Again and Again

Churches have been doing it for generations. The Combined Federal Campaign and United Way have both built their foundations on it. And if you’re not doing it, perhaps you should be. I’m talking about a recurring gift program – inviting your donors to make repeated gifts at regular intervals.

Whether you envision a once-a-month automatic credit card donation, or a bi-weekly employee payroll program, or some other variation of a recurring gift program, trust that it will have some very definite advantages:

  • It can help donors to make larger gifts, with smaller payments spread out over time.
  • It keeps donors engaged with every payment, and your organization’s name is in front of them every time they reconcile their account or see their paystub.
  • It helps donors stay engaged. Retention rates are nearly double that of non-recurring donors.
  • It helps keep administrative costs down by ‘batching’ gift processing and acknowledgment activity.
  • Unlike pledges (which might be considered time-limited recurring gifts) the ongoing gifts of a recurring gift program don’t necessarily need an end date. This can allow you to focus less on renewal and more on the stewardship side of your relationships with recurring donors.

As with anything good, there are also a few cautions:

  • You’ll need to actively market and solicit recurring donations, inviting donors to participate in this type of ongoing giving relationship.
  • You’ll want to assure donors that you will handle their financial information carefully and securely, no matter how you receive it.
  • Just because their gifts are ‘automated’ doesn’t mean the relationship is. You must continue to communicate with recurring donors – in new and more engaging ways.
  • You’ll need to make sure to stay current with donors’ contact and financial information. Email addresses change and credit cards expire, so make sure to stay in touch regularly.

If you don’t think you have the staffing capacity to handle such a program, start with a small group of close friends and get a feel for the process. It may just prove to be easier than you think. Alternatively, you can hire a gift-processing vendor or caging company to handle the back-end process.

If you use ResultsPlus, here’s how we can help you manage your recurring gift program:

  • Use Recurring Gift batches to group your regularly-processed donations. Each time you post a recurring batch an exact duplicate is created in anticipation of the next payment. So you only need to enter the gift information in once, then it is stored and repeated for you as you wish.
  • You can use multiple recurring batches to accommodate the different intervals of payments your donors have chosen. You might have a bi-weekly recurring batch containing payroll-deduction gifts, a monthly recurring batch for your monthly donors, and a quarterly recurring batch for your campaign pledge payments.
  • ResultsPlus 11 contains a new report that will help Moneris customers with their recurring gifts. It’s called ‘Expiring Credit Card Profiles’ and it allows you to identify recurring donors who’s credit cards are about to expire. That provides another opportunity to contact your donor and invite them to continue their ongoing support.
  • For IATS customers, credit card expiration can be handled using the ResultsPlus calendar. When you first enter a recurring gift, simply add a new contact to alert you a few months prior to the credit card expiration date.

For an interesting discussion on recurring giving programs at small and medium-sized charities, check out thisdiscussion on the Chronicle of Philanthropy’s website.

For those of you with current and active recurring gift programs in place, we welcome your insights.