Recurring Gifts: Three Tips for Sustainable Fundraising


Today, nonprofit leaders and grantmakers know how important sustainable fundraising is. Improve your nonprofit’s sustainability with these recurring gift tips.

The past few years have caused many nonprofit leaders to question their current fundraising practices and consider how they can better sustain their organizations for years to come. For many, this reassessment has resulted in efforts to refocus fundraising around retaining current incoming revenue, such as renewable grants and recurring donations. 

Reliable revenue streams help nonprofits not only weather challenges, but also better position themselves to jump on new fundraising opportunities. After all, a nonprofit looks better to grantmakers if they can prove they have the resources to continue their services, whether they receive the grant or not. 

This can create a scenario where nonprofits that have a strong recurring giving program tend to earn more fundraising, and those who don’t lose out on opportunities to improve their financial situation. To help your nonprofit escape this cycle, this guide will explore three tips for sustainable fundraising:

  1. Make recurring giving easy. 
  2. Identify potential recurring donors. 
  3. Establish long-term relationships. 

Each of these tips will provide actionable advice that your nonprofit can use to create a sustainable fundraising program. While your nonprofit should still devote resources towards finding new revenue sources, securing your current revenue through recurring gifts will give your organization a strong foundation for continuous growth. 

1. Make recurring giving easy.

Your website and your donation page can determine whether new donors decide to opt-in to your recurring giving program. While many donors will give sporadically to your nonprofit for a long period of time before becoming a recurring donor, others might be interested in doing so the first time they give. 

To capture more recurring donors, make the donation process and the ability to join your recurring giving program as easy as possible. Here are a few ways you can optimize your donation page to encourage more recurring gifts:

  • Offer suggested monthly giving amounts. Display recurring giving amounts alongside one-time donation options to encourage donors to opt-in to contributing lower monthly gifts than higher one-time donations.  
  • Provide examples of what a monthly gift could fund. You can demonstrate the value of recurring gifts by providing a brief description of what a monthly gift will mean for your constituents. For example, a food bank might estimate how many people can be fed and for how long with each suggested monthly giving amount, such as “Your donation of $15 a month provides fresh produce for a family of four throughout the year.”
  • Give donors multiple opportunities to join your recurring giving program. Your donation form should include a check box or button that donors can use to sign up for your recurring giving program. You can also earn more recurring gifts by prompting one-time donors to upgrade their gift into a recurring contribution after they donate with a pop-up or follow-up message. 

While adding more details to your form can persuade donors into joining your recurring giving program, make sure to keep your donation page short. Long forms can lead to donor abandonment, costing your nonprofit potential gifts. Strike the balance between adding details to encourage gifts and trimming the fat on your donation form to encourage additional donations. 

2. Identify potential recurring donors. 

Many of your prospective recurring donors already give to your nonprofit on a semi-regular basis. CharityEngine’s guide to monthly giving explains that nonprofits can use their CRMs to identify prospective recurring donors by looking for these two giving traits:

Recurring Gifts Venn DIagram

  • Semi-regular donors. Donors who give repeatedly likely have an emotional and monetary investment in your nonprofit’s mission. Reach out to these donors about how they can switch their annual or sporadic giving to a monthly program to help support your nonprofit while reducing data re-entry for each gift. 
  • Significant and moderate donors. Donors who have made a significant one-time contribution are similarly invested in your nonprofit’s success. For these donors, transitioning to lower monthly contributions can provide your nonprofit with sustainable revenue. 

Donors with these traits can grow their gifts by signing up for your monthly giving program. For example, a donor who gives $100 every year could easily transition to giving $10 a month, providing your nonprofit with reliable monthly revenue and an additional $20 per year.

3. Establish long-term relationships. 

Recurring donors contribute to nonprofits they feel connected to. If a donor starts to doubt whether a nonprofit needs their funding, they may decide to give to a different organization. You can cultivate long-term relationships to sustain your recurring giving program by:

  • Showing your appreciation. A simple “thank you” can go a long way towards letting a donor know that their contributions matter. Make sure your nonprofit sends an automatic emailed thank you message to everyone who donates online. Then, build out your appreciation program further to include sending cards, making phone calls, or even texting donors your thanks. 
  • Personalizing messages. Treat your supporters like the individuals they are by addressing them by preferred name in personalized messages. Use your CRM and other messaging tools to further customize your messages by referencing each donor’s previous gifts and engagement history. 
  • Providing more ways to get involved. Give your supporters more ways to get involved than just donating money. Host events, provide volunteer opportunities, and launch advocacy campaigns to give your supporters more ways to connect with your organization. 

Long-term relationships can also set your nonprofit up for other fundraising opportunities, such as major donations and planned giving contributions. After all, few donors make a major contribution without knowing the nonprofit for a long period of time. 

Recurring gifts provide your nonprofit with reliable revenue from month to month. Build out your sustainable fundraising program even further by making opting into your recurring gifts program as easy as possible while also cultivating long-term relationships with supporters. 

Action steps you can take today
  • Optimize your donation page to make donating a recurring gift as easy as possible. 
  • Use your CRM to identify prospective monthly donors and reach out to them to grow your recurring giving program. 
  • Create personalized email templates to reach out to your recurring giving supporters to sustain relationships.