How to Encourage Recurring Gifts Online: 4 Actionable Tips

Whether you’re a professional at an animal shelter, a food bank, a school, or another organization, recurring donations relieve some of the stress that comes with securing enough funds each month for your nonprofit, which allows you to continue striving toward your cause. Considering that 11.56% of total fundraising came from recurring giving last year, this is not an opportunity nonprofits should overlook.

Creating an effective recurring giving program helps you develop a predictable and consistent revenue stream. Plus, it simplifies the giving process for donors by allowing them to give to the causes they care about on a regular basis. 

Think of it this way: it’s much more feasible to ask a prospect to contribute $30 over 10 months rather than a lump sum of $300 all at once. In other words, this allows you to secure more gifts, simply spread out over time. All you need to do is put it into perspective for them.

Prior to the recent advancements in nonprofit fundraising technology, accepting recurring donations was a difficult process. It required each donor to commit to making regular financial contributions to your cause (most often through direct mail and phone calls). Then, fundraising teams had to actively follow up to ensure donors followed through. 

Thanks to online marketing software and dedicated donation tools, it’s now easier than ever to accept recurring donations without extensive manual outreach. Today, all your donors need to do is visit your organization’s online giving page and select the recurring gift option as they contribute their gift. 

With the great fundraising potential that recurring gifts represent, it’s important to develop a digital marketing plan to proactively spread the word about such opportunities. To help, we’ve developed a list of the top ways you can promote recurring donations online:

  1. Feature recurring gifts across your website.
  2. Allow donors to manage their own giving.
  3. Target your outreach with segmentation.
  4. Follow up and express appreciation.

Recurring gifts are not something your organization should overlook. Ready to learn how to get this opportunity in front of more prospects? Let’s dive in.

Tip #1: Feature Recurring Gifts Across Your Website

Your organization’s website is its most important digital marketing tool. It acts as the central hub for all of your nonprofit’s information, making it the first stop on anyone’s quest to learn more about your work. Whether your visitors are already committed donors or first-time visitors, your website content needs to provide value, and by prominently displaying recurring gifts across your website, you can tell all supporters exactly how to contribute to your organization.

Let’s take a look at three primary locations to include information about recurring gifts on your nonprofit’s website:

  • Your Donation Form – One of the simplest ways to spread awareness is to add an easy-to-select recurring gift option on your donation form. Individuals who visit this page are already planning on giving to your organization. If they feel strongly about your mission, they’ll likely consider signing up for your recurring gift program, especially if it only takes one click. This is one of the first major steps to fully optimizing your donation process.
  • Your ‘Ways to Give’ Page – Chances are, you already have a page where you list various opportunities for involvement, such as volunteering or registering for events. Simply include a section about recurring gifts alongside those existing explanations! Explain the importance of the program and urge people to sign up. After all, one major key to convincing donors to make a monthly commitment is simply explaining the potential impact on your organization.
  • Calls-to-Action (CTAs) – Directly on your donation form, include a straightforward CTA that encourages donors to opt into your monthly giving program. For instance, you might choose to include an easy-to-select checkbox alongside the donation amount field that simply states “Make this a recurring donation.” From here, use other content on your website (e.g. blog posts with impact stories) to encourage monthly giving with compelling CTAs (e.g. ‘Give monthly now’). This way, readers will know exactly what their next steps are when your content motivates them.

Increasing visibility is the first step to securing supporter commitment for recurring gifts. When considering upping their involvement in the future, your recurring gifts program will be top of mind. By laying out the program and being transparent, donors will be much more likely to opt-in, and you’ll be well on your way to a more predictable revenue stream.

Tip #2: Allow Donors to Manage Their Giving

The last thing donors want is to feel like they have no control over their recurring gifts. You can avoid this with donation software that allows donors to manage their own giving. By putting the power in their hands, you’ll simplify the donation management process instead of making them jump through hoops to adjust their recurring gift plan. 

A donor portal will store your donors’ information and will allow your donors to log in and edit their personal information. In the long run, this process can simplify the plan management process, help you cultivate trustworthy relationships with donors, and expedite the giving process for returning contributors.

While this option may not be possible for every organization, there are some online giving platforms that provide easy-to-implement, low-cost account creation capabilities that can be added directly to your website. 

Through your donor portal, donors should be able to update the following:

  • Payment information (e.g. credit/debit card, ACH direct deposit, PayPal, etc.)
  • Donation amount
  • Giving frequency (e.g. weekly, monthly, or annually)

By passing recurring gift management responsibilities to your donors, you’ll experience a number of benefits. For one, complete control over their own giving will make donors trust your organization, increasing the likelihood that they’ll opt-into the program. They’ll recognize that they have the opportunity to adjust their plan at any point and will appreciate that your team is willing to make that process easy for them.

Further, you’ll minimize the amount of staff time necessary for giving plan administrative tasks. Freeing up your team’s time will allow you to focus more on advancing your mission.

Tip #3: Target Outreach With Segmentation

Targeted communication based on donor data is the key to connecting with your prospects and securing long-term support. The easiest way to accomplish this is by segmenting your support base. In short, segmentation involves separating your constituents into meaningful groups based on common characteristics (e.g. giving history, demographics, and so on). 

While your organization is likely already doing this, there are a few steps you can take that will specifically help improve your recurring gift program. Start by noting who your existing recurring donors are in your donor database. You should then place these individuals on a separate email list. This allows your team to tailor your communications and appeal to them in ways that resonate.

For instance, sending emails asking for recurring donations to those who already give monthly is not only wasteful — it can irritate these individuals. It tells them that you’re not fully paying attention to their commitment. Further, while you can send appeals for one-time donations to these individuals, you might limit them since they are already giving on an ongoing basis.

Instead, you can communicate with these two types of donors separately. To reach one-time or infrequent donors, consider sending out a campaign encouraging them to join your recurring giving program and reaching out to them with asks for other fundraising campaigns, as well.

Locating Prospective Recurring Donors with Segmentation

Segmentation not only allows you to connect with existing recurring donors, but it also allows you to identify potential recurring donors. After conducting sufficient prospect research, determine which prospects are the most likely to convert to recurring donors based on the following data points:

  • Donation frequency and size: Analyze your donor database and look for those who give smaller amounts regularly. These individuals will be more likely to opt-in for recurring donations, so frame the program as an opportunity to make their giving consistent and easy.
  • Engagement level: Depending on how involved they are (e.g. history of volunteering, registered for the newsletter email list, etc.), supporters may be willing to take their engagement to the next level by submitting recurring donations.

By analyzing data and breaking individuals up into groups, you can determine who your most promising prospects are as well as the best ways to connect with those individuals through personalized outreach. Dive deeper into this process by exploring Doubleknot’s donor segmentation guide. By improving your understanding, you’ll be well-equipped to use this strategy in an effective way.

Tip #4: Follow Up and Express Appreciation

With all of the hard work that goes into securing donations, it might seem like your job is done the moment you finally convert a prospect into a recurring donor. However, that’s not quite the case. You’ll need to actively follow up with these generous supporters. Otherwise, your newly-captured recurring donors may very well find a different cause that actively expresses its appreciation.

Following up is a powerful way to express gratitude and ultimately cultivate stronger relationships with these individuals. There are a handful of scenarios where your team will need to conduct follow-up outreach:

  1. Send personalized thank-you emails after every donation. Some organizations thank donors for their initial donations but not subsequent ones. According to retention statistics, 13% of surveyed donors indicated they stopped giving because they were never thanked. While this may not seem substantial at first glance, this lost support adds up. As long as your monthly donors keep giving, you should continue expressing genuine gratitude.
  2. Send project updates. Consistently update recurring donors on progress of specific programs they contributed to or have expressed interest in. Emphasize the specific impact their donations have made, so they’ll see the tangible difference as a result of their dedication to your cause. This is a great way to show them you’re listening and paying attention to their gifts, which may lead to continued support.
  3. Follow up when payments fail. Most often, payments fail when a donor’s credit card  expires and they forget to update their payment information. Nonprofit Tech for Good found that 1 in 4 organizations don’t reach out to win back a recurring donation after a payment is declined. Stay on top of these instances and actively follow up to quickly recapture that support. Whether this is done by phone or by email is entirely up to your team. In any case, be sure your tools notify you every time this happens.

Taking a proactive approach to following up is crucial. Ensure you have processes in place for common scenarios like declined payments, so nothing flies under your team’s radar. As long as donors feel as though their contributions are vital to your continued success, they’ll continue giving. 

Recurring gifts represent a major fundraising opportunity for nonprofits. They’re a way for individual donors to make a noticeable, lasting difference in your mission without breaking the bank.

From your nonprofit’s website to segmented communications, recurring gifts should be ingrained in your outreach tactics. By encouraging them across all digital outlets, you’ll increase their visibility, showcase their importance, and ultimately bring more donors on board. Implement the tips discussed in this article, and you’ll be well on your way to securing that vital support.

How does your nonprofit promote its recurring giving program online? Do you have any questions about how to spread the word? Let us know in the comments below.