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How to Turn One-Time Donors into Recurring Donors

Allison Carpenter

by Allison Carpenter

Digital Strategy

05.29.2018

Your one-time donors: they’re the people who turn out when you need them. The ones who come out of the woodwork to help you wrap up a big fundraising push, or to ensure you’ve got the support you need to reach your next big goal. You appreciate them, and they appreciate you. At some point, though, having a slew of one-time donors just isn’t enough to help your nonprofit grow. If you want to do this, you’ve got to take it a step further: you’ve got to find ways to make your one-time donors into recurring donors.

There’s bad news and good news about this. The bad news is that you can’t just wave a magic wand and make it happen. This process takes some strategy and planning.

The good news is that your current supporters have already contributed to your cause at least once, and getting them to take the plunge and become sustaining members is far from impossible. You just have to come up with a plan that works for them and your NPO.

Here’s your step-by-step guide.

5 Ways to Create Recurring Donors

If you’re looking for ways to turn your one-off donors into dedicated, recurring donors, here are five tips to get you started:

1. Offer Monthly Donation Packages

Monthly giving is easy and straightforward – for both donors and nonprofits.

With this in mind, offer a few different levels, so there’s something to suit every donor and every budget. For example, you can establish a “silver, gold, and bronze” donation level. The bronze level might be $10 a month, while gold might amount to $50 or more.

As always, this is something you should flex according to your nonprofit’s goals and missions, but establishing a series of predictable donation packages can go a long way toward making supporting your nonprofit that much more attractive.  

2. Define Target Supporters

Wondering who might be a good candidate for monthly giving? The answer is simple: anyone who has already donated to your campaign at least once. To make your “supporting donor” efforts more efficient, identify and target these people.

You might want to treat this like you would email marketing: create a list, segment it according to a series of pre-set criteria, and then develop a plan to speak directly to each of the groups you’ve identified.

3. Prep Your System for Monthly Donations

The easier monthly donations are, the more likely people will be to make them. With this in mind, prep your donation platform to accept monthly donations. This may mean implementing mobile donation tools or creating donation packages that people can commit to.

If your website isn’t currently set up to accept donations, that’s a must-do before you pursue this goal any further. If you can’t make the change on your own, speak to a qualified website design firm that can help you create a plan to accept nonprofit donations digitally.

4. Offer Rewards

Take a hint from public radio and offer a reward for people who become “sustaining members.” What these rewards are will depend in large part on your budget and mission, but giving them is one of the best ways to tap into a behavioral economics phenomena known as “reciprocity.”

The theory of reciprocity states that people respond in kind to the actions of other people. Supermarkets demonstrate reciprocity by offering free food, and charities use it through solicitation letters and gifts with donations.

It’s an excellent way to encourage people to donate, while also removing some of the loss associated with doing so.

5. Say Your Thank-Yous

Make your appreciation clear. The more aware supporters are of your gratitude, the more willing they will be to support you. With this in mind, don’t forget to thank donors who support your cause. When you keep the fact that they didn’t have to at the top of your mind, it makes every step they willingly take that much more critical.

What’s more, one-time donors who feel that a charity was legitimately grateful for their donation are more likely to become recurring donors, either now or in the future.

Create a Strong Base of Recurring Donors

Creating recurring donors for your nonprofit is easier said than done. Luckily, it’s far from impossible. By following these five steps, you can turn dedicated but infrequent donors into strong, stable supporting members in no time.

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