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3 Powerful Strategies to Upgrade Your Recurring Giving Program

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Published March 31, 2021 Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Future Is Recurring

At Classy, we have a saying: the future is recurring. Not only are recurring donors over 400% more valuable compared to one-time donors, but recurring giving also provides your organization with a revenue stream that’s consistent from month to month. In a time when the future of in-person fundraising events is still uncertain due to COVID-19, having this predictability in your fundraising is more important than ever.

Not only is recurring giving beneficial for your nonprofit, it’s also convenient for donors. People prefer to give on a recurring basis because it’s automated and fits into their monthly budget, and the proof is in the data: nonprofit recurring revenue grew 40% in 2020, according to data from our partner, Double the Donation.

With this in mind, it’s important to continue to refine your recurring giving program to attract, convert, nurture, and retain new donors. Let’s dive into three strategies you can deploy to consistently raise more, every month.

Download Now: The Ultimate Guide to Recurring Giving

Recurring Giving Strategy #1: Move Beyond the Monthly Gift

We know that subscription-based giving is important and growing, but it doesn’t just have to be monthly. In April 2021, Classy introduced New Recurring Frequencies to give you—and your donors—more options for subscription giving. You are able to accept recurring gifts on the following frequencies:

  • One-time
  • Monthly
  • Quarterly
  • Semi-annually
  • Annually

You can choose which of these frequencies to offer on any donation form or campaign to hyper-target giving options to different segments of your audience.

With this new set of options, your organization can begin offering new ways for your donors to support you on a recurring basis. For example, automate annual giving for End of Year, your fiscal year-end, or another annual campaign. Quarterly recurring donations can be used to expand membership offerings for museums, zoos, or arts and culture organizations. Monthly donations, of course, are not going anywhere and will continue to be very popular for all types of nonprofits.

These are just a few examples; the only limit is your organization’s creativity. Not only can flexible frequencies support a wide variety of campaigns, they also play an important role in donor retention.

With Classy, donors have total control over their recurring gift subscription, with options to change their payment frequency, the date they’re charged, or to update their payment method with a new credit card or bank account.

Recurring Giving Strategy #2: Get Ready for Gen Z

Many organizations have put thought into understanding and catering to millennial donors. In 2021 and beyond, there’s a new generation entering the workforce, as the oldest members of Gen Z (born 1996 and later) turn 25.

Gen Z is gaining a reputation as a group with a hyper-awareness of world issues and passion for social and environmental justice. As they’re seeking out organizations to support, you need to make sure your cause is visible and accessible to them. After all, the global cohort of Gen Z-ers makes up 27 percent of the world population and accounts for 2 billion people.

Subscription giving is a perfect opportunity to engage Gen Z. Not only are they accustomed to subscription experiences in every part of their economic lives (Spotify, Amazon, and Netflix, just to name a few), but they’re also just at the beginning of their income-earning years.

Few members of Gen Z will be ready to make a $500 annual gift, but a smaller recurring contribution fits in their budgets and allows your organization to steward these donors for the future. 

Ensure that your recurring giving program appeals to these newest members of the philanthropic community through the following steps:.

Prioritize Your Social Media Presence

First, it’s absolutely necessary that you be active and authentic on social media. Tell the story of your organization, why your work is important, and explain the impact a recurring donation makes. Consider levering short-form video or eye-catching infographics to boost reach and engagement.

Welcome Recurring Donors of Smaller Gift Sizes

Once you’ve attracted attention, make sure that your recurring giving program is appealing to donors who may come in at a smaller gift amount. Many organizations have a branded recurring giving program specifically for younger donors, like a “coffee club” inviting supporters to give the $5 they’d spend on a latte on a recurring basis.

Optimize Your Mobile Giving Experience

Finally, members of Gen Z are more likely to use a mobile phone to browse the web and access social media than older generations. It’s important that your organization’s website and donation form are optimized for use on mobile devices. Payment options like Google Pay and Apple Pay are extremely popular with younger donors and increase donation conversion rates from mobile devices.

After adding Digital Wallet giving to our donation page, we saw our conversion rate for mobile donors double.

Andrew Dobney

Director of Digital Fundraising Systems, The Salvation Army

Read Next: 3 Steps to Optimize Your Mobile Giving

Recurring Giving Strategy #3: It’s All About ACH

One of the toughest challenges of running a successful recurring giving program can be donor churn due to expiring credit cards. Think of it like filling a leaky bucket—it’s hard to grow your program when you are constantly losing gifts as cards churn out.

With this in mind, more organizations are turning to ACH (Automated Clearing House processing) donations to ensure strong recurring gift retention. To support this, we’ve added ACH donation functionality to our in house processor, Classy Pay. Our platform data indicates that recurring donations made through ACH are both larger and retained longer than gifts made with credit card.

On the Classy platform, the average monthly recurring gift made with ACH is 55% larger vs. credit card ($48 vs $31).

And, monthly recurring donors who give via ACH are retained on average for 20% longer versus credit card. Cards expire, are cancelled, and get lost or stolen constantly, but when was the last time you changed your checking account?

Making sure your nonprofit can accept recurring ACH donations has other benefits. Processing fees for ACH are typically lower than for credit cards, and retaining even one additional percentage point of your gifts can make a big difference for a program at scale.

Download Now: 8 Email Templates to Upgrade Your Recurring Donors


Recurring giving not only creates a predictable revenue stream that powers organizations through uncertain times, but it also sets you up for scale. The most successful organizations on Classy are powerhouses of recurring giving, with organizations who raise over $50 million in total revenue driving 26% of their online revenue through Classy from recurring gifts. Because this is a critical cohort of supporters, you should only continue to improve the giving experience for new and existing recurring donors.

Hear more about recurring giving and other sustainable donation strategies to build financial resilience well into the future at the Collaborative: Virtual Sessions.

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ultimate recurring giving

The Ultimate Guide to Recurring Giving

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