Monthly Recurring Gifts: Your Secret to Nonprofit Sustainability


Guest Post by Claire Axelrad

If a monthly giving program is not one of your key strategic annual fundraising goals, this is the year you should add it to your work plan.


It’s your secret to being sustainable, short-and long-term.


Recurring donors give more and stay more loyal over time.

Why is this important?

These donors can become a reliable source of predictable annual revenue that minimizes stress and uncertainty.

This is something you should seriously consider, don’t you think?

Recurring Donors Give More
  • Mobile Cause found donors that click “monthly” or “quarterly,” give roughly double what single annual givers do.
  • M+R found the average annual gift was $84; while the average monthly gift was $22, for total annual gift of $264 – over 200% more!
  • Network for Good found monthly givers donate 42% more in one year than donors who make single annual gifts.

What would it mean for your annual giving program if you could increase your average gift size by the proportions noted in the above-reported data?!

This is something you should seriously consider, don’t you think?

Recurring Donors Stay Loyal

Monthly giving programs not only have higher retention rates; loyalty gets stronger over time.

-New donor retention rates average less than 23% (Fundraising Effectiveness Project). Network for Good found typical monthly giving programs enjoy retention rates over 80% after one year and 95% after five years.

-Monthly donors stay with an organization between 5 and 7 years; often much longer.

What would it mean for your annual giving program if you keep eight or nine out of every ten new donors, rather than just two or three?

This is something you should seriously consider, don’t you think?

4 Key Challenges

It’s not difficult to build a recurring giving program, but I’ve found there’s still a lot of resistance and inertia to overcome. Some internal; some external.  To get your monthly giving program off the ground you must overcome the following four challenges:

1. Actively making the monthly ask

Like any other strategy worth doing, it’s worth doing this well. Don’t expect donors to come up with the idea of recurring gifts on their own. And don’t expect them to notice if you make the option a subtle afterthought.

Monthly giving as a passive endeavor won’t work.  At least not very well.

Make the option to give monthly clear and specific.  And make it easy for donors to follow through from any device:

  • Mobile-friendly donation forms
  • Suggested donation amounts.
  • Suggested recurring intervals (e.g., monthly; quarterly)

2. Acquiring new donors; converting existing donors

Create a strategy with incentives like a branded monthly giving ‘club’ experience with special benefits, events and/or token gifts.  Data from Network for Good shows donors are 31% more likely to initiate a recurring gift, and will give an average of 43% more, on a branded giving page.

  • Ask one-time donors to convert to a recurring payment plan
  • Make a case to new donors that demonstrates why monthly donations have special impact

3. Making monthly giving fun!

You’ve been given permission to communicate regularly with these folks, so be sure you have a plan to engage them and build deeper and deeper relationships with them.  Your goal is to get them to identify strongly as one of your most loyal supporters. Use multiple channels to get your messages across.

  • Show them they’re heroes
  • Demonstrate impact
  • Tell heartfelt stories

4. Ensuring donors that they can trust you

Donors need to be reassured every step of the way. They must know exactly what they’re giving to and specifically how you’re allocating their gift. Begin by branding every communication they receive from you.

  • Assure your organization’s name appears on the credit card statement (otherwise you’ll get charge-backs and cancellations).
  • Assure your organization’s name appears on the receipt and any thank you emails or texts.

To help you seriously consider incorporating a monthly giving initiative as a cornerstone of your individual annual giving program, Erica Waasdorp offers a great tool to help you project the potential of monthly giving for your organization. You can download her Monthly Giving Calculator here.

Once you see how much more money you’ll raise, I hope you’ll decide to prioritize recurring giving at your nonprofit moving forward.  To your success!

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About the Author

Claire Axelrad is a well-respected fundraising consultant, author and speaker and the founder of Clairification.  She has over 30 years experience helping non-profits build cultures of philanthropy, not fundraising.

Photo Credit: Andreanna Moya Photography