Our clients have taught us that one of the biggest challenges to running a nonprofit is the lack of consistent revenue. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to create stable revenue sources— those pipelines need to be tapped. One method of ensuring revenue flows through the door each month is an effective recurring gift program. And here’s why creating or bolstering your recurring gift program should be one of your top priorities*:
Monthly donors contribute about 3x more annually than one-time donors
Young donors are more apt to contribute smaller gifts more frequently than one large gift
Recurring giving is a simple way to increase engagement with your donors
Luckily, today’s nonprofit fundraising software makes it easier than ever to create and execute a top-level recurring gift program on behalf of your mission. In addition to providing your organization with regular income, a recurring gift program will create the basis for a community of giving and will help you grow your donor base.
Establishing a program with a distinct brand to entice participation, encouraging connection to your cause, and showing gratitude toward your donors will put you on a path to recurring success. Here are some best practices to make sure your recurring gift program is performing up to its potential.
1. Give Your Recurring Donors An Identity
Our first best practice is to name your recurring gift program. The name of this group of donors should signify their increased commitment to your cause and identify them as a member of an exclusive community of giving.
When coming up with a name for your program, make it fun and multi-generational so it speaks to audiences of all ages. It’s also helpful to connect the name to your mission. Here are a few standout names of recurring gift programs in the nonprofit world that really grabbed our attention:
- “The Spring” by charity: water
- “Bread and Butter Club” by Food and Friends
- “The Collective” by Adventure Club
As you can see, each program name is relevant to its cause and reveals how a donor’s monthly gift will help the mission.
Special note: after you name (or rebrand!) your program, be sure to look at the current impact statement. These impact statements should be easy to understand exactly how the monthly donation will help. Here is charity: water’s clear and concise impact statement for their program, “The Spring”: Your $40.00 donation can give someone in Africa the gift of water forever. Commit to giving this gift to 12 people this year with a monthly donation to our organization.
2. Identify Recurring Gift Program Benefits
Successful recurring gift programs come with distinct benefits for its members. Our second best practice is to identify your recurring program benefits. Many nonprofits will choose a small gift item as a benefit to boost monthly giving, but the majority of the remaining benefits are virtual.
Here are some of the most common (and effective) tangible and virtual benefits for recurring gift programs.
|Tangible Benefits||Virtual Benefits|
|Branded mug, bottle, or cup||Special communications/newsletters or bonus content.|
|Branded shopping bag or tote||Showing mission impact by calculating the donor’s estimated yearly donation and now that supports your work.|
|Products from your organization’s gift store (if applicable)||Invitations or discounts to conferences, symposia, research webinars, etc.|
|Branded pad of paper or Post-It notes||Discounted rates for participation in other events held by the organization.|
3. Promote Your Program
Once your program has a name and enticing benefits for members, it’s time to tell your supporter network about this new opportunity for giving. Our third best practice is to strategize with your marketing department on how best to promote your recurring gift program.
Work internally to identify the best time and way to promote your new recurring gift program. We suggest choosing a month that is special to your organization (i.e. anniversary celebrations, awareness months, large event months). Avoid launching your recurring gift program from Thanksgiving (Giving Tuesday) to year-end as it might get lost in the competing noise. However, you can – and should! – use this important time to promote upgrading one-time gifts to monthly donations.
4. Recurring Giver Stewardship and Management
Our fourth best practice is to steward your recurring gift program donors. Because these donations happen almost automatically, it might be tempting to put in less effort toward recurring gifts, but do not give in! You should assign a staff member with the bandwidth to properly manage your recurring gift program after assessing its maintenance needs.
Management and stewardship of a recurring gift program includes:
- Ensuring delivery of program benefits
- Providing donor support and customer service
- Building key relationships with monthly givers who have the potential to do more for your organization
Your recurring gift program is a pivotal source of regular income for your organization and should not be left on autopilot. Consider your recurring givers a foundation for success. Interact with them, show them your appreciation, and you’ll be able to build key relationships that will sustain your cause for months (and hopefully years) to come.
Carly is a Digital Fundraising Strategist at Zuri Group. She has decades of experience creating vibrant, engaging online fundraising campaigns.