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Did you know that monthly donors give 42% more money than any other donor? Creating a base of recurring givers increases a nonprofit’s revenues while decreasing the overall cost to operate. Constantly having to reach out to donors is a time consuming and expensive task, which is why recurring givers are crucial to your nonprofit’s success.

Even if donor retention is at the top of your list, it can be a tricky task. Getting people to donate to a cause or organization is one thing, but creating recurring givers is a wholly different undertaking. To make donor retention even more complicated, research shows you only have about 60 days to convert a one-time donor into a recurring giver.

As daunting as this task may appear, don’t give up hope! Implement some of the tips below to help you create a recurring donation program.

Show your supporters their personal impact

Remember the TV commercials starring dogs in need with Sarah Mclachlan’s “Angel” playing in the background? Well, if you do, they quite memorably demonstrated what a donor’s money would personally impact. Those commercials were putting a face to a cause and giving it a human (or, in this case, animal) touch. It was no longer just the name of an organization, but an emotionally compelling call to action.

That’s ideally what you want to achieve. You don’t necessarily want to make your donors cry, but you do want to emphasize the importance of your cause by helping them understand the real-world impact.

Show the donor exactly where their money is going and the difference they personally made. The easiest way to do this is to tell an ongoing story.

When developing your narrative, remember these objectives:

Brand Strength
  • Ongoing storytelling requires awareness of consistency. A strong brand increases brand connection, aligning the vision of the organization with that of the donors and investors. To achieve this, keep the branding of the emails, social posts, or any other platform you choose similar, clean, and in tune with the brand of the initial event. Emphasizing continuity will reinforce and remind your donors of your mission. Think of your brand as the glue that holds together your ongoing story, while directly associating it with the value of your efforts.

Value Alignment
  • More and more donors are contributing to fundraising initiatives based on whether an organization will enhance their personal brand. How will association with your story further the donor’s interests? Donors and prospects want to invest in organizations whose vision aligns with their own, where their participation will make the most difference, and where their interests will be advanced. In other words, they want to actualize and acknowledge the person they want to be through their impact. Because of this, you have to firmly establish the values you want to portray and make sure those are reflected within any online storytelling and your follow-up.

Long-Term Communication
  • Warm up your community of supporters with the idea of the story you are about to share with them. Describe that idea succinctly (as outlined above), then continue to complete the narrative while your effort is live and being funded. An example of ongoing communication could be as creative as interviewing donors halfway through and asking things like ‘Why did you donate?’ or ‘Why should others care about this story?’ and sharing it with your community. Make updates that reflect your ongoing struggles and successes as you receive funding. If you treat your fundraising story as an organic journey that unfolds, people will be engaged.

People are compelled by emotion so tug at their heartstrings. Tell them the story of the person, place or thing they are giving to. Use images or videos to portray your organization as more than just a name.

Give them an incentive to donate again.

Display your appreciation

You’d be surprised at how far a simple thank you will go. 

Digital donors should be thanked online with expediency because of the immediacy we’ve come to expect from technology. Always say “thank you” within an hour of a given donation. 

Meanwhile, offline donors that say, gave through your phone bank, might want a follow-up call. This is not to say you should not incorporate other methods of thanks for select donors. Nothing is quite as impactful or thoughtful as a handwritten letter, so use alternate channels where appropriate.

Whatever channels you select, tell your donor you see what they did and that they are personally important to your success. Make these thank you’s as personal as possible so your supporters don’t feel lost in the crowd. Address them by name and talk about their specific donation.

This thank you can also be an opportunity to show them where their money went and discuss their next chance to donate. 

This can also be applied to volunteers who donate their time to your nonprofit. A study in 2017 revealed that the average donors time is worth $24.14 per hour. Don’t forget to show your appreciation for your volunteers too!

Get regular feedback from donors

Send out a survey following an individual’s first-time donation asking for their personal feedback. Ask how their giving experience with your organization went and what you can do to improve for next time. Show your donors how much you value their thoughts and opinions. Don’t let the giving process stop at just the donation. Continue it with surveys, updates, etc. to make your donors feel involved.

Give your one-time donors a chance to feel as if they are a part of your organization and making a difference. Allow them to invest in your organization through something as simple as feedback from a survey. This investment will make them more inclined to donate the next time they get the chance.

Reach out to donors…just enough

There is a fine line between reaching out too much and not reaching out enough. On the one hand, you don’t want to be constantly “thasking” (asking for donations while thanking donors for their contributions), but on the other, you want to stay top of mind for future giving opportunities by showcasing your impact on their affinity areas.

Find that perfect balance that works for the majority of your donors. Send updates of your achievements since their first donation and get them excited about your overall mission. Show them how their money impacted your cause and how it could again.

As a rule of thumb, here are some milestones you can use:

  • Immediate: The thank you!
  • 1-2 weeks: An update or summary of the campaign’s accomplishments
  • Within 1 month: An update on continued progress and example of impact in a similar affinity area by your organization
  • 1-5 months: Call-to-actions to enroll in nurturing channels like newsletters, dynamic content, and social media
  • 6 months and beyond: Ask for a recurring gift program based on the passion the individual has expressed

You worked hard to get these one-time donors, so don’t be scared to reach out and turn them into recurring donors! Learn some ways to make sure your
donors are not forgetting about you.

Recognize current recurring givers

Recognize your current givers and tell their giving story. Not only does this make your recurring givers feel special but it also attracts one-time donors to join them. It’s a win-win situation. Over 70% of donations come from individuals, so take a moment to recognize some of these individuals who are contributing time and money to help your organization.

Share these stories on your website, in your newsletters, throughout social media platforms, etc. Make these stories personal and genuine. Don’t forget to check in with your recurring givers to make sure they don’t mind being publicly recognized. Remember you have nothing to lose by taking these steps to bring in new recurring givers.

Learn more tips to engage your donors from our Donor Cultivation blog post.

Katie Haystead

Katie Haystead

Senior Vice President, Partnerships

With over a decade of experience working with K12 schools and higher education institutions’ fundraising efforts, Katie Haystead now oversees the partnerships team at Community Funded. Her passion for partner success and satisfaction aligns with Community Funded’s priorities and Katie’s unique background is well suited to manage the day to day operations of our partnerships team as well as new market acquisition.

Prior to joining the team at Community Funded, Katie served many roles within the Fundraising Division at Ruffalo Noel Levitz. Her experience ranges from working onsite and remotely with clients executing phonathon programs, developing annual giving strategies, onsite consultations and also developing multichannel strategies allowing for strong synergy between annual giving channels and creating strong major and planned gift pipelines.

Katie is based in Metro Detroit and is a graduate of Central Michigan University, where she worked for the phonathon for 3 years while working towards her History Major.

Kim Jennings

Kim Jennings

Senior Generosity Strategist, Generis

Kim Jennings, CFRE is a skilled fundraising leader who believes in the power of Christian education to raise up thoughtful, strong, committed leaders who can make our world a better place for all.

Kim Jennings

Todd Turner

Director of Digital Strategies, Generis

In addition to his 11 years overseeing Chuck Swindoll’s Insight Living Ministries communications department, Todd Turner has worked as a digital strategist for faith based organizations across the globe..

Kim Jennings

Jennifer Perrow

Senior Generosity Strategist, Generis

Jennifer is a skilled fundraising and communications professional who helps ministries articulate vision, communicate mission, and raise abundant funds to advance Kingdom priorities.