William Schmidt
Will Schmidt
5 min

Why You Need to Modernize Your Recurring Giving Program

When your donation process is streamlined and modern it’s easier to bring in new recurring supporters. Yet, many organizations with successful recurring giving programs don’t make modernization a priority.

While there’s a time and a place for an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality, this isn’t it. An outdated experience puts you at risk of losing current donors, and is a considerable lost opportunity when it comes to recruiting newcomers.

To attract and retain recurring support, it helps to first revisit their true value and understand how to meet current trends in donor habits and expectations.

The Value of a Recurring Giver

Your recurring giving program is a source of sustainable, predictable revenue for your organization. And as recurring donors tend to give more annually, this stable stream also helps you maximize the annual contributions of donors and increase donor lifetime value.

In A Nonprofit’s Guide to Recurring Giving, we outline the journey of a fictional donor named Cindy. Instead of two gifts a year at $25, you can ask her for smaller monthly gifts of $10 a month. This makes the commitment more approachable to Cindy, and the value higher to you. Instead of $50 for the year, she gives $120.

Recurring donors like Cindy are also more likely to give year-over-year and increase their monthly contributions down the line. Take a quick look at Cindy’s potential10-year value:

recurring giving
Cindy’s 10-year donor value from the guide.

Read the Entire Guide to Recurring Giving

As a monthly giver, Cindy has a 10-year value of $2,820. If she remained at giving $25 twice a year, her 10-year value would only be $500.

A large nonprofit has hundreds, or even hundreds of thousands of Cindys in their databases. Thus, the value of recurring donors is even higher. The key is to identify prospects and engage with them in a way that resonates over time.

Online Giving Is Growing

To connect with prospects in a way that meets their expectations and preferences, you can create an online recurring revenue program or membership. While many organizations remain focused on offline giving, the tide is shifting, and the data reflects changes in donor preferences.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy is constantly keeping an eye on trends in online giving. As recently as July 1, 2017 they recorded the following about online giving (rolling 13-month totals):

  • 1,350,723 donors
  • 2,321,034 donations
  • $284,755,517 donated
  • 34,569 organizations donated to

They compared June 2016 to June 2017 and found that “donors gave 7.6 percent more” in 2017 and “made 20.9 percent more individual donations.” Online giving is only picking up steam and promises to get bigger year-over-year.

Further, the Chronicle also reported in a case study featuring Minnesota Public Radio that “40 percent of the traffic to MPR’s website comes from people using mobile devices.”

People aren’t just engaging online—they’re engaging on the go. If your program isn’t optimized for an excellent mobile experience, you risk frustrating visitors and losing potential support.

Finally, it’s important that you recognize how the trend towards online giving works in conjunction with recurring giving. You need to give your recurring donors a way to donate easily in the ways they want. As the numbers show, those ways are online, with bank accounts or credit/debit cards, and through mobile options.

Overcoming Modernization Roadblocks

While modernizing your recurring giving program needs to be a top priority to continue growing your revenue, an update can quickly start to feel like a risky overhaul. This is especially relevant when you already have a large pool of established donors.

Luckily, there are ways to mitigate the risks associated with modernization. Though these two points are considerable in scale and importance, they need not derail your organization’s investment in the future of fundraising.

Ask the Hard Questions

It’s important to start conversations around modernization as soon as possible. The farther into the future you can plan, the smoother you can make the transition process.

For example, if you can build the conversation of modernizing your recurring giving program into your five and 10-year plans, you’ll be better suited to identify key milestones and potential problem areas.

As you think through what this transition into the modern world of fundraising looks like, and how you can move recurring donors to a new platform, it pays to ask the hard questions:

  • What happens if you don’t change your online services to meet the needs of changing demographics?
  • In five, 10, or 20 years, what happens if donors no longer give offline?
  • If millennials and Generation Z reinforce the already strong trends in online giving, how can you sign them up as recurring donors if you don’t have congruent technology?
  • How many of your current supporters can you identify as potential candidates for recurring giving?
  • What would it mean to your organization if you could use technology to encourage larger gifts from your recurring donors over time?

Surfacing this dialogue might be uncomfortable, but it’s worth it to ensure you can adapt and evolve to meet the needs of an ever-changing market.

The time to start is now. When the wave crashes and offline giving starts to dwindle, as the numbers suggest, you can rest easy. You’ll have confidence in your ability to build and sustain your programs and mission while others scramble to overcome the hurdles of procrastinating their modernization efforts.


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