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8 Ideas to Optimize Your Recurring Giving Process

By October 12, 2018

Recurring giving study with and NextAfter
By: Brady Josephson, Vice President, Innovation & Optimization, NextAfter

This is post 4 in a series on recurring giving. You can check out the 2nd post 3 Things I Learned About Recurring Giving Communications from 4500 Touchpoints from 115 Nonprofits and all the posts in the series.

Nonprofit marketing and fundraising ideas from recurring donations to 115 Nonprofits

I hope you have some ideas of how you can optimize your recurring giving program based on the full report and what we learned about the recurring giving process and communications. We know that your nonprofit fundraising matters, so here are 8 ideas we are going to experiment with and think you can, too. And if you’re looking for some help on how to set up and run experiments, check out this free guide. Alright, on to the ideas!


1. Try having a clear DONATE button in your navigation.

This may sound simple, but for some organizations, we had to dig around their homepage just to figure out where to make a donation (let alone a recurring one). And just by making it easier for people to find out where to donate — with your language and design — you can increase your online donations.

Take this experiment, for example, where we just added a colored button behind the ‘Donate’ navigation item:

Donation button test for improving nonprofit fundraising

Here’s what we found:

Increased donations as a result of webpage optimization for nonprofit fundraising

You can see that just by making the ‘Donate’ button more clear, we were able to increase donations by 190%!

2. Try adding a specific CTA/button for recurring gifts in your navigation.

The navigation design can be useful in driving traffic to your donation page (leading to more donations). But why not split out your recurring gift call to action? We tried something like that with a membership organization where we split out ‘Join’ and ‘Renew’ and by doing saw increased traffic to giving pages almost 16%.

But it doesn’t have to be in your navigation. In this experiment, we took some space on the homepage to make it easier for people to see where they could become a member (their recurring gift program) as well as some value proposition content explaining how they could and why they should. As a result, we achieved an increase in donations of 46% and 75% in total revenue.

Here’s a good example in the study from Food for the Hungry, who used their navigation to clearly draw you in to ‘Sponsor a Child’:

Nonprofit website that has a nonprofit fundraising best practice: making it easy to make a recurring donation

3. Try adding more value proposition copy (and different types) for recurring giving on your donation page.

People need to understand how their donation will make an impact and we’ve seen how big a difference adding some/more copy to communicate this can make for one-time donations:

If you skipped the video, there was a 150% increase in donations just by having some more copy to communicate ‘why’. So why not try that for recurring donations? Here’s a good example from the ACLU, which has both 1) content to communicate the value proposition of why their work is valuable, but also 2) a sentence to share why recurring giving is important.

A nonprofit website about recurring giving with compelling marketing content

4. Try adding gift/impact handles for recurring gifts.

Sometimes you can help provide clarity to the donor on what their donation will do as part of the donation process with things like a donation anchor. Here’s an example from Opportunity International where you can see how many loans you can fund and the lives that will be impacted with your monthly donation:

Interactive donation page for monthly giving

These gift handles or impact anchors can help add clarity through tangibility. And tangibility can help inspire more generosity, as discovered in two studies highlighted in The Science of Giving. Research found that donors gave 3 times more to an organization framed in a tangible way and 2 times more to a project framed in a more tangible way. (More on these studies in this infographic.)

5. Try adding a prompt for recurring gift before one-time donation completion.

This is one of my favorite ideas. We saw this in the recurring gift study as well as in The Canadian Online Fundraising Scorecard study, and decided to test it ourselves with a client. The idea is that a donor, right before they complete their one-time gift, sees a pop-up that presents the recurring giving value proposition and a suggested monthly amount. We tested a page that asked the donor to give 60% of their one-time gift and minimum of $15 per month, like this:

Try adding a prompt for recurring gift before one-time donation completion

This experiment not only had a 64% increase in recurring gifts, but also had no significant impact on one-time donations. The idea here is that getting a donor to just start the donation process (a micro-yes) is the hard part so be sure to make that as easy as possible and then once they are in motion—or have momentum — you can try and shift them a bit with a different offer, like a recurring donation, that they might not have considered otherwise.

The result: by having this “nudge,” the nonprofit got the same number of one time donations and more recurring donations. Sign me up!

6. Try adding an EFT/ACH/ABW payment option.

Don’t let the acronyms scare you Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT), Automated Clearing House (ACH), or Automated Bank Withdrawal (ABW) are your friends when it comes to recurring giving. Adding these payment methods mean donors are connecting to their bank account, not their credit card, which helps:

  • Improve donor retention
  • Lower your transaction costs

We ran an experiment that improved lifetime value 55% just by adding the ACH payment option and had no significant impact on the conversion rate. So again, the same amount of donations but some that will last longer. Sign me up!

7.Try making a donation to yourself and remove confusing and unnecessary form fields and donation steps.

One theory I have about how crappy donation forms are or can be is that fundraisers and marketers don’t even know, because they never use them! So something simple that you should do at least once a year—if not once a quarter—is make a donation to your own organization and see what the process is like.

From there, you can look at cutting down form fields, optimizing layouts, and removing steps from the process to improve your conversion rate. We actually created a little free tool that you can use to see where your donation flow has excess friction but either way, give to yourself, note the friction, then eliminate it where you can.

8. Try a recurring gift conversion ask on the confirmation page.

Remember that ‘momentum’ concept from the pop-up idea? That applies to what happens after the donation as well. Hopefully you have a confirmation page that not only confirms the transaction, but thanks the donor for their gift and makes them feel all warm inside for the awesome thing they just did. Giving is good, and makes people happy after all.

But since they are on the ‘high’ and in decision making mode, why not present some other opportunities for them to take action? This can further help your cause and make them feel even better about being a supporter. Here’s an example that shares how a donor can double their donation with an employer matching donation, and how and why they can become a recurring donor:

Nonprofit fundraising page with an upsell to a monthly donor

We’ve found that these ‘instant donation pages’ after email signup and donations can get 10% to 20% conversion rates. Definitely worth trying.

Nonprofit Fundraising with Recurring Donors Summary

Make sure it’s easy to find out where to set up recurring donations. More importantly, communicate clearly why someone should give on a recurring basis. Then, make it easy for them to donate, by setting up the donation page with easy forms and payment options. Provide some actions they can take after their donation as well.

That just scratches the surface of what’s in the full report, which also includes insights on how to:

  • Make it very apparent what information you’re asking for by making
    your form field labels clear.
  • Reduce the burden on the donor to prove their humanity by utilizing fraud protection tools like a honeypot.
  • Start your gift array with the lowest amount first.
  • Use an optional phone number field on your donation form.

Get all the statistics and insights to improve your nonprofit fundraising with your free copy of The Nonprofit Recurring Giving Benchmark Study.


The Nonprofit Recurring Giving Benchmark Study