• RC Clark

Your Recurring Giving Program, Part 1: Four Straightforward Reasons Why You Need One

Photo by Perry Grone on Unsplash

Would you rather have one good friend, or five acquaintances?

Would an acquaintance help you if you asked? Would you even feel comfortable asking?

Will that acquaintance give you a gift for your birthday and on Christmas every year?

Let’s be real: Friends support us, strangers do not.

Yes, new people are amazing and they’re the most important part of expanding reach and growing programs.

But it takes time and energy to build new relationships. The process can be exhausting!

Yet for nonprofits, nearly three quarters of charitable giving comes from individual donations.

That means a lot of time is invested in convincing strangers to be your friend rather than connecting the friends you already have to your mission.

And that’s a shame because according to Classy’s State of Modern Philanthropy 2018, recurring donors are over five times more valuable than one-time donors.

The reason is simple: They don’t just give money and never come back.

They embody your mission. They tell their friends about you. They fundraise for you. They volunteer at your events. They’ll meet you for coffee.

So if you want long-term sustainability and growth, you need to shift your focus from donor acquisition, to donor retention through a recurring giving program.

Let’s talk some specifics on why you need one.

Reason #1: Predictable income

What if you only got a paycheck three or four times a year?

What if the interval wasn’t consistent, and you could never be sure how much you’d get?

You wouldn’t be able to plan for anything.

You couldn’t promise to run a program that costs $1000 per month because one month you’d have the money, and the next you might not.

Recurring donorship is the answer to predictable income.

Recurring donors automatically pay you each month and each month you know exactly how much you’ll get.

Instead of relying on an unknown amount of funding during the holidays, and then struggling for the months in between, you can run smoothly with a reliable stream of donations.

Reason #2: More Revenue Over Time

The effect of recurring donors multiplies our growth.

Network For Good found that their average recurring donor gives 42% more in one year than donors who give one-time gifts.

That’s because recurring donors aren’t just automatic transactions, they’re committed to your cause and want to give even more than their monthly amount.

In fact, Classy found that of all one-time donors who went on to become recurring donors, 25% made another one-time gift.

That’s for one year.

Now let’s consider this example:

Say you have a 20 something supporter that has made two $25 gifts in the past year.

You could ask her to make a small monthly gift instead, say for $10.

In just one year, she’ll have donated $120 and more than doubled her gift.

Since she receives regular updates on the positive effects of her donations, she’s more likely to continue giving year after year.

This gives her a lifetime value worth thousands.

Reason #3: Major Gifts Are Made After 5 Years of Giving

Big giving comes from big trust.

That doesn’t happen overnight.

It probably won’t happen in a year.

According to bloomerang, 4-5 years seems to be the time required to be able to successfully ask for a major gift.

Why care about major gifts?

A single six figure donation could be more than all of the funding you get from new donors for the entire year.

It’s not about how many you know, it’s about WHO you know. And how you treat them.

A recurring relationship is the first step to gaining a major supporter.

Reason #4: It Costs More to Find Than to Keep Donors

Keeping donors is cheaper than finding them.

The lifetime value of a recurring donor can easily outweigh their acquisition cost – and even result in a major gift.

New donor acquisition, however necessary, is pricey. Costs can easily run 50% to 100% more than the dollars given by them.

It can take years for a nonprofit to recoup their costs.

Since we know that recurring donors give 42% more, we should spend less time on donor acquisition, and more on retention.

Once you have recurring donors, your effectiveness is exponential.

Since they’re on your email list and follow you on social media, every piece of content you create gets sent out to every recurring donor you have.

It doesn’t matter if that number is 100 or 100,000.

And think about this:

What if every year, one out of every three donors encourages another person to become a donor?

That’s a HUGE increase in giving. And you didn’t have to do anything more than what you usually do.


It’s clear that if we want to bring financial stability to our nonprofit, leverage our donor base, and secure major gifts, we need to focus on our recurring giving program.

In the next part of this series, we’re going to talk about HOW you can attract recurring donors, and what you need to do to keep them.

Until then, thanks for doing good and being awesome.

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