Posted by Jay Wilkinson

If a one-time gift is good, recurring gifts are exponentially better. In the long run, you’ll likely collect more money. According to Network for Good, the average recurring donor gives 42% more over the course of a year than one-time givers. And with predictable income, you can plan expenses and budget items better, knowing the money will be coming in. Plus, a monthly giving program is better for most donors because they can make regular donations fit into their monthly budgets.

So with all this mind, why don’t most of us make a stronger appeal for recurring donations? It doesn’t take much more work than asking for a one-time donation. However, it may require a shift in your mindset and fundraising approach.

Here’s one example of a nonprofit that put one-time donations vs. recurring donations to the test. ActBlue, a political fundraising organization, sent emails to their database: One half received an email asking for a one-time gift of $75 and the other half was asked for a monthly gift of $3 for up to 24 months. After 24 hours, here were the results: The one-time donation resulted in $2,557 donations, while the recurring ask projected out to $4,365.70.

Convinced now? If you’re ready to ramp up your efforts to secure more recurring donations, here are three simple steps to get you started.

  1. Ask. This sounds obvious, but the fact is, many nonprofits don’t ask their supporters to sign up for monthly giving—they go after one-time donations. If you’re recruiting a new donor, asking for a one-time gift is the perfect way to get him onboard and familiar with your organization. Once he’s made that initial gift, however, your response after “thank-you” should focus on getting him set up on a monthly giving program.

    When making that sell, it’s important to highlight the benefits of a monthly donation as opposed to a one-time gift—for the donor, not you. Organizations that ask donors to sponsor a child in a foreign country are great at this. They do an effective job of showing how much impact a small, regular donation can make, and then continue to update and engage with news and photos of the child. With regular givers, you want to communicate no more than once a month, and maybe less than that—but never, ever forget about them. They still need to be included in your retention efforts, and they still want to feel appreciated.
  2. Make recurring donations an obvious option on your website. And by obvious, we don’t mean “an easily-missed checkbox on the donation form.” There are several ways you can do this. You can feature your monthly giving plan on a spotlight or slider on your homepage. Create an entire page dedicated to the whys and hows of your monthly giving program. Design an infographic that visually displays the impact that varying monthly amounts can make. Or use your donation thank-you page as an opportunity for supporters to easily sign up for your monthly giving program.

    Of course, make monthly giving or recurring donations an option on your donation form—but don’t make it look like a second option behind a one-time gift. If you consider it a win-win for both you and the donor, you’ll treat it as just as important of an ask as a one-time gift. Keep this in mind: The more places you promote monthly giving on your website, the more likely you are to secure those recurring donations.
  3. Make it easy for supporters to change their minds. Nobody likes to financially commit to something if they’re not sure that they can cancel or change the agreement. You’ll better serve both your organization and your donors if you make it clear that signing up for a recurring gift isn’t a choice that’s set in stone. It’s perfectly fine—even good—to say something like, “While we appreciate your monthly gift, we understand that circumstances may change. You are under no obligation and can adjust the amount or cancel your donation at any time.”

    What’s going to be the typical response to that? “Great! No pressure.” Take away the fear of commitment, and you’ll have a more relaxed and willing donor who gives because they’re inspired and motivated, not because they feel obligated. And those are the type of donors who will stick around.

Want to take the next step with recurring donations? Firespring can help. We offer an integrated fundraising solution that makes recurring donations seamless. Call 877.447.8941 or email to learn more.