Fundraise Smarter

Best Practices for Growing Your List of Recurring Donors

Posted by Ester Brierley on Apr 2, 2019 11:51:00 AM


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One-time donors are crucial for every nonprofit. They come when you need them most, they help you accomplish important fundraising goals, and you rely on them when planning for future goals.


The importance of such donors is unquestionable. However, it’s not enough to only have one-time donors if you want your nonprofit to stably and reliably grow. Acquiring new donors is just the first step in your long journey to success, the next step is converting these donors into recurring donors.


Converting your supporters into recurring donors is a complex task that takes a lot of time and effort. You will have to choose a proper strategy and pay particular attention to planning. On the other hand, these people have already supported your organization at least once so you know they are already interested in what you do and support your ideas.

All you have to do now is come up with an effective plan.


Converting New Donors to Recurring Donors: New Trends

  • Personalization
    First, it’s important to understand how marketing switches from generalization to personalization. Thanks to companies like Amazon and Netflix, people are now receiving very personalized communications. According to this research, 74% of marketers believe that personalization is important or extremely important for building relationships with customers.


  • Impact transparency
    Your donors should also see where their money is going. Modern donors want to be involved personally in the mission of the organization to which they donated. If you don’t share some information with them, they won’t hesitate to search for an organization that will. You should be able to demonstrate your impact in detail. For example, charity:water adds GPS coordinates of their completed projects on Google Maps so that donors can monitor the work being done as a result of their support.


  • Community-driven fundraising
    Nonprofit organizations also experience the growing importance of community-driven approaches. Many organizations move from nurturing recurring donors to inviting active donors to fundraise on their behalf (or, peer-to-peer fundraising). This is a very effective approach because of a social phenomenon called social proof — people are more likely to donate to someone they know even if they're not familiar with the organization on their own.


How to Grow Your Recurring Donor List: Actionable Tips


1. Thank-you Messages

No matter how much they donate, every donor should receive a sincere thank-you message. Emphasize the importance of their support, provide details about their donation and how you will use it. Don’t forget to inform them about how they can make another contribution. Your donors should feel appreciated. If you have any doubts on whether your thank-you messages are engaging and touching, you can hire professional writers and editors from College-Writers to write them for you.


2. Define Target Donors

We’ve already mentioned the importance of personalization, which is impossible without the proper segmentation of your donors. Although this process may resemble building donor personas, it’s completely different. Organizations can segment their donors by various factors, including the amount of donation, the way they in which they were acquired, preferred methods and frequency of giving, etc. Once you’ve segmented the audience, you can tailor your emails and other marketing materials to the specifics of each group.


3. Offer Monthly Donation Options

Asking your donors for support on a monthly basis is a straightforward and simple approach to converting one-timers into recurring donors. It is convenient for both the nonprofit and the donor. Create different plans for donors with different budgets in mind. For example, your “gold” donors may donate $20 a month, and your “platinum” donors — $50 or more.


4. Use Social Media

If your nonprofit organization is not present on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram, it might as well not exist at all. Social media is not the most effective tool for donor conversion (3-6% on Facebook and Twitter), however, it allows you to stay connected to your donors, increasing your exposure and building the image of your organization to the right audiences. Building long-term relationships is especially important if you want to turn your audience into recurring donors. In addition, Gen Z and millennials most often search for nonprofits on social media. Although they don’t make the biggest contributions now, their donor value grows every day.


5. Provide Impact Updates

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of impact updates for nonprofits. Regular reports are a great retention tool. Show your donors the difference they make with their contributions and keep them engaged. We suggest that you include your impact reports at the very beginning of newsletters.


6. Reward Your Donors

Although the best type of reward depends on your budget and mission, giving something in return for a donation is always a good idea. There is a social phenomenon called reciprocity, which, simply put, explains that people usually tend to return a favor, responding to something with equivalent actions. Rewards also minimize a sense of loss from donating money.


7. Don’t Forget About Traditional Methods

Your organization can achieve the best results if you combine modern fundraising methods with the traditional ones, such as direct mail or events. The more comprehensive an experience you offer, the more your donors get involved in your mission and the more likely they’ll want to become recurring donors.



Curating a list of recurring donors is a challenging task, however, recurring donors can bring you even more funds than one-time contributors who give a significant gift once. In addition, they add stability and consistency to your organization's success so you don't have to solely rely on one-time donors to keep you afloat. The main factor to keep in mind is to engage your donors and to build long-term relationships with them, constantly informing them about their impact and highlighting the role of their support. You should also try to understand your audience and make their experience more personalized so that they can feel like they are a part of your team.


About the Author

Ester Brierley is a QA Engineer in a software outsourcing company, but thinking about her own entrepreneurial journey. Now she is a competent virtual assistant and seasoned content creator for College-Writers. Follow her on Twitter.


Topics: development, monthly giving, recurring donations

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