Every nonprofit worker understands the importance of monetary donations. No matter the nature of the nonprofit, the contributions of donors are what keep the lights on and allow the work of your organization to continue. What may be less obvious is the importance of recurring donations to your fundraising efforts. Recurring donations are set amounts given at regular intervals (usually monthly) by consistent donors, and your nonprofit should absolutely have a strategy in place for securing them.
Why you should focus on recurring donations
While every donation is valuable, recurring donations are essential to an organization’s long-term growth.
Recurring donations allow nonprofits to forecast financial circumstances for months and years ahead, allowing for investments in programs, facilities, training, staffing, and more. If you don’t have a clear picture of your financial future, it’s impossible to plan for these things, hampering the effectiveness of your work.
Donors who give monthly tend to give more over the course of the year since they are able to incorporate the smaller monthly amount into their regular budgets instead of adjusting one month’s budget for a single, large donation.
Recurring donors are also often enthusiastic volunteers and advocates, allowing you to build a community of people, both virtually and in-person, who will support your cause and rally their own friends and coworkers to it as well. These engaged donors are more likely to remain active with the organization for the long term.
In addition, a solid pool of committed donors demonstrates to grant-giving organizations the trustworthiness of your nonprofit, increasing your chances of winning sizable grants that would allow you to multiply your impact.
The importance of donor engagement to recurring donations
It’s one thing to understand the importance of recurring donations and entirely another to secure them. How do you recruit recurring donors without pestering them or using negative motivators like guilt and fear? How do you combat the “leaky bucket” of donor attrition?
The key is sincere, meaningful donor engagement.
What donor engagement is not
Donor engagement is not exclusively one-way messaging. It’s not bombarding them with information, and it’s not contacting them only to ask for donations. It's not just marketing.
What donor engagement is
Donor engagement is making meaningful connections with your donors, communicating in ways that hold their attention, and inviting them to actively participate in the work you are doing.
Donors are people. They want to feel connected to other people and to organizations that are doing good in the world. By engaging your donors genuinely, as people, you not only further your mission, you contribute to the well-being of your donors as well.
Methods of donor engagement
Donor engagement has changed dramatically over with the coming of the digital age, putting a variety of new tools in the hands of nonprofit fundraisers. With the pervasiveness of digital communication also comes new challenges, such as information overload and compassion fatigue. These factors are important considerations in the donor experience. Here are five ways your nonprofit might engage donors:
From marathons to pancake breakfasts, there’s some magic in the tried-and-true strategy of live fundraising events. They raise money, of course, but they also generate buzz, draw in new donors,
attract media attention, and foster the personal connections that make for a strong support community all year long.
If your donor base isn’t centralized to one geographic area (or if you find your in-person events derailed by a global pandemic), virtual events can generate at least some of the excitement and sense of connection that live events do. Each platform lends itself to a different kind of event and appeals to a different audience. Zoom is great for a conference-style event, while Facebook Live might be better suited for a casual Q&A and Twitter for a fast-paced exchange of ideas. Virtual events don’t have to be synchronous; Instagram provides a great platform for week-long events where donors participate on their own schedules and post images along the way.
Utilize your social media accounts for effective storytelling and informational updates. With the array of free tools available, you can easily make videos, graphics, and share-worthy presentations. Follow up all events – both live and virtual – with social media posts thanking donors for their participation and highlighting what was accomplished (as well as how much fun it was!). Shouting out donors in your Instagram Stories is a great way to strengthen the connections built during virtual events. Provide resources to facilitate peer-to-peer campaigns such as those that allow your donors to “donate” their birthdays to your nonprofit.
Given the growing preference for text message communication and the pervasiveness of scam and spam calls, nonprofit organizations must be strategic if making voice calls to donors. It's wise to consider the demographics of your donor base and tailor your outreach accordingly. You'll have a better voice call response rate with the 50 and older crowd than with Millennials.
Though most people’s inboxes are inundated, email can still be an effective donor engagement tool. Start with a clear, attractive subject line that’s under 60 characters. Keep your emails brief, and avoid repetitive content. Email open rates for nonprofits are about 11% higher than the overall open rate, but still only about 30%, so email should be just one part of your engagement strategy.
In contrast to email, the open rate for text messages is nearly 98%. Whether it’s the immediacy of a message literally in your hand or the shorter format, people are simply far more likely to open texts than email. The vast majority of people – 90% – prefer texts over emails or phone calls.
Done well, texting is a highly effective means of donor engagement. Many nonprofits have begun utilizing text-to-give platforms, which allow donors to make a donation by texting a 5-digit number or replying to a text from the nonprofit. Beyond text-to-donate, nonprofits can use text messaging to send out important alerts, invite donors to events, answer donor questions, and collect important data.
A good text messaging platform facilitates interactions between nonprofits and donors, helping donors feel connected to the real people behind the cause rather than to a faceless bot in a server farm.
4 Ways to increase recurring donations using text messages
The average person in the United States today takes her cell phone everywhere, so having a donor's phone number means having near-constant access to her attention. That kind of access is a gift your don't want to squander. Every message you send needs to add value to the donor's relationship to your organization. While every message has the potential to impact a fundraising campaign, not every message should be a direct request for a donation.
Here are four ways to increase recurring donations with text message content that adds value:
Relay urgent news
Your donors want to know if something important has happened. Did you complete a project, have an article in the newspaper, see a breakthrough in your cause? Of course, not all urgent news is good news. Give your donors the facts when bad things happen too, but do so in a way that empowers them to further support your organization or cause.
Invite people to take action
You have donors' numbers because they already want to take action. They're interested in – hopefully even passionate about – the work you're doing, and they want to help. Give them ways to help! Send them a petition to sign, an event to attend, an option for contacting political representatives, or a social media post to share. You can absolutely send donation requests as action items, but it's important that your donors hear from you for purposes other than fundraising.
Send personalized updates
Send your donors information on the specific initiatives they've participated in. If a donor ran in last year's marathon, send him an individualized invitation for the next one. If a donor sponsored a child's camp fees, tell her something about that child's camp experience.
Always say thank you
Express your gratitude, and be specific. Send a thank-you text for donations, for volunteer time, for participation in events, and for ongoing support. It's hard to overstate the importance of conveying your appreciation.
Don't be cold
A passionate donor doesn't want to be treated like a customer or the target of a marketing campaign. Text with donors like actual people, and remember you have their numbers because they care about your cause. Talk to them as you would any other person who shares your passion for your organization.
Don't be annoying
This really should go without saying, but don't bug people. No one wants daily text messages from a nonprofit (unless there's a huge event or crisis at hand). Strike a balance between messages that ask for something (donations & actions) and messages that offer something (news, updates, & thanks).
Don't be vague
Be specific in your text messages. Include a clear call to action and an easy means to follow through. Say "sign up now" or "donate by replying." Give dates and times for events, links for more information, and only relevant details in updates.
The Rally Corp difference
Rally Corp helps nonprofits connect with supporters and increase recurring donations by facilitating meaningful connections. Donors can text to give, but they can also text to share and text to connect. Our bidirectional chat makes it easy to stay in touch with donors. Rally uses AI to detect messages that may signal a problem, giving you the opportunity to seamlessly enter the chat and address donor concerns. We exist to help nonprofits cultivate and inspire passionate donors and volunteers, so we provide training and strategy at every step.
We are here to help you engage donors in a meaningful way on the medium they prefer. Click the link below for a free resource.
Text RALLY to 24-365 to see how.