5 minute read

If one-time donations are good (and you know they are), recurring donations are exponentially better. Look at these metrics from Network for Good:

  • The average recurring donor gives 42% more over the course of a year than one-time givers.
  • The average monthly online donation is $52 ($624 per year) compared to the average one-time gift of $128.
  • Monthly donors have a greater lifetime revenue per donor.
  • 52% of millennials are more likely to give monthly vs. a large one-time donation.

Those numbers look pretty convincing, right? You’ll collect more money with recurring donations over the long haul, and many donors will find a monthly giving program easier because they can make regular donations fit into their monthly budgets. Plus, with online fundraising, a “set it and forget it” option means donors can sign up once, then know they’re giving regularly without having to click and submit every month. And for you, recurring donations means predictable income so you can plan expenses and budget items better, knowing the money will be coming in.

Here’s one example of a nonprofit that put one-time donations vs. recurring donations to the test. ActBlue, a political fundraising organization, sent an email to half of their database, one asking for a one-time gift of $75 and the other for a monthly gift of $3 for up to 24 months. After 24 hours, here were the results: The one-time donation resulted in $2,557 in donations, while the recurring ask projected out to $4,365.70. The recurring donation option was a win-win for both the organization, which took in significantly more money, and the donors, who were able to spread their giving over an extended period of time.

So, with all this in mind, why don’t most of us make a stronger appeal for recurring donations, especially with online fundraising? It doesn’t take much more work than asking for a one-time donation. However, it may require a shift in your mindset and fundraising approach. Here’s where to start:

1. Ask for recurring donations.

This sounds obvious, but the fact is, many nonprofits don’t ask their supporters to sign up for monthly giving—they go after one-time donations. If you’re recruiting a new donor, asking for a one-time gift is the perfect way to get him on board and familiar with your organization. Once he’s made that initial gift, however, your response after “thank you” should focus on getting him set up on a monthly giving program.

And while you’re at it, don’t be shy—you can also ask donors to cover the transaction fees associated with donation processing. Studies show that when they’re asked, about half of donors will say yes to having the fee added to their donation, which is a small amount for them, but can add up to big bucks for you!

2. Highlight the benefits of recurring donations.

In other words, tell donors why it’s advantageous for them to give on a recurring basis—for them, not for you. Organizations that ask donors to sponsor a child in a foreign country are great at this. They do an effective job of showing how much impact a small, regular donation can make, and then continue to update and engage with news and photos of the child. With regular givers, you want to communicate no more than once a month, and maybe less than that—but never, ever forget about them. They still need to be included in your retention efforts, and they still want to feel appreciated.

3. Make recurring donations an obvious option on your website.

And by obvious, we don’t mean an easily-missed checkbox on the donation form. There are several ways you can do this:

  • Feature your monthly giving plan on a spotlight or slider on your homepage.
  • Create an entire landing page dedicated to the whys and hows of your monthly giving program.
  • Design an infographic that visually displays the impact that varying monthly amounts can make.
  • Use your donation thank-you page as an opportunity for supporters to easily sign up for your monthly giving program.

Of course, you definitely want to make monthly giving or recurring donations an option on your donation form too—but don’t make it look like a second option behind a one-time gift. If you really consider it a win-win for both you and the donor, you’ll treat it just as important of an ask as a one-time gift. Keep this in mind: The more places you promote monthly giving on your website, the more likely you are to secure those recurring donations and give your online fundraising a big boost. And won’t it be exciting to watch your metrics soar?

4. Segment your communications for recurring donors.

Start by making sure you put your recurring donors on a separate email list from your other email subscribers and craft messages that are specifically for them. For example, since they’re already giving monthly, you don’t want to send them more asks to become a recurring donor. That sounds like a no-brainer, but it happens. And at best, it appears wasteful or unnecessary. At worst, it can annoy your donors because it sends the message that you aren’t really paying attention to their commitment. You can still ask recurring donors for one-time gifts, sure—but save that for big or one-of-a-kind campaigns. Your main goal with recurring donors is to continue to nurture that relationship so they stick.

5. Make it easy for recurring donors to change their minds.

Nobody likes to financially commit to something if they’re not sure that they can cancel or change the agreement. You’ll better serve both your organization and your donors if you make it clear that signing up for a recurring gift isn’t a choice that’s set in stone. It’s perfectly fine—even good—to say something like, “While we appreciate your monthly gift, we understand that circumstances may change. You are under no obligation and can adjust the amount or cancel your donation at any time.”

What’s going to be the typical response to that? “Great! No pressure.” Take away the fear of commitment, and you’ll have a more relaxed and willing donor who gives because they’re inspired and motivated, not because they feel obligated. And those are the type of donors who will stick around.

Speaking of donors who’ll stick around, there are several things you can do with your online fundraising efforts to up your donor retention, make the donation process more seamless and secure those extra fundraising dollars you’ve been dreaming about. When you have a few minutes to kick back with a cup of coffee, check out our free webinar in video-on-demand form: Online Fundraising Performance: Does Your Nonprofit Measure Up? It’ll give you insightful tips and ideas for how to boost your online fundraising and get your performance metrics to where you want them to be. Plus, we’ll talk about the online fundraising tools you need for raising money.