Whether you’re an existing loyal donor who wants to make a greater impact, or a new donor on a budget, it can be convenient and empowering to give them an opportunity to donate a smaller gift multiple times over the course of the year.
This fundraising technique is called recurring giving or monthly giving—and it’s a really effective way to raise money for your organization.
As a bonus, recurring giving isn’t just great for your organization’s bottom line, it also serves as a way to keep your donor active and engaged with your cause month after month.
You won’t regret starting a recurring giving program. Here’s everything you need to know to get started:
Why Does Recurring Giving “Work”?
Most organizations start a recurring giving program because it’s a sustainable way to fundraise.
By giving the same amount month after month, donors don’t necessarily have to take out their credit card 12 times per year. In fact, they should be able to fill out one “pledge card” or online form, check the “monthly gift” box, and be on their way.
It’s easy for everyone involved!
With that simple action, your nonprofit now has a consistent stream of income every month. The best part? Retention rates for recurring donors are sky-high:
The Essential Steps To Recurring Giving
Now that you know about why you should start a recurring giving program, let’s dive into the basics of setting up your own.
1. Determine Your Resources
Like all fundraising strategies, recurring giving programs require upfront costs.
At the very least, you’ll need dedicated staff time to launch the recurring giving campaign and to manage donor communications and marketing. You will also need to add a recurring giving option to your online donation form, create a pledge card for events and direct mail, and send out additional marketing/communications materials for these donors.
Some organizations take it a step further and create a branded donor program based on recurring giving. Monthly donors may have a group name, such as an NPR “Sustaining Member“ or St. Jude’s “Partner in Hope.”
Once you get a handle on how much you can spend on the development and marketing of your program, you can fine tune the details.
2. Set A Goal
Set your recurring giving goal based on SMART criteria, meaning that its Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Take a look at your donor data to come up with goals that are realistic for your donor base.
For example, make note of how many new recurring donors you want to recruit per month and the total number of annual donors converted into monthly donors per month. You may also want to include financial goals such as average monthly gift and average yearly total.
3. Plan The Program
What do you want the program to look like? Do you want it to be a standalone campaign where you recruit monthly donors once per year, or do you prefer to simply give donors the option to give on a monthly basis while they’re in the process of pledging a regular gift?
Think through the ins and out of your program, including these areas:
Program name (if any)
Potential suggested monthly gift amounts
At the end of the day, donors give because they’re inspired to, not just because they’re asked. Therefore, every recurring giving program should incorporate an inspirational component.
Get donors interested in a year-long commitment through effective client stories and even donor testimonials.
Follow these best practices to amplify your message:
Make sure the main character in your story is relatable
Include information about your organization’s impact in the life of this person
End with a strong call to action that propels the reader into action (which, in this case, is becoming a recurring donor)
Once you’ve given your donor a catalyst to give on a monthly basis, you need to give them ample opportunity to follow through and complete the process. Make sure your online donation form, reply device or pledge card is easy to fill out.
5. Follow Through & Follow Up
Once a donor signs up for the recurring giving program, your work isn’t over. Sure, they’re virtually committed for an entire year, but you still need to put effort into engagement and retention.
For example, after processing a donor’s payment, send them a quick “thank you” note with a client story like Watsi does for their monthly donors.
Video can also be a powerful tool in welcoming new monthly donors. Check out this personal email from Outreach, Inc. that includes a link to a unique video:
It’s also important to continue thanking your donor, not just after their first gift, but strategically (yet genuinely) throughout the year.
You can also incorporate engaging communications that informs donors about the impact of their gift – like a dedicated monthly newsletter – to help increase the likelihood of retention after the year ends.
During year-end, be sure to send them a copy of your annual report or similar document.
You now have all the tools you need to begin crafting your recurring giving program.
To recap, recurring giving is an amazing fundraising technique for your organization because:
You’ll maintain a steady stream of income throughout the year
Your organization will stay “top of mind” for donors
You’ll be using a built-in donor retention technique
And now that you have a huge pool of long-term donors, you can spend more time investing in the recruitment of new donors.
Tina Jepson is a writer on the Learning & Education team at CauseVox, a simple, yet powerful online and mobile fundraising platform that helps you engage your supporters and raise more money online. She has managed over $1MM in accounts with an overall fundraising goal of $4.5MM at the United Way.