Recurring Donations: Creating A Monthly Giving Program

December 16, 2016
8 minutes

It would be perfect if all nonprofit organizations didn't have to worry about seasonal drops in giving. Wouldn't it be great to rely on a steady stream of recurring monthly revenue? Although big donations are valuable and continue to be part of a nonprofit's strategy, recurring programs, done properly, can provide a consistent, reliable, and considerable source of income.

Developing a strong monthly giving program is a great investment making a tremendous impact on a nonprofit's long-term financial health.

Each time a donor sets up a recurring donation, they made the choice to give a predetermined amount monthly, on a regular basis. There are great numbers of donors who give as frequently as they like or monthly, bi-monthly, or annually. Monthly, though, remains the most popular form of recurring giving.

Benefits of Monthly Giving

Higher donation over the course of a year: $52 ($624 per annum) represents the average monthly online donation. Over 12 months, this total is greater than the average one-time donation of $128. The average recurring donor gives about 42 percent more using this donation process. Interestingly, 52 percent of millennials tend to give monthly versus a one-time large donation.

This supports the fact that great monthly giving programs can produce a significantly higher return on investment (ROI) to one-time giving programs.

Retention rates increase

There is a higher retention rate with monthly donors over all other types of donor programs. While new donor retention rates average less than 23 percent, monthly giving retention rates are higher: over 80 percent after one year, increasing to 95 percent after five years.

The bottom line here is that once someone signs up for your monthly giving program, odds are in the organization's favor that the donor will stay on the donor base three times longer than a one-time donor.

Convenient for donors

Monthly giving programs are incredibly simple to manage for nonprofits while simultaneously making it easy for donors. They will sign up just one time with options to be a flexible as possible regarding the frequency of the donation. 

This works well as, for the most part, your donors are already on monthly schedules of payments. They pay bills regularly on a monthly basis and subscribe to services monthly, so monthly giving is a simple-to-understand payment that can be incorporated easily in their lives.


There are very few cancellations from recurring donors. Donors who sign up for monthly giving are more engaged and committed to your cause.

Creating a Monthly Giving Program (Recurring Donation program)

Hopefully, you will have a monthly giving program already set up. If that is the case, stop and ask your team if it is the best it can be. Could you do more?

If you are looking to implement a program for the first time in your organization, the information below is best practices that would be good to keep in mind.

Develop your Donor-Centric Program Plan

It is important to get this proposed, planned, and written prior to moving to any other steps.

Think Strategically

You need to have clear goals here so that donors will find your recurring giving program easy to understand how their donation impacts your cause and how they fit into the big picture.

Review these questions to help

  • Monthly giving will accomplish? (you fill in the rest)
  • How does the monthly giving program contribute to the mission?
  • What would achieving the goal look like? What would happen?

Set your goals

Once you are done looking at the big picture and how the monthly program fits into the overall nonprofit's strategy, it's time to set goals. What is the number of monthly donors you wish to attract monthly? Have you considered the monthly gift increases? What does success for this look like?

Thinking through the program from start to finish

Take time to review the program from top to bottom. Include these areas

  • Program name
  • Your target audience
  • Suggested monthly gift amounts. Are they good enough? Too low? Too High?
  • Review all collateral marketing materials
  • Examine how you will measure an evaluate certain criteria

Program Branding

Giving a name to your recurring donor program strengthens its brand and identifies your donors as being a part of something special.

On the monthly giving program web page, think about using social proof. This is a powerful social and psychological tool. Your donors will feel as if they are a part of something bigger as they engage with your brand.

When you can, include testimonials and photos of current donors, their names, etc. Testimonials, in particular, are very persuasive as they embody an element of storytelling, and stories will always bring trust and credibility.

Lastly, display any positive recognition you've received on your website from credible media sources, publications, etc.

Identify who to approach

Look at your donor base to identify who would be interested in a monthly giving program. You may find those who give smaller amounts may be more suited for a monthly giving program as opposed to those who give larger amounts.

Frequency of donations is more important though than the size of the gift when looking at monthly giving prospects. 

Mobilize your organization's staff and board first, as well as your most active volunteers before publicly launching your program.

Promoting your new program

Define your value proposition here first. Ask yourself, why should someone become a monthly donor? What are the benefits? What are your organization's benefits?

You've reached out to staff, key donors, and active volunteers so far. Now let's include everyone else. Send out notifications and appeals through all of your channels, both digital and real-world. Ensure your new donation form has a checkbox option for a monthly donation.

You can try to follow up targeted email campaigns with a phone call. This has been known to increase sign-ups for monthly giving programs.

Your website

You will definitely want to feature your new monthly giving program on your website. Create a page completely dedicated to the program, using information, videos, images, and testimonials. It is good to have testimonials from both donors and beneficiaries. 

Allow space on the home page to promote your program. Have it clearly placed on the page with any communication or imagery, matching the theme of the website overall.

Donation software

Online fundraising software is essential here. Check both freeware and paid versions. 

Show donors impact

It is always a good thing to show your donors the impact of their contributions. It can also make a huge difference when the time comes to persuade some of these same donors to join your monthly giving program.

Use facts here that tie every donation amount to a specific result. For example, "$15 each month (50 cents a day) feeds a child in West Africa who is in need of life-saving food daily for a month."

This helps your donors conceptualize how their donation matters.

Keep your donors engaged

For new donors, be sure to send the welcome email within 48 hours of the donor sign up date. It would be even better, though, if this can be done automatically. Keep thanking them strategically throughout the year.

Keep monthly donors on a separate email list so as to send materials related to them particularly. This is done, for example, to avoid them getting regular donation request emails that are primarily focused on sending appeals even though they're already giving.

Final Thoughts on recurring donations

Your benefits will be:

  • Maintaining a steady stream of monthly income throughout the year
  • Donor retention increases
  • Building on your community of supporters
  • You will be making your life and your donors' lives much easier.

Approach them in a strategic but personal way as monthly giving donors are a valuable asset to your organization.

Creating a monthly giving program can be very challenging, but, in the end, it will be well worth it. It is a great opportunity to form lasting relationships with dedicated donors that consistently support your organization.

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