There are serious advantages that come with a healthy recurring giving program. While revenue from one-time gifts tends to be inconsistent throughout the year, monthly donations provide a stable and predictable source of income. This makes it easier for organizations to plan and invest in their programs, even during down months.
And, given that retaining donors is cheaper than acquiring new ones, growing your recurring giving program is super cost-effective. Plus, monthly donors have much higher retention rates than one-time donors. This gives you the opportunity to build lasting relationships with your donors, which can translate into larger support down the road.
The first step to increasing monthly gifts is to refine the way you approach and communicate with your donors. To help you get started, here are some quick wins.
Five Marketing Strategies You Can Use to Grow Your Recurring Giving Program
1) Invite Donors into the Inner Circle
Incentivize supporters to donate monthly by highlighting your recurring giving program as a special community of esteemed donors. This lets donors know you recognize those who make the big commitment.
For instance, Generosity.org, a nonprofit that provides clean water solutions to developing countries, refers to their recurring giving program as the “Generous Society.”
Their communications channels, including their website, videos, and email appeals, invite supporters to become “members” of this marked community. By giving the program a distinctive title and status, the organization presents a recurring gift as a way to gain entry to this “special” group.
Consider framing your appeals as an invitation into your inner circle of committed supporters. This should be reflected on your website and in your emails. By becoming a monthly donor, they can join an honorary group that impacts your nonprofit’s growth tremendously.
To further incentivize their membership, promote “perks” that monthly donors would receive. These can be special updates about your program’s progress, reflecting the unique access they gain as your most dedicated supporters. Promising this information also proves your organization’s commitment to being transparent about how supporters’ gifts will be used. Generosity.org, for instance, incentivizes and builds trust with prospective monthly donors by showing what they’ll receive as special proof of their impact, right on their website.
2 ) Start With the Impact
Communicating the impact of a recurring gift is key to harnessing monthly support. Supporters want to be certain their contributions will make a difference, so you need to explain exactly why their gift is important and what it will accomplish.
When visitors hit your website, they should be able to quickly understand where their monthly dollars are going. An excellent way to communicate this is by using visual content. Since images are engaging and easy to digest, try whipping up a graphic that illustrates the power of a monthly donation.
To raise funds for their disaster relief efforts, Team Rubicon created this cool visual to show how different monthly gift amounts affect their operations. Donors can have a hard time comprehending a monthly donation’s long-term impact, so a visual can help make that concrete connection.
3) Ask Major Donors to Break Apart their Gifts
Many organizations will have donors who make large gifts a few times a year, usually during major campaigns and the holiday season. Because these supporters give in bulk, nonprofits hesitate to approach them for recurring donations on top of these big gifts. These particular donors, however, make a great batch of potential monthly givers. You just need to be smart about your approach.
Try this: rather than asking them for more donations, just ask them to break apart their large gifts into smaller, monthly installments.
While this adjustment doesn’t necessarily boost their level of support, it still creates a steadier stream of revenue for your organization. And, because recurring donors have higher retention rates, the switch can increase your donors’ chances of sticking around for the long haul.
To communicate with these donors, follow these steps:
Identify the large donors within your community—you can do this by defining the threshold they hit, whether it’s an average gift size of $300, $500, or more. Then use your CRM to pull a list of these contacts.
Pick up the phone and reach out to each one individually, or send a personalized email at the very least.
Thank them for their support.
Summarize how much they’ve personally given over the year and demonstrate how their support has impacted your programs.
Then, pitch the idea of breaking apart their annual gifts into smaller, monthly installments.
Explain how these regular donations will help build a predictable income flow, enabling your organization to budget and execute for long-term impact.
4) Leverage Social Proof
Becoming a monthly donor is a pretty big commitment. So how else can you convince supporters it’s worth doing?
By showing that others are doing it too.
Leveraging social proof is a classic, effective marketing technique to attract people to your brand. By showing that other people have already chosen to join your recurring giving program, you can validate its credibility and motivate others to join an established community.
Employ numbers on your website to demonstrate the host of people supporting your cause. Watsi, a nonprofit that enables people to directly fund healthcare for underserved patients, uses this method on their landing page. The page counts off the host of people who’ve committed to donating monthly, encouraging site visitors to be the next donor.
On top of hard numbers, try using visual content, like live progress bars or feeds, to quickly display a growing community. Here, Possible Health – a nonprofit that delivers high-quality healthcare to disadvantaged communities worldwide – uses a progress bar that displays how many people have hopped aboard the program. Each new monthly funder, or “Possibilist”, can see how their membership impacts a larger community, including its progress toward unlocking corporate gifts.
5) Deliver Special Email Communications for Monthly Donors
In order to nurture the relationships you create, you need to talk to them in a way that continues to reflect their standout role and value.
This means you need to up your email game. Your first step is to create a separate email list for your recurring donors. Instead of receiving all your general appeals, these contacts should receive progress updates, impact stories, and messages that thank and celebrate their support.
Take it a step further by creating a quarterly or bi-annual newsletter, e-magazine, or report specifically for your recurring giving program members. Remember, they are part of a special group that deserves extra attention. It’s important to make them feel like you set them apart for their extra support. Unique communications like these can go a long way in boosting donor satisfaction and trust.
After they’ve given for a significant period of time, you can reach out and ask donors to upgrade their monthly gift amounts. Remember to personalize these asks and reinforce the good work they’re doing.
Tip: while it doesn’t make sense to constantly send general appeals to your monthly givers, don’t be afraid to reach out to them during your major annual campaigns. These supporters care enough about your programs to make a monthly gift commitment; they might be the most willing to make an additional one-time gift and increase their impact.
Nurturing a solid group of monthly donors can do wonders for your nonprofit. The reliable income will help improve your long-term vision and planning, and cut fundraising costs. Because they invest monthly into your programs, recurring donors can also become loyal, lifelong advocates of your mission. With some strategic planning, effective marketing, and intentional communication, you’ll be well on your way to growing a robust recurring giving program.
Originally published Apr 14, 2016 7:00:00 AM, updated February 01 2017