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Giving Tuesday: Turn Your One-Time Donors Into Recurring Donors

Understanding what can make a donor come back—and combining it with a solid messaging strategy—can help extend Giving Tuesday benefits well beyond the fourth quarter.

Donors play a key part in the work that many nonprofits and associations do, which means that being able to fundraise effectively can help your organization better take on ambitious initiatives.

One problem, though—getting one-time donors (such as those who take part in events like Giving Tuesday) to stick around and donate again isn’t easy.

Given existing data that suggests only about one-in-five donors make a second donation to the organization, what room do associations have to change that equation?

Plenty, it turns out. Why America Gives, a recent study from the nonprofit fundraising software firm Classy, makes the case that passive donors often don’t receive much communication from nonprofits that they’re interested in working with, and more than a third find themselves reconsidering donations because suggested amounts don’t match their budgets.

But the value of conversion, if it can be pulled off, is high. Loyal donors, who are described as recurring or giving to an organization three times over five years, were twice as likely to increase their donations in 2022 compared with passive donors, and likely to donate four times as much as them.

According to Michelle Boggs, Classy’s executive nonprofit industry advisor, the opportunity created with Giving Tuesday is one of introduction, with more than half of passive donors likely to give based on a timely appeal.

“When you meet those motivated donors with the flexibility to choose which donation amount and frequency works best for them, you can secure their interest in supporting your cause,” she said.

Consider Your Messaging

In many ways, the end-of-year giving season, which kicks off with Giving Tuesday, is an opportunity for donors to find new ways to support causes that they’re interested in. It’s something of a try-before-you-buy approach, which means that a lot of people are exploring new causes rather than doubling down in an area where they’ve given before.

That means the job of an organization looking to improve its fundraising is twofold. First, the message needs to be put in front of the right audiences (so if your goal is to reach younger audiences, look to influencers for help, Boggs suggested). Then, after the season is over, follow up. The second part is the challenge for many nonprofits, according to Boggs.

“Many organizations do an incredible job leading up to giving season, but often fall flat after the season is over,” she said. “There is so much opportunity in building a strategy to thank those donors in a meaningful way, get to know them, keep them engaged, share impact, and convert them to recurring, lifelong donors.”

She recommended communicating with newly recurring donors more immediately after the first of the year, as that is the month they are most likely to churn. “Intentional connection immediately following the giving season is a must,” she said.

Offer Plenty of Options

If getting people in the door is important, your donation forms need to accurately describe what exactly you offer. Boggs recommended making donation forms clear and including a recurring payment option.

“Recurring giving thrives when donors have options,” she said. “Whether that be the frequency, payment options, or donation amount, donors want a flexible, frictionless experience.”

After all, if someone decides to donate again, they are most likely to do so with an organization they’ve worked with in the past—something Classy’s data suggests 79 percent of Giving Tuesday donors are likely to do within the next year, according to Boggs.

Understand the Roadblocks

With some passive donors likely scared off by the idea that they can’t afford to give to a cause that they’re interested in, it helps to consider what your organization can do to make that roadblock easier to pass.

Recurring donations are an effective tool for this, as the amounts are more manageable but often add up to more over time. Boggs pointed out that the average one-time donation is $157, but the average monthly recurring donation is $30.

“When the average donor hangs on for over a year, that $30 is so much more valuable,” Boggs said. “Establishing these predictable income streams with recurring revenue can be the ticket to planning for the future and improving your development programs.”

By ensuring that messaging is clear to potential donors, you can make a more compelling case—including by using tactics such as engagement and personalization to draw donors in beyond the initial contact.

“It is your job as an organization to understand those motivations, keep that donor close to your mission throughout the year, and make it a priority to demonstrate value, create urgency, and start to co-create what their donor journey may look like where both parties are winning,” she said.

(Iryna Imago/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

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