Why You Need to Modernize Your Recurring Giving Program

5 min
Will Schmidt

A modern donor experience can make it easier for your nonprofit to attract new supporters, from one-time donors to monthly recurring donors and beyond. This is especially relevant given the expectations people have with modern platforms like Amazon, for example, where they can complete a transaction with one click.

In that light, an outdated donor experience can be a considerable lost opportunity for your organization when it comes to recruiting new donors and retaining their ongoing support.

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One way your donor experience can help in this area is by encouraging supporters to sign up as monthly recurring donors in an engaging and seamless fashion.

Not only does a recurring donor have a higher lifetime value when compared to a one-time donor, they also tend to give additional non-recurring donations outside of their monthly commitment. Below, we outline why this return is so valuable for your nonprofit and provide some tactics on how to bring your recurring giving program into the modern fundraising age.

The Lifetime Value of a Recurring Donor

The power in recurring donations is in their consistency and long-term return. In our report, The State of Modern Philanthropy 2018, Classy platform data shows that 75% of recurring donors maintain their plan for six months and make an additional one-time gift within a year about 75% more often than one-time donors do.

Beyond that, a significant amount of recurring donors continue to give monthly for years. In fact, the longest-running recurring monthly donations on Classy have been active for over six and a half years.

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The image below is from the report and shows how a recurring donation matches up against a one-time donation. While it appears lower at first, it grows when you analyze the lifetime value this commitment brings with it:

Recurring donations compared to one-time donations.

You can expect this $25 recurring donation to provide a financial return over three years that’s equal to a one-time donation of $485. The average recurring donation of $38 is worth even more over three years at $718.

You’ll notice these totals are lower than if you simply multiplied the amount by 36 months. That’s because, in our data analysis, we find that some recurring donors cancel before they make it that far and thus have to factor that in.

Regardless, using either of these metrics (average or median), that the lifetime return of a recurring donation plan is still higher than that of a typical one-time donor. Beyond that, recurring monthly donations often provide continued value well beyond the three-year horizon as well.

In order to capitalize on this financial return though, your nonprofit needs to offer supporters a modern, seamless way to sign up as recurring givers.

Read How The Salvation Army Western and Southern Territories Did It

How to Modernize

There are many tactics at your disposal to steward your supporters and encourages them to sign up as a recurring donor. Below, we outline a few best practices that can help level-up your program right away. Each section is paired with a blog post that further outlines monthly giving program examples and best practices you can explore.

All of these tips are easier to implement with the right online fundraising software: learn how Classy can help.

Name Your Program

Don’t just launch a monthly giving program and name it: “Our Nonprofit’s Monthly Giving Program.” That’s likely to fall flat and not engage your intended audience the way you want. Instead, consider giving your program a creative name.

For example, we’ve seen nonprofits like Pencil’s of Promise and BrightPink brand their recurring giving programs with names like “Passport” and “FundHER.” This can help establish brand loyalty among your monthly donors which, in turn, can help foster a strong sense of community for your supporters.

Read Next: The 5 Must-Haves of a Monthly Recurring Revenue Campaign

Demonstrate Your Value

Why should someone give monthly to your nonprofit? What will they be getting out of this? How will their monthly recurring gift make a strong impact with your work? Answering questions like this can help you and your team clearly define what someone can expect from supporting your recurring giving program.

That value proposition should be clearly spelled out on your fundraising pages in order to grab a prospective donor’s attention and inform them of the impact they can make by making a monthly commitment. You can also go beyond words and offer strong incentives for your program participants, like exclusive membership perks for sustaining a monthly donation over 12 months.

Read Next: 3 Recurring Giving Campaigns to Inspire You

Suggest Giving Levels

Give your recurring donors multiple options when it comes time to complete their gift. For example, you could offer $25, $100, $250, and $500 monthly commitment options on your program’s donation page. With each level, you have the opportunity to show your donors just how much of an impact their monthly commitment is going to make for your programs, beneficiaries, or overall mission. Classy’s impact blocks are a great way for you to showcase these different levels in a clear and concise way.

Read Next: 4 Pro Tips on How to Use Impact Blocks Creatively

Overcoming Modernization Roadblocks

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 if you need to shift strategies or fundraising platforms.

For example, if you can incorporate 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 before they ever arise.

As you think through what this transition and update could look 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.

If you start now, you’ll have confidence in your ability to build and sustain your recurring giving program while others scramble to overcome the hurdles of procrastination. Make sure to join us in Boston for this year’s Collaborative to get detailed insight and expert opinions on how you can stay ahead of the curve, keep your nonprofit modern and exciting, and build a recurring donation program that drives your fundraising revenue.


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