We love a great recurring giving program! Why? They are easy for donors to set up. Donors rarely cancel their recurring gifts. In fact, donor retention is higher for recurring donors. According to The Nonprofit Recurring Giving Benchmark study, recurring donors have an average retention of 90% – compared to an overall retention average of 46%.

Recurring giving often comes with a few behind the scenes challenges though.

1. Back End Management and Reporting

Even though it is easy for your donor to “set it and forget it”, a recurring gift requires a little more TLC on the backend. Make sure you are familiar with editing the gift transactions in case the donor must update a credit card, increase or decrease their gift amount, or even pause their gift for a moth or two. Keep a close eye on expiring credit card data, also. Create a plan for communicating with your recurring donors when their card is nearing its expiration date.

Reviewing any failed charges should be simple through the back-end management of your giving platform. Many platforms have a series of attempts to recharge a failed transaction. Make sure you know if yours is one of them – whether you’re using your donor software online gift management, or a third-party tool such as Qgiv.

Running any reports on recurring gift transactions should be easily accessible, for you and your finance team. Work with your finance team to understand how often they want to see data for recurring transactions. Some may want data when the deposit batch is processed every few days. You might also consider setting up an integration between the giving platform and QuickBooks if one is available.

2. Forms Management

While you might think your giving form is a piece of cake to make a gift, test it out just to be safe. Ask a colleague or two that are not part of the fundraising team to try the form also.

If you have a branded recurring giving club, you should have a separate donation form for it. This will differ from the general form by showing giving impact and outcomes. The donation amounts will also reflect your giving levels for your giving program, or they should at least be relative to typical recurring gift amounts, $10, $25, $50, and $100 for example.

Almost all donation platforms offer the option to let your donors pay for the credit card processing fee. Use it – because donors do!

3. Managing Your Recurring Donors

When a donor sets up a recurring gift, it is important to communicate with them accordingly. Determine the steps your organization will take for their first initial gift transaction, each additional charged gift, and any extra communications they might receive. In the initial thank you, let them know how they’ll hear from you in the future – extra news for recurring donors, consolidated receipts in the mail in January, monthly transaction email notifications, etc. Let them know how your recurring giving program works, too – the gift goes until they stop it, for example. Make sure the donor has the right contact name should they need to make any changes.

Reviewing any of the automated email responses that the giving platform has is also critical. Many platforms have automatic emails for: initial gifts, each transaction, and failed transactions. If you aren’t sure what auto-generated emails your platform has, reach out to support.

4. Database Tracking

Now that the donations are processing, make sure it is clear in your database who your recurring donors are! Your database should have a tag or group function to label them as a recurring donor.

If known, use the notes function to provide any background information on the donors giving intention. Why did they make the gift? Are they friends of a board or staff member? Any important details that might provide history on why the donor made the gift – or cancels in the future – will be helpful. Likewise, use the database action or task tracking function when any contact is made with the donor. Examples include sending a sticker or decal for the giving club gift, the donor called to increase the gift amount, or their yearly receipt was sent in January.

While these are common challenges with a recurring gift program that’s already in place, we’re also including a few resources to build your program.