Donations are a necessity for keeping your nonprofit financially healthy. While nonprofits appreciate every donation, recurring donations (also known as sustaining donations) are key for generating sustainable and reliable monthly revenue. Recurring donors give more over the course of their involvement with your nonprofit, and donors who participate in a recurring giving program are more likely to interact with your nonprofit and build a meaningful, long-term relationship.
Many of the most effective strategies for encouraging recurring gifts are relatively simple to implement, especially if your nonprofit has the right software support. To help your nonprofit understand, acquire, and maintain recurring gifts, this guide will cover:
- Recurring Gifts FAQ
- How to Encourage Recurring Gifts
- Recurring Gifts and Donation Software Solution: Springboard
Managing a recurring gift program requires thoughtful marketing, a strong donor relations team, and software that fits your needs rather than forcing your nonprofit to conform to its limitations. Let’s get started.
Recurring Gifts FAQ
Recurring gifts are fairly straightforward, but it can never hurt to ensure all of your questions are answered before launching a recurring gift program. Here are a few questions nonprofits often have about recurring gifts and what they can do for their organization:
What are recurring gifts?
Recurring gifts are donations that supporters agree to provide on a regular basis. When a supporter elects to become a recurring donor, they won’t need to re-enter their payment information, fill out your donation form, or take any other actions to continue giving.
Recurring gifts can be given on a monthly, annual, or other basis, but the most common recurring gifts are monthly donations. In fact, research shows 94% of recurring donors give monthly, so you may wish to use monthly giving as the default for your recurring gift program.
What are the benefits of recurring gifts?
All donations are beneficial , but recurring gifts have multiple positives over one-time gifts. While contributions from one-time donors are often larger than those initially given through a monthly donation program, the long-term advantages of recurring gifts add up. They can result in:
- Reliable monthly revenue. Recurring gifts allow your nonprofit to make accurate predictions about how much revenue you will earn each month. This empowers nonprofits to proactively allocate funding and make decisions about future programs that fulfill their mission. Additionally, if your nonprofit experiences a fundraising setback and isn’t able to host events or fundraisers, recurring gifts will still reliably come in, providing a stable revenue stream.
- Cost-effective fundraising. Fundraising is often a long, expensive process. Donor conversion, for both one-time and recurring supporters, requires creating multiple touch points across several communication channels. For example, a donor might need to see two posts on Facebook, a direct mail piece, an email, and a post on a different social media site before visiting your donation page. Each of these outreach strategies costs money, and donors who give over and over again are far more likely to make up the return on your marketing investment.
- Long-term donor relationships. Recurring giving is often the first step towards building long-term relationships with supporters. Your recurring donors have made an investment in your nonprofit and retain regular contact due to their monthly contributions. This means that they are more likely to attend events, subscribe to your newsletter, and interact with your nonprofit in other ways.
Your supporters also benefit from recurring gifts. Many donors want to give regularly, and the option to enroll in an automatic recurring gift program allows them to enter their financial information once and start donating for the rest of their relationship with your nonprofit.
Additionally, not only do recurring gifts benefit your nonprofit, they’re also popular among supporters. Fundraising data for 2021 has seen online giving increase by 40% due to recurring giving options. This means your nonprofit can also expect a rise in online donation revenue after optimizing your donation page for recurring gift opportunities.
How can my nonprofit support recurring gifts?
Your nonprofit will need a donor portal and payment processor that support recurring gifts before you launch your program. Nonprofit organizations using Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud have a variety of integration options for managing digital fundraising, so assess recurring gift software on the following features:
- Optimized donation forms. Even small changes on donation forms can make a big difference when it comes to securing recurring gifts. Supporters who reach your donation pages are at a critical point in their engagement, and the options they see for suggested amounts and recurring options can impact how much and how often they give. When selecting a digital fundraising solution, make sure that you have pixel-perfect control over every element on the form including personalization for recognized recurring donors.
- Donor portal for self-service. Self-service gift management tools empower donors to change their contact information, update payment methods, download receipts and even pause a recurring donation instead of cancelling it. Self-service donor portals maintain transparency and puts the power in your supporters’ hands to manage and update their own information. This increases overall donor satisfaction and empower donor services teams to focus on strategic projects instead of routine updates.
- Automated message triggers. Ensure your recurring gift software will send automated messages in response to specific triggers, such as delivering receipts and payment notifications after a successful payment. Doing so provides an easily accessible record of each translation and helps your nonprofit maintain transparency. Additionally, software that sends credit card expiration nudges can help your nonprofit catch donors who might be at risk of dropping out of your recurring gift program due to failed payments. In many cases, these donors want to continue giving but are unaware of the issue, so be sure to set up a message trigger to get in touch with them in case of this event.
If your nonprofit wants to compare recurring gift software solutions, don’t hesitate to ask for a demo. This gives your team an option to see recurring gift features in action and questions about how and why each solution can maximize your potential recurring gifts.
How to Encourage Recurring Gifts
While you can market your recurring gift program like you would other campaigns and opportunities, several best practices for encouraging recurring gifts can be implemented with relative ease and with minimal expense.
Fundraisers aim to make the donation process exciting, but recurring giving tends to be about individual supporters’ relationships with your nonprofit. This means you can draw attention to your recurring giving program through subtle donation form design design choices and donor cultivation.
Optimize your donation form.
As mentioned, your donation form is a key component of your recurring gift fundraising process. While some donors may come back to your nonprofit’s website to make future donations, others will decide whether or not to become a recurring donor the first time they give. However, whether donors are ready to contribute recurring gifts immediately or require further stewardship, the option to sign up for your recurring gift program should be apparent and easy to complete.
If your nonprofit is using the Salesforce.org Nonprofit Cloud for CRM, look for fundraising software that integrates with Salesforce that lets you customize and personalize your donation pages to nudge new and returning one-time donors into signing up for your recurring gift program. Then, build out your donation forms to:
- Ask for recurring donations on your donation page in different ways. Many nonprofits are experimenting with defaulting to monthly giving on website donation forms, or varying between monthly and one-time as the default, depending on pressing financial goals (end of year, end of fiscal year, giving days, etc.). Personalized and context-sensitive pop-up messages designed to convert one-time donors to recurring donors can also help increase enrollment for your recurring gift program.
- Create a user-friendly form. Above all, your donation form should encourage supporters to complete their gift and hit submit. Lengthy donation forms can result in donor abandonment. You can prevent this by keeping your donation form lean, ensuring it’s mobile-friendly, and asking only necessary questions to complete the donation.
- Test often. Choose a platform that allows you to easily test different layouts. For example, your nonprofit might conduct A/B testing to compare the conversion rates of single-step over multi-step forms, or differences in default suggested gift amounts. Be sure to have the right analytics tools in place to track the metrics you need to measure the success of each test.
- Accept multiple kinds of payments. Providing multiple payment options gives donors more choices for how they give. This flexibility increases the chances of receiving donations as some donors may be limited in how they can contribute. Make sure your payment processor accepts credit cards, ACH payments, as well as PayPal and other online payment methods.
Another important feature is the ability to add suggested giving amounts to your donation page. Suggested giving amounts impact how much donors give and whether they become one-time or recurring donors. Research has found that donors tend to behave in predictable ways when presented with suggested giving amounts. Specifically, suggested giving amounts accomplish two things:
- They reduce friction by presenting a range of choices instead of a blank field. New donors often aren’t sure how much to give, and suggested giving amounts offer guidance by providing a limited range of options.
- They present default choices. When presented with a range of donation options, studies have found that most people will choose the second lowest option. This is likely because donors want to contribute without taking on an unnecessary monetary burden, while avoiding appearing stingy.
Lower suggested giving amounts tend to appeal to first-time donors, who may be on the fence about whether to give at all. Returning donors often react positively towards higher suggested giving amounts, and campaigns centered to convert existing donors to sustaining donations and increase the size of teh sustaining donation can grow your recurring gifts program. .
Software like Jackson River's Springboard can personalize the array of donation options and the default option b based on historical donor information in your CRM.
Cultivate relationships with supporters.
Recurring donors tend to give more the longer their relationship with your nonprofit. Strengthening your connection with these donors and gathering key data metrics can help your nonprofit not only recruit more recurring donors but also increase the lifetime value of your current recurring donor base.
Your donation management platform and CRM are powerful tools for collecting and storing donor information, allowing your nonprofit to make data-driven decisions to grow your relationships. For example, you can use your CRM to engage donors by:
- Personalizing thank you messages. Telling your supporters how much you appreciate their donations can go a long way towards retaining their support. Recurring donors will have an extended history with your nonprofit the longer they give, so be sure to reference their commitment to your nonprofit when thanking them. Doing so will make them feel acknowledged and encourage them to continue investing in your cause.
- Identifying at-risk donors. Donors drop out of recurring gift programs for all kinds of reasons, including financial burden, lack of communication, or waning interest in your cause. Use your CRM to identify recurring donors who have lowered engagement rates, missed payments, and other red flags signalling they are at risk of leaving your nonprofit. Then, take steps to communicate with them, express the importance of their gifts, and thank them for all they have done for your nonprofit.
- Communicating giving opportunities. Messaging tools keep your nonprofit in conversation with donors. Use your extended history with recurring donors to highlight events, fundraisers, and other engagement opportunities. You can also use your donor management and messaging tools to identify new recurring donors and create a series of messages to welcome them to your nonprofit’s recurring gift community.
- Ask for upgrades. Nonprofits often segment sustainers carefully to only send appeals to the supporters most likely to respond to them. However, many organizations also run upgrade campaigns, designed to steadily increase their recurring gift amounts. Look for a platform, like Springboard, that allows you to run “one-click” sustainer upgrade campaigns. The one-click approach prioritizes donor convenience, allowing them to use a stored credit card and confirm their new gift amount in minutes.
You can also use your donor database to identify annual recurring donors who may be ready to grow their yearly gifts by becoming monthly donors. Through sustainer upsell practices during one-time gifts and other cultivation strategies, these donors can be encouraged to switch to low monthly donations that add up to a higher donation total at the year’s end without taking on an increased financial burden. For example, a donor who gives $150 per year can likely be persuaded into switching to give $15 or more per month, increasing your nonprofit’s total earnings by $30.
Recurring Gifts and Donation Software Solution: Springboard
Effective recurring gift programs need the right software to support them. Nonprofits with Salesforce can find a donation, fundraising, and donor engagement integration in Springboard.
Springboard offers exceptional donation and digital engagement tools that integrate with Salesforce Nonprofit Cloud. Along with being a highly flexible and user-friendly software integration, Springboard can power recurring gifts through its suite of fundraising tools, including:
- Sophisticated donation forms. Donors giving through Springboard will be greeted with a user-friendly donation page that allows them to make one-time and monthly donations by credit cards, e-checks, PayPal, Apple Pay, and more.
- Sustainers and upsell features. Springboard excels at converting one-time donations to recurring gifts. Springboard’s built-in upsell features can increase gift amounts with automated upgrade offers and promote donor retention with user-friendly billing management capabilities.
- Donor self-service. Empower donors to manage their gifts through Springboard’s donor portal, allowing them to update their information, upgrade their gift, and access their entire giving history of both on and offline contributions.
- Personalization. With pre-filled forms and dynamic ask strings to emails tailored with content selected based on donors’ most recent giving activities, Springboard can create a truly unique experience for each of your donors.
As a dedicated digital fundraising and advocacy solution, Springboard offers seamless integration not only with Salesforce as well as other fundraising CRMs. Deploying a powerful, flexible digital fundraising tool like Springboard can increase donations including recurring gifts and deliver excellent donor service
Even the best recurring gift software needs an effective, knowledgeable fundraising team to be effective. To help your team get started, here are some resources for making strategic, data-driven decisions that can take your nonprofit to the next level:
- More Data, Not More Problems - Streamlining Data Migration to Support Personalized Fundraising. When migrating to a new nonprofit CRM, planning data migration (especially around donor records and recurring gifts) to the new system can be challenging. Read this guide to learn best practices and hands-on suggestions for successfully planning a nonprofit CRM data migration.
- Power Fundraising with CRM: Next Level-Strategies, Tools & Techniques. Your CRM is the heart of your nonprofit’s tech stack and, when used effectively, can take your fundraising to the next level. Start using your CRM to its full potential with the strategies in this video.
- Five Research Proven Strategies to Optimize Year-End Giving. Learn how you can make the most of the year-end giving season with this webinar.