Recurring Donations: Building a Stronger Fundraising Model

Recurring donations, building a stronger fundraising model

More nonprofit organizations are building their fundraising models around securing recurring donations. Why? Because they provide an incredible level of reliable support for your mission. Recurring donations should be the bedrock of your fundraising strategies, the foundation of your monthly revenue from fundraising.

By building out a strong program for incentivizing and securing these donations from your supporters, you can free your organization from the year-to-year (or even month-to-month!) struggle of keeping operations afloat. Running a nonprofit organization is hard work, primarily because it’s such a huge challenge to gain that initial foothold.

At Snowball, we’ve recognized that many smaller organizations struggle to get up and running at a sustainable rate, but there’s no reason for it to be that hard! With the best practices and software, your team will be able to capture your goal amount of recurring donations.

With that said, recurring donations are within reach of every nonprofit, and we’ll show you how to start getting them for your own mission with the following points:

There’s no reason for high barriers to entry for nonprofits in today’s digital environment. We’ve written before on the best software for growing organizations and the best ways to convert more donors with your donation page. Our goal is to help more nonprofits do more good globally, and snagging additional recurring donors is one of the best ways to start building a solid fundraising foundation for your mission.

Let’s get started.

Recurring donations FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions About Recurring Donations

As a nonprofit professional, you know that recurring donations can unlock a whole new level of stability for your organization. Having a solid segment of recurring donors can free up a lot of time to focus on long-term concerns like building more effective strategies for your major campaigns. Here are some frequently asked questions from nonprofit professionals like yourself.

What is a recurring donation?

A recurring gift or donation is made regularly, usually once a month. Your giving software will automate this payment. The patron picks the amount they want to give each period, and then the donation schedule is recorded in your CRM system or donation tool to complete the transaction in the correct time frame.

How do I get recurring donations?

Use an online donation tool that offers intuitive recurring gift options. Be sure to customize preset gift amounts and transaction schedules suggested to donors, but the donation tool itself will do all the heavy lifting.

Check out our buyer’s guide to online donation platforms for a more comprehensive overview of the kinds of features that make a powerful donation tool (hint: the ability to easily accept recurring donations).

Why are recurring donations so important?

Recurring donations are becoming more popular than ever, both with donors and with fundraising professionals. Here’s the most obvious way to put it—they secure more financial support for your nonprofit with little extra effort on your part. Think of it like this:

  • Smaller, recurring donations are often an easier sell than a large, one-time donation. Recurring gifts then provide more long-term lifetime value per donor.
  • Recurring gifts provide a much more stable and predictable source of revenue. This can relieve a lot of stress and give you more flexibility to plan your long-term strategies.
  • Regularly supporting your mission without needing to donate manually provides an excellent giving experience for recurring donors.
  • Recurring donations allow you to focus more on sharing updates with donors instead of asking for new donations. This builds much stronger emotional connections with your mission and helps boost overall retention.

The benefits of recurring donations compound (like how interest compounds in a savings account) in a way that even tons of one-time donations don’t.

Do donors like recurring donations?

Simply put, yes. Donors love recurring donations. By offering a structured way for individuals to give more often, even if in smaller amounts, you can maximize those good feelings while minimizing friction in the donation process.

Scheduling the donations ahead of time and then automatically processing them eliminates the risk that a clunky donation tool or glitch on your site drives users away.

Think about it this way: we’ve all become online consumers, and it’s changed the way we like to make transactions. For example, consider the growth of subscription-style businesses in recent years. Consumers want the simplicity of a set-it-and-forget-it model for their goods and services, whether they’re digital video content, household goods, or donations to their favorite nonprofit organization.

How to optimize your recurring donation strategy

Optimizing Your Recurring Donation Strategy

Just like reaching any other fundraising goal, you’ll need to develop a strategy for securing more recurring donors for your nonprofit. Here are a few general tips you can use to begin building out a framework for a recurring donations strategy:

Check out your current performance metrics.

What’s your current yearly retention rate? Do any of your donors already give on a regular basis? Strong retention is a good sign that your donor base would appreciate having a recurring option.

Set concrete goals.

You can’t build an effective strategy without a way to measure success. You might want a certain percentage of your revenue to come from recurring donations by the end of the year, or you could shoot for having a specific number of active recurring donors.

To get started, try surveying donors. If you have a loyal base of donors, why not just ask them if they’d be interested in setting up a recurring monthly donation? Emotional connections are powerful—if a donor has given to you several times, that means supporting your mission means a lot to them.

Try surveying donors.

If you have an engaged and loyal core base of donors, why not just ask them if they’d be interested in setting up a recurring monthly donation? Emotional connections are powerful — if a donor has given to you several times, that means supporting your mission means a lot to them.

Offer the right options.

Analyze your donation data. What’s the average gift amount? Your donation tool should let you set suggested amounts, so make sure you don’t ask donors for more or less money than they’ll be likely to give. Remember, the second-lowest amount option tends to be the most popular simply because it’s the second-lowest!

Invest in powerful donation software.

Here at Snowball, we believe that the best software for your nonprofit organization is one that promotes donor retention. Attributes that lead to recurring giving include a straightforward user experience that can also get your team the data your need to support your campaign.

As you begin building out your strategy, think about the bigger picture of the donor’s experience while making a gift online. This is a crucial factor that way too many nonprofits forget about. It’s also what guides our own fundraising philosophy here at Snowball as outlined in our dedicated framework below.  

Promoting recurring donation options to supporters

Promoting Recurring Donations to Supporters

You’re well on your way to building a strong recurring donations strategy. Review a few extra tips as you start to refine your plans:

Prioritize recurring gifts in your marketing materials.

If you’ve taken the time to build out an effective strategy, you should be shouting about your recurring donations program from the rooftops! Your website, social media feeds, and donor or member newsletters are the perfect places to start.

Illustrate tiers of impact.

Be sure to show your potential recurring donors the impact that each amount option can have. For example, $10 a month will help the animal shelter replace worn-out toys, $20 a month will make sure there’s always plenty of food for every animal, and $50 a month will fund adoption days around the state to help pets find new homes. Illustrating your impact is always a good idea because it reinforces emotional motivations with concrete examples.

Foster community around your donors.

Don’t forget to incentivize recurring donations in the first place. Create a simple membership program with levels of special perks corresponding to each recurring giving level. Merchandise, free event tickets, and special newsletters and updates are all great motivators for donors who already love your nonprofit and want to deepen their engagement. At the very least, publicly thank your recurring donors with some extra recognition whenever possible.

With these simple best practices, your organization can clearly call your donors to action to give to your cause repeatedly.

Three steps for recurring donations

Three Step Framework for Successful Recurring Donations

Here at Snowball, we recommend this foolproof framework for securing repeat giving. Here’s how:

Step 1: Don’t kill the donor’s buzz!

When it comes to fundraising, emotions should be the driving factor. When a donor feels the impulse to give to your cause, it’s because your mission and message resonated with them. They want to feel good about helping you make a difference.

This relates directly to the donation software and website tools you use. The online donation process has to be completely streamlined from start to finish. Think about shopping cart abandonment—we tend to give up on transactions that take too long, don’t work well, or ask too many questions.

That’s why we design all of our fundraising software here at Snowball with the donor’s experience in mind. Speed, ease, and convenience make a huge difference.

Step 2: Master the art of securing a card.

Once you’ve streamlined your online donation process, it’s time to shift your focus to building stronger relationships with donors. We’ve already discussed the importance of building emotional connections with users.

On the technical side of things, though, building stronger relationships means convincing donors to save their card information with you. 

Think about eCommerce again—how many online stores do you both buy from often and trust enough to bother creating an account and then saving your credit card information? A donor taking those extra steps is a huge sign of their emotional connection to your mission.

Creating an online account is usually a pain for donors, involving a ton of manual entry of information. Be sure to keep things easy and unobtrusive to show that you respect their time.

397 out of 1,000 online donors created accounts using Snowball donation pages thanks to our streamlined, pledge-style approach to fundraising.  And, of course, make sure they save their card information for next time!

Step 3: Promote recurring donations.

Now it’s time to make the push for recurring donations.

Already having a credit card on file makes it much easier to persuade donors to set up recurring gifts. They won’t have to think too hard about it because there’s no need for them to input new information. The whole process can stay focused on the emotions that drive philanthropic giving in the first place.

Include options to set up a recurring donation on your donation pages and forms. Your team can even send out information regarding the benefits of repeat automatic giving on your email outreach and social media platforms.

Using this three-step framework will help your organization keep its sights on what matters most: building relationships, respecting donors’ time, and raising more support for your mission.

The ins and outs of building an effective strategy and securing more recurring donations take both technical support from the right fundraising tools and careful thought around the donor experience. Keep in mind that any organization can create a more stable financial foundation for itself with recurring donors.

Remember, make it technically and emotionally simple to support your work, and you’ll be building stronger relationships with donors than ever before. Keep refining your fundraising strategies with some additional resources:

  • Virtual Fundraising Guide:  To get donations, you must have a secure virtual fundraising strategy in place for your organization. Find out best practices for raising money online in this guide by Snowball.
  • Boosting Conversion Rates: The donor journey is one that can be constantly optimized. Consider how to boost your conversion rate from the potential supporter’s first touchpoint with your organization to giving to your cause.
  • Virtual Fundraising Ideas: To raise the most money possible for your organization’s endeavors, consider hosting a virtual fundraiser! These virtual ideas are COVID-19 friendly, and provides ample opportunities to collect funds.

Get Started Today

Get in touch with us to take a tour of the Snowball platform and find the right fundraising solutions for your nonprofit.

Get in touch with us to take a tour of the Snowball platform and find the right fundraising solutions for your nonprofit.