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Nonprofit recurring giving is a fundraising approach that your nonprofit should consider, as the landscape changes. Recently I wrote a piece about how in mainstream discussions the idea that the nonprofit sector is a nongrowth sector has taken hold. Millennials and Generation Z are having their impact felt with different sensibilities and ideas than Gen Xers and older groups. Technology is vastly changing the landscape, and because of it, there’s also discussion––and worry––about its effect for fundraising and even fundraising practitioners.

In other words, the time has come to diversify strategies and look into approaches that can hedge against any significant unforeseen circumstances that can impact your nonprofit in the next few years. One of the ways to accomplish it, at least from the perspective of fundraising is by accelerating a program to get as many people on your donor base to participate in recurring giving.

What is recurring giving?

A recurring gift is when a donor chooses to give your nonprofit a certain amount of money at regular intervals. It can happen at both the major gifts and general gifts levels. Typically, general gifts, or smaller donations, are contributed to your organization on a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly basis. By having this occur, donors can donate more money to your nonprofit over a year than they would if they had chosen to give you a single gift.

For instance, you can have supporters who, instead of giving you $50 for an appeal that you make, decide to give you $10 a month. In a year, they are giving you $120 as opposed to $50 from a single gift. Additionally, once donors begin to give your charity recurring gifts, they typically tend to “set it and forget it” with automatic charges on their credit card, which increases the likelihood that they will continue to support your organization. This practice then allows for more predictability and cash flow for your nonprofit group.

Why is recurring giving for nonprofits?

The more people you have contributing to your charity on a regular basis is crucial to helping your group become sustainable. It costs money to acquire new prospects, and it costs less to get your current donors to become sustaining regular contributors to your charitable group. When this happens, you have a reliable stream of income from engaged supporters that also allow you the flexibility to experiment, perhaps, with new programs and innovations.

Because of the massive changes in the social, business and nonprofit landscapes, astute fundraisers understand that to help secure the future for their organizations, they should look to ensure their sustainability and growth. And, one of the best ways to do it is to approach your current one-time annual donors and ask them to become recurring supporters.

How you can convert one-time donors to recurring supporters

There are several techniques you can use to help create a successful recurring giving program that will help you ensure the long-term sustainability of your nonprofit group at a time when changes happen rapidly. The following are tips for helping you execute on a robust program.

  • Decide to prioritize recurring giving. The first step is to decide to create a recurring giving program. One of the most important things that you will have to do is make sure that your database can handle multiple gifts and is optimized for recurring gifts from donors. By doing so, you’ll make the management of your data, as well as any donation pages you might want to create much easier.
  • Create a donor-centric program. As you develop the strategy for your program, make sure that you have your donors front and center. Crunch the data and ensure that you understand the backgrounds and giving patterns of the people you select to become recurring donors. Understand the messaging that compels your target audience to give and make sure that the recurring giving program reflects the reasons why your supporters currently give to you. It will help you convert them.
  • Have your recurring giving program stand-out by branding it. Everyone wants to belong to a select group and community, even donors. Consider branding the program with a particular name and providing regular supporters with valued benefits for becoming sustaining donors to your organization. When you are asking them to become recurring donors, speak about their “membership” in the collective group.
  • Create an easy to understand program. Help donors understand what their monthly or regular gifts of $10, $20, $50 or more will provide your organization. By being transparent about how the money will be spent, you will be assisting your donors in seeing the value, impact, and result of their recurring gifts. Telling someone that a donation of $10 a month will help provide 10 meals to a senior citizen, for example, is easy to understand and conceptualize.
  • Cross promote your recurring giving program. Promotion is vital for the success of your program. Plan out a schedule of emails, letters and even an event or two that you can hold during the calendar year that will help get people on board and allow people to feel special for participating. Don’t forget to include the branded program on your website and social media and make it a point to promote it whenever you have the chance in your regularly scheduled appeals and updates.

By prioritizing recurring giving in your charitable organization, you are going to benefit from more predictable fundraising dollars. Plan it out carefully and then execute well and you will see in time how your fundraising revenue will increase, which will provide you with more breathing room and help you expand your mission in your community.


Author of “Not Your Father’s Charity: Grip & Rip Leadership for Social Impact” (Free Digital Download)

© 2019 Wayne Elsey and Not Your Father’s Charity. All Rights Reserved