The Latest Recurring Donations Trends You Need to Know

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Recurring Donation for Nonprofits: Boost Results | GPG
By Abby Jarvis, Senior Content Marketing Manager, Neon One

You’ve probably seen the headlines about individual giving going down. As nonprofit organizations experience the growing trend of donors dropping away, we are finding that donor retention is more important than ever. 

But here’s a bright spot: A growing number of people are choosing to make recurring donations to nonprofits. 

From 2018 to 2022, the average nonprofit saw a 127% increase in the number of recurring donors in their databases.

This group represents some of the most valuable supporters in any nonprofit’s community. They’re generous, and they’re invested in the causes they love. Most of all, they stay engaged with their favorite organizations for a long, long time.

As the nonprofit sector reckons with changing donor behaviors, focusing on recurring donors will be an important part of building sustainable fundraising programs. Here’s why.

Recurring Donations Make a Major Impact

Building a base of recurring or sustaining donors—people whose gifts are processed on a predetermined schedule (typically, but not always, on a monthly basis)—is an invaluable tactic for creating steady, reliable income at your organization. 

You don’t have to take my word for it: Here are some interesting statistics pulled from a recent Neon One study, The Recurring Giving Report: Data-Backed Insights for Sustainable Generosity.

Recurring Donors Give Almost $1,000 Annually

In 2022, the average recurring donor gave $941.11. Now, I can hear you thinking, “That’s fine, but our average donor gives more than that every year.”

Yes, that’s probably true. In the same year, donors who made one-time donations gave an average of $2,155.10. 

If you compare those numbers on face value, you may be led to think that asking for one-time gifts is the best way to meet your fundraising goals. 

However, the real value of a recurring donor becomes more obvious when you look at how long they support their favorite causes.

Recurring Donors Stick Around 4x Longer

Across the industry, non-recurring donors stay engaged with a nonprofit for around 1.73 years. Recurring donors, on the other hand, have an average donor lifetime of 8.08 years.

So, to continue our comparison, the average non-recurring donor gives $2,155.10 annually for 1.73 years. That’s a total donor lifetime value of $3,728.32.

Compare that to recurring donors, who give an average of $941.11 annually for 8.08 years. That means each one gives $7,604.17 over the course of their relationship with a nonprofit.

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Half of Recurring Donors Make Additional Gifts

Some fundraisers I’ve spoken with have said they worry cultivating a recurring donations program will result in fewer dollars raised during a year. 

Others have wondered whether they should exclude recurring donors from additional appeals. 

Those concerns are valid, but here’s a data point that may help: From 2018 to 2022, 50% of the 111,000+ recurring donors in our data set made additional gifts to their favorite nonprofits. 

That’s a significant number of people who are willing to give above and beyond their existing commitment. 

It’s even more significant when you consider that many of the organizations represented in the study don’t seem to have dedicated recurring programs. 

Those donors are, from what we can tell, creating recurring gifts and additional one-time donations with little to no prompting from the nonprofits themselves. 

What could an organization achieve if they built thoughtful, intentional programs for recurring donors? With some thoughtful stewardship, these donors can make a major impact on your organization. 

How to Connect with Recurring Donors

So, despite individual giving being down, these data points (and other recurring giving statistics) show that recurring donors are still deeply committed to their favorite causes. 

Their support represents stable, long-term revenue for nonprofits, and the rising popularity of this type of giving is an indicator that you would do well to focus on recurring giving.

Great. Now what? What can you actually do to get started?

Create a Recurring Donation Program

If you don’t already have a recurring donor program, now’s the perfect time to start planning one. 

You can choose to launch a full-fledged recurring giving campaign, of course, but taking some simple steps can be enough to get you started. 

First of all, enable recurring gift options on your standard donation page. You can even create a page that only includes recurring options—it’ll come in handy when you send appeals asking specifically for monthly gifts. 

Next, spend some time creating thoughtful appeals for this type of gift, and plan some special follow-up communications for people who get involved. 

Focus On Creating Personal Connections Between Donors and Your Cause

As you build your base of recurring donors, be intentional about connecting with your donors on a personal level. 

Making this kind of long-term commitment is a deeply personal, emotional decision, and reinforcing those sentiments will be an important way to keep this group happy and engaged long term.

But how do we know this is an effective tactic?

These Donors are Emotional

In our study, we discovered that around 12% of recurring donors included notes about their gift during the setup process. We used AI to conduct a sentiment analysis of those notes—about 13,000 of them—and identify common themes.

What we found is that donors regularly referenced emotions (like love, gratitude, and inspiration) and their personal identities (including things like their religious beliefs, age, or gender identity) while creating recurring gifts. 

These gifts are emotional investments in your cause, and they’re tied to a donor’s sense of self. When you show them the impact they made in a way that directly speaks to those motivations, they’ll be more likely to continue their support.

Keep In Touch! It’s Important to Communicate Regularly

One of the best ways to demonstrate impact to your monthly donors is to communicate with them regularly. 

Whether you’re sending newsletters (bonus points if your recurring donors get a special version that’s just for them), impact updates, or stories about your organization, make sure this donor segment knows how their generosity is making a difference.

Regular communications—especially if they’re thoughtfully written to reinforce your donor’s emotional connection to your cause—will keep your donors engaged and make them feel good about their ongoing support.

Send Relevant Asks on Top of Their Regular Commitment

Since many recurring donors give on top of their regular commitment, you don’t need to exclude them from receiving additional appeals. 

When you do send your recurring donors additional fundraising appeal letters, though, they shouldn’t receive the same appeal that you send to the rest of your donor base. 

When you ask this group for additional support, do so in a way that recognizes their generosity, explains why they should give again, and invites them to continue supporting a cause they care about.

Get Them Involved!

Recurring donors make gifts, of course, but they get involved in other ways, too. In our study, we found that:

  • 20.33% of them also have a membership in your organization
  • 15.86% attend events
  • 11.63% are board members
  • 5.20% made a store purchase
  • 3.30% of them are tagged as volunteers

Those numbers may be even higher: Since these figures came from nonprofits’ CRMs, it’s very possible that these donors may not be tagged the same way across different systems

Give your recurring donors opportunities to get more deeply involved with your organization. Invite them to your events, ask them to volunteer, get them on your board. 

Who knows how they may support your cause in the future? Other types of gifts—including major gifts and legacy gifts—are the result of intentional relationship-building. 

The more deeply your donor is tied to your organization, the more likely they will be to support you in even more significant ways.

Now’s the Time to Invest In Recurring Donors

Yes, individual giving is down. But recurring giving is growing, and that means now is the perfect time to invest in building a recurring giving program. People in your community are ready and willing to commit to supporting your work long term—let them do it!

Looking for more insights and practical tips? You can read more about recurring donors and how they support the causes they love in The Recurring Giving Report: Data-Backed Insights for Sustainable Generosity

Abby Jarvis is a writer, marketer, and speaker at Neon One. She’s passionate about giving nonprofits the tools they need to connect with their supporters. Her 11+ years in the nonprofit technology industry have been dedicated to understanding how and why donors support their favorite causes, studying donor trends and behavior, and sharing data-backed best practices nonprofits can use to build successful fundraising programs.

If you’re in the beginning stages of your campaign and want to bounce around some ideas, reach out for a free strategy call. Send an email to to schedule a time.


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