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7 Ways to Surprise and Delight Recurring Donors to Combat Churn

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Published January 23, 2024 Reading Time: 6 minutes

This blog was written in collaboration with Dana Snyder, Founder and CEO of Positive Equation

We cannot overstate the significance of cultivating a devoted community of recurring donors. This is crucial because, as consumers, we live in a subscription economy. But how do you nurture and nourish a subscription for good with your monthly donors?

As we navigate the post-Giving Tuesday and year-end spike in philanthropic engagement, focusing on donor retention strategies via relationship-building is nonnegotiable.

January poses a heightened risk of churn rates for monthly recurring donors, with a 1.4x higher likelihood than other months. To combat this and the ongoing risk of churn nonprofit organizations experience year-round, we’re outlining seven key ways to elevate your stewardship, engagement, and outreach practices to safeguard your organization’s fundraising efforts and long-term sustainability.

Free Webinar Access: Giving Tuesday Is Over, Now What?

The Transformative Force of Recurring Giving

Building meaningful connections within your community is the heartbeat of successful fundraising, and recurring giving is one of the driving forces that makes that possible. It’s a transformative tool, steering nonprofits away from transactional touchpoints and toward lifetime value (LTV).

According to Classy’s platform data, 25% of all recurring donors on Classy return to give an additional one-time donation within the same year. This showcases the magnetic appeal of ongoing support and exemplifies donors’ willingness to become highly engaged when it’s clear what their contributions do for your cause.

Our Recurring Donor Sentiment Report depicts why donors opt for sustained giving—56% believe it facilitates continuous support, 47% feel their contribution wields a more profound impact, and 38% experience a deeper connection with the organization.

Beyond these compelling statistics, the real magic happens as 84% of recurring donors become champions of the cause, extending their involvement through volunteering, additional donations, event attendance, advocacy, and peer-to-peer fundraising initiatives.

However, it’s not just about giving. It’s also about fostering a community of dedicated changemakers.

Combat Donor Churn Creatively

When recurring donors churn, nonprofits face more than financial loss—they experience a fracture in their foundation. The departure of these loyal contributors jeopardizes the long-term stability of their work. However, nonprofits can mitigate churn and safeguard their ongoing impact with the right donor engagement and donor communications practices.

7 Tactics to Steward Donors’ Commitment to Your Cause

1. 4.5-Part Email Welcome Sequence

Implement a comprehensive email welcome sequence to make new donors feel valued and connected from the start. This sequence should include the following four and a half components:

Part 1 | The Same Day: Thank You

Within the same day of the donation, send a thank-you email celebrating the first-time donor’s generosity and the impact their recurring gift will make.

Part 2 | 1-3 Days Later: Thank You, Part Two

A few days after their first donation, send a brief email from your personal email account sharing why becoming a monthly donor is crucial to your cause. This lets the donor know you’ve seen them and goes beyond the standard automated email sequence. You can also do this with a video tool like ThankView or VideoAsk.

Part 3 | 1 Week Later: Mission

A week later, communicate timely, relevant information about where their gift will go during this specific period of time—this month, quarter, or year.

Part 4 | 2 Weeks Later: Impact Story

After two weeks, provide a short impact story using the first person (if possible). A beneficiary sharing their story is incredibly impactful, so think creatively to ensure it shines. For example, if you’re an animal organization, have fun with it and write it from the point of view of an animal, like a dog or cat.

Part 4.5| 1 Month Later: Happy 1-Month Anniversary

A month later, record a video of you or your team members throwing confetti or celebrating their loyalty in a fun, unique way. Place this video in the body of your email and attach a message sharing how their generous donations support your cause and the larger nonprofit sector. Emphasize how every donation, despite the gift size, creates ripples in extraordinary ways.

When I worked with Movember, we created a video of Mo Bros and Sistas in the office ringing a gong they had when someone completed their Facebook Fundraiser goal. I would send that video out, and the response was AWESOME! They never expected to get a peek into the office, and it was great to see how excited the team was about their contribution to the overall campaign.

Dana Snyder

Founder and CEO of Positive Equation

Here’s a sample “Thank You, Part Two” email that blew us away:

“We are so pleased to see such a generous first-time gift from you and would like to welcome you into the PAWS Atlanta family. You are making it possible for the wonderful animals that make their way to our shelter to receive the care and love they so desperately need. Bob is just one of the nearly 1,000 at-risk animals we’ll rescue this year because of your kindness. Your generosity and commitment to helping dogs like Bob are what enable us to care for them until we find them loving homes. On behalf of Bob and all of the animals we serve – thank you for believing in second chances and supporting our lifesaving mission.”

Keep segmentation in mind to speak to donors in more personalized ways, potentially based on their specific entry point to your fundraising campaign. This allows you to communicate with new supporters based on how the relationship began.

2. Real-Time Impact Stories

Share stories showcasing the tangible impact of current donors’ gifts on beneficiaries’ lives. Include personal notes from staff members or beneficiaries within the community.

Here are some psychology-based storytelling tips to help.

3. Anniversary Emails and Postcards

Acknowledge donors on their giving anniversaries and birthdays through thoughtful emails or thank-you letters. This gesture expresses gratitude and creates a sense of belonging, communicating how deeply you care about them.

Pro Tip
Include a QR code that links to a video update on the organization or an Instagram post that shares an impact story.

4. Monthly VIP Updates

Keep donors in the loop with exclusive monthly updates, making them feel like valued members of an insider community. Share programmatic updates, ask for their feedback, or announce upcoming events before you go public with the information. The sense of importance associated with this exclusive communication can fuel ongoing donor loyalty.

5. Corporate Partnerships

Collaborate with corporate partners to develop unique gifts for recurring donors. For example, consider exclusive items like custom jackets in collaboration with a fashion brand or discounted meals from a chain restaurant.

6. SMS or Social Messaging

Leverage the power of text messages or direct messages (DMs) on social media to provide quick updates, express gratitude, and maintain an open line of communication with donors.

Texts and DMs trigger push notifications on our phones, whereas emails can get lost easily. Consider asking for donors’ Instagram handles or LinkedIn URLs on your donation forms to collect the necessary information for this form of outreach.

Although it may feel odd to communicate so casually, texting is often preferred and typically experiences higher response rates than other methods like phone calls.¹

Because these channels are informal, don’t overdo it trying to polish your communication here.

Example Text Message for an Impact Update: 

Hi, (Name)! As a proud “(Enter Monthly Giving Program Name)” member, we wanted to share some great news. Just last month, we (Enter Impact Highlight). Thank you, thank you! 🙂

Example Text Message to Increase Monthly Gift:

Hey! (Organization Name), here. 🙂 We have a big initiative (X) and are looking for (Number) of our (Enter Monthly Giving Program Name) members to increase their monthly gift by ($X) to help make it happen. Can we count you in?

7. Social Media Engagement

Engage with donors on their preferred social media platforms, like TikTok, LinkedIn, and Instagram. For example, send direct messages asking for approval to feature them on your profile with a message of gratitude.

Your program will blossom when you focus on the recurring donor experience and create an avenue to strengthen donor relationships.

What does this look like in real life? Listen to this podcast episode where Chive Charities shares how 70% of their revenue comes from monthly giving with a 98% retention rate.

Mitigate the Risk of Donor Churn with Proactive Stewardship

It’s not news that donor acquisition has become increasingly challenging as people struggle to budget for their day-to-day needs amid record cost of living increases. Still, there’s good news: loyal donors continue showing up.

According to the Fundraising Effectiveness Project’s latest quarterly fundraising report, repeat donor retention rates are steady (-1% in Q3).²

Recruiting, retaining, and nurturing recurring donors is critical to 2024 fundraising success. Let your recurring donors know how impactful their donations are to your cause, and do everything you can to keep that sentiment in mind throughout the year.

Their involvement has the potential to transform your organization’s goals into reality.

Copy Editor: Ayanna Julien

Article Sources:

  1. “Text vs Email Marketing: Which is Better?” Kenect, accessed January 17, 2024, https://www.kenect.com/blog/why-text-messaging-gets-far-greater-open-response-and-engagement-rates-than-email.
  2. “FEP 2023 Q3 Report_Updated,” Fundraising Effectiveness Project, accessed January 22, 2024, https://afpglobal.org/sites/default/files/attachments/generic/FEP%202023%20Q3%20Report_Updated.pdf.
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Email Templates for Stronger Recurring Donation Appeals

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