors are most likely to respond to an upsell offer or to cover transaction fees. AI can also suggest appropriate donation amounts, based on individual user behavior.

Promoting their recurring donation program

Promoting a recurring donation program might include announcing it in a newsletter, writing social posts about it, or promoting it with a website banner. The key here is to create a frictionless path to conversion for anyone who’s interested — like a widget that takes a site visitor to the donation form.

Enabling different donation schedules

Donors may have unique preferences about a recurring donation cycle. For example, if donors tend to give based on their annual end-of-year bonus, a recurring yearly donation might be a more appealing option than a monthly option.

Adding more payment options

Limiting payment types can be a barrier for donors. Expanding payment options to include digital wallets, cryptocurrency, and payment systems outside of the United States can greatly expand recurring donations.

How forward-thinking organizations manage recurring donations

Here are some ways nonprofits manage monthly giving at scale.

They give donors control

Giving donors an easy way to manage their donations can reduce admin tasks for nonprofits, as well as allow donors to stay engaged, even if they need to pause or reduce donations temporarily. In 2023, 35% of recurring donors that were about to cancel chose instead to modify their giving plan, thanks to Fundraise Up’s self-service Donor Portal.

They streamline donation processing

Expired payment methods lead to failed charges, and that means nonprofits have to reach out to donors to request new payment details. This awkward hiccup can be avoided with technology that updates card-on-file details when needed and optimizes timing for retrying failed recurring transactions.

They automate acknowledgments and receipts

Lack of acknowledgment is one of the top reasons donors stop supporting nonprofits. Automation can ensure donors receive timely and personalized receipts, and third parties receive a notification when someone has donated on their behalf or in honor of a loved one.

They track conversions

Analyzing user behavior helps nonprofits understand what messaging is most effective for driving conversions. With that data, nonprofits can further refine how they ask for recurring donations.

Get more recurring donations with Fundraise Up

Fundraise Up helps nonprofits manage donors and donations with a mobile-friendly donor interface, self-service options, and AI for optimizing donation requests and upsells.

See how one nonprofit used Fundraise Up to boost monthly donations by 196%. With no setup fees and no contract required, it’s easy to get started with a plan today. To learn more, set up a call with the Fundraise Up experts.

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