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Why You Should Set Up Recurring Donations For Your Nonprofit

Author: Sayana Izmailova
November 12, 2020
🕑 8 min read

If you work with a charity, nonprofit, church, or any other organization that accepts donations, setting up recurring donations is a must. Not only do they allow you to bring in steady revenue, but they’re also much easier to manage and are often preferred by donors.

In this post, we’ll go over what recurring donations are and their benefits, as well as how to quickly and how you can easily set them up in platforms like WildApricot.

What are Recurring Donations?

Recurring donations are subscriptions to automatically donate to your organization at regular intervals. Your donors can set the amount they give so it suits their budget, and they can also choose how frequently they want to donate. The most common way to set up recurring donations is through a monthly giving program, though they can also be done at other intervals, such as quarterly, semi-annually or annually.

For your organization, this means more regular revenue and less time spent reminding and assisting donors. Plus, you can manage all your donations from your donor management software.

Click through to claim your 60-day trial of WildApricot to create effective QR codes that will speed up event check-in.

Advantages of Recurring Donations for Organizations

Recurring donations, when set up properly, can take your fundraising to a whole new level.

For starters, they allow you to have a consistent cashflow. You don’t have to worry about where your next gift will be coming from and how large it will be. You don’t have to wonder whether you’ll be able to keep your programs afloat. Instead, you know exactly what you can expect to raise in a given year from recurring donations.

Having this steady cashflow can also help you plan better. Once you know how much you’ll be raising from recurring donations, you can create a forecast and a strategy around what other fundraising avenues you should pursue in order to reach your overall revenue goals. You’ll also be able to better plan your organization’s programs and activities, knowing that there will be future funding to support them.

Lastly, recurring donations are the best way to retain donors.

You don’t have to keep sending them letters asking for a new one-time gift (which is not only annoying for them, but can also get quite expensive for you!). Instead, you can focus on sharing updates about their impact and continuing to build a meaningful and lasting relationship with them.

Plus, you don’t have to convince them every time that your organization is worth supporting. Once people have signed up, they’re usually pretty happy about staying on as a donor for years or even decades to come.

Advantages of Recurring Donations for Donors

And recurring donations don’t just benefit your organization — they’re great for donors, too.

For people who tend to be forgetful or simply don’t want to deal with yet another manual payment on top of all their bills, recurring donations are a life-saver. They allow donors to set up the donation once and forget about it. Their credit cards are charged automatically (just like their Netflix or Spotify subscription) and they can feel good about supporting a cause they care about without the hassle of making regular manual payments.

Recurring donations can also lessen the financial burden for people who want to make a substantial contribution but can’t afford to do it all at once. If someone wants to give $240 for example, it’s a lot more manageable to turn that into monthly gifts of $20, rather than donate it all in one go.

Finally, recurring donations help donors create a meaningful relationship with the organization in the long-term. People tend to give not only for the financial support it provides to the organization, but because it makes them feel like they belong to a community and help create life-changing impact. When someone makes recurring donations, they typically continue to do it for years, if not decades, meaning that their connection, and the positive benefits they receive from it, only grow over time.

Ways to Use Recurring Donations

Here are a few ideas on how your organization can use and benefit from recurring donations:

ideas for recurring donations

How to Get Started with Recurring Donations

In this section, we’ll go over how to set up recurring donations in WildApricot.

If you’re not already signed up with WildApricot, you can start a free 60-day trial and follow along.

Note: This is an exclusive feature for customers using WildApricot Payments. If you have WildApricot Payments connected as your payment system, you’re ready to start accepting recurring donations! If you’re using another payment system, click here to find out more about WildApricot Payments.

Now let’s dive in!

  • Log in to your WildApricot account and select Donations from the menu.

  • Click on Donation settings.

  • Check the boxes for the frequency options you want your donors to see: Monthly, Quarterly, Semi-annually or Annually. You can tick as many or few as you want.

  • If you want to remove the option for recurring donations, you can uncheck the boxes for all frequencies other than One-time.

  • Click Save all changes.

Recurring donations - donation settings

  • If you already have a donation form on your site, it will be updated to include the recurring donation option. You’re done!

  • To add a donation form to your site:

  • Go to Website, then Site pages.

  • Select the page you want the form to be on and click Edit.

  • Find donation form in the Gadgets menu and drag and drop it onto the page.

When someone goes to your donate page, they will fill out the form with their contact details and donation amount as normal. Now, your donors will also be able to select how frequent they want their donations to be when they fill out the form, depending on which boxes you checked in Donation settings:

Recurring donations product post infographic benefits

Monthly giving banner

How to Get More Recurring Donations

By now, you know that recurring donations offer many great benefits to both organizations and their donors.

But some nonprofits still don’t see much success.

That’s because they assume that it’s enough to set up a recurring donations system and let things run on their own.

Don’t make the same mistake!

In order to make the most of your recurring donations program, you need to not only make it available, but also consistently promote it and emphasize its importance to your donors. You can do this in a number of ways:

  1. Mention recurring donations in your ask letters and any other materials where you highlight the importance of donor support. For example, if you’re sharing an inspiring quote from a donor in your newsletter, emphasize that they are a monthly donor.

  2. Let your donors know why recurring donations are preferred — explain to them the benefits that your organization experiences, as well as the benefits that the donor can expect.

  3. Make it an option on your donation form that’s easy to see and select. Some forms will even have the recurring donation option checked off as a default and donors who’d like to make a one-time gift have to uncheck the option before moving forward. For some people, the extra effort it takes to uncheck the box is enough to convince them to give on a recurring basis.

  4. Give donors lots of options in terms of how often they’d like their donations to be processed. If someone isn’t ready to give monthly but would be willing to give semi-annually, you don’t want them to decide against a recurring donation just because the monthly cadence is the only option you offer.

  5. Let donors know that they’ll be receiving a consolidated tax receipt on an annual basis. Confusion around how tax receipts work with recurring donations might deter some donors from signing up (since no one wants to look for 12 receipts come tax season).

  6. Thank donors quickly and often — remind donors how much you value their commitment to making donations on a regular basis by expressing gratitude in a timely manner. There’s no need to send a templated letter every month, but an occasional phone call or thank you card can go a long way.

If you have several channels that promote your recurring donations program, such as your donation website, newsletter or email sequence, track with method yields the most results. You can then put more effort into this channel and really dive deep into what makes it so effective in getting people to sign up for recurring donations.

BONUS: Click here to download The Perfect Donation Letter Template and Example!

What Can You Do With the Recurring Donations Feature?

When you add a donation form to your WildApricot website, you can now choose to offer your donors the option to make a recurring donation. To do this, all they need to do is select a frequency when they’re filling out the form.

If they choose this, the amount they set will be automatically deducted from the payment card they entered at the frequency they chose.

 Recurring donations - form with frequency

In the admin view, you can set whether your donors can choose to donate monthly, quarterly, semi-annually or annually. You can view which of your contacts have recurring donations subscriptions, filter them by the status of their subscription, and adjust or cancel subscriptions.


The donor doesn’t need to update or confirm anything each time the payment goes out, but they can view or cancel their recurring donation subscriptions from their profile.



Who can use the recurring donations feature?


If your organization uses WildApricot Payments as your payment system, you can use the recurring donations feature. To find out more about how to connect to WildApricot Payments, click here.


If you choose to add frequency options to your donation forms, all visitors to these forms will be shown these options and will be able to set up a donation subscription (if they enter valid payment information).


Can I manually set up a recurring donation on behalf of a donor?


No. For a donor to set up a payment, they will need to go to the donation form and fill in their details. Once they have set up a recurring donation, full administrators and donation managers can adjust or cancel their subscription. See the section titled Modifying Recurring Donation Subscriptions on this page for more details.


If you’d like to help your supporters get set up, you can direct them to our Donor’s Guide to Recurring Donations.


How can a donor cancel their own recurring donation?


Donors can cancel their own donation subscription by logging into their account and going to their profile. If they click on the Donations tab they will see a list of their donation subscriptions. To cancel a subscription, they should click the Stop button for the relevant subscription.

Member profile stop recurring donation

Where to Find More About Recurring Donations


You can find detailed instructions on how to view, adjust and cancel recurring donations on our Help Site – click here.


If you have any questions, or need help setting up your online store, feel free to contact our support team.

Best of luck setting up recurring donations on your site!

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