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7 Ways to Boost Recurring Donor Acquisition at Your Nonprofit


By Hannah Durbin

man in white holding tablet while talking to woman in blue

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Published June 7, 2021 Reading Time: 5 minutes

Boosting your nonprofit’s recurring donor acquisition can help establish a consistent stream of revenue, improve cash flow, and provide much needed support during fallow periods. Even though monthly donors generally give smaller amounts on a per gift basis, they are over five times more valuable to your nonprofit than one-time donors and are more likely to take additional actions for your nonprofit on top of their monthly gift.

In 2012, Operation Broken Silence launched a recurring giving program out of necessity to establish a consistent stream of revenue due to a lack of support from grantmakers. Since bringing their recurring giving program to Classy in 2015, Operation Broken Silence has seen a staggering 1,128% increase in their number of monthly donors and an 865% increase in monthly giving revenue

donor acquisition stats

In addition to their usage of the Classy product to elevate their program, here are seven recurring donor acquisition strategies from Operation Broken Silence that we wanted to pass along.

Donor Acquisition Strategies to Boost Your Recurring Giving Program

1. Amplify Your CTA With a Sense of Urgency

Your call to action sets the tone for your campaign, so be sure to emphasize why support is critical and timely right now. Because the crisis situation in Sudan has not yet come to an end, and the Sudanese people continue to live in fear, Operation Broken Silence strategically leverages urgency in their messaging to engage donors and compel them to give. 

example of a strong call to action

They use their story to forge an emotional connection with donors and motivate them to take immediate action. For more tips on how to use different storytelling tools to draw in your audience, download The Guide to Nonprofit Storytelling.

2. Identify the Right Target Audience

Identify donors within your community who have shown consistent interest in your mission. It’s more likely that you’ll convert a supporter who’s already familiar with what you do versus someone who is coming across your page for the first time, so it’s important that your recurring donor acquisition strategy reflects that. 

Operation Broken Silence targets two main audience segments as candidates for their recurring giving program: event attendees and donors who have given multiple one-time donations. The Returning One-Time Donors Report available in Classy helps them do this more efficiently by showing them who has given more than one donation to their organization.

3. Add a Personal Touch to Your Outreach

A mass email is fast and easy, but when was the last time you engaged with a generic message that landed in your inbox? Phone calls and personalized emails can go a long way in establishing trust and rapport with recurring donors. 

Every candidate for Operation Broken Silence’s recurring giving program receives a phone call or personalized email from a team member to introduce themselves to the donor, tell the organization’s story, and open up the floor to any questions. The questions the supporters ask typically indicate which program they’re most interested in, so the team will use this as an opportunity to promote their program designation option and potentially drive conversion. 

Whether the donor expressed interest in a particular program or not, their team has still begun building a relationship with that person and establishing their personal connection with the organization. To improve your email communications and encourage more recurring donors to take action, download these 8 Templates to Upgrade Your Recurring Donors.  

4. Promote Tier-Based Incentives

Offering unique perks to donors who contribute larger gifts is a great way to incentivize and thank your supporters accordingly. 

At Operation Broken Silence, all recurring donors receive a membership pin and early access to new stories and campaigns, but those who give $35 or more also receive two free tickets to their annual events. Long-term recurring donors are offered additional tickets to these events so that they can bring friends and family as well. These perks are listed on their program page, but are also leveraged in one-on-one conversations with potential donors to encourage increasing your gift size to $35 or more to receive the benefits. 

screengrab of recurring givings incentives on a nonprofit websitescreengrab of recurring givings incentives on a nonprofit website

For more examples of unique recurring giving incentives, read our blog 5 Unique Ways to Thank Recurring Donors.

5. Encourage Existing Donors to Spread the Word

Lean into the power of networking by encouraging your existing recurring donors to share your nonprofit story to their inner circles and inspire others to get involved. A key behavioral insight is that people are often motivated to give to other people or a cause, not necessarily the nonprofit, which is why organic conversations between donors and their cohorts can help boost your recurring donor acquisition strategy.

Operation Broken Silence leverages this approach when long-time donors bring guests to their annual events. The existing donors are encouraged to bring their friends and family to the recurring giving donation table to start a conversation and share why they’ve supported the organization for so long, and more often than not, the donor’s passion for Operation Broken Silence motivates their guests to join the program. 

6. Prioritize Your Communication With Recurring Donors

The insight, feedback, and support of your recurring donors is critical to your mission, so make sure you prove that with fast response times and transparent conversations. 

The Operation Broken Silence team prioritizes their communication with recurring donors above all else to ensure that they feel appreciated and valued. Their internal policy requires that every email or phone call from a recurring donor is returned within 24 hours to ensure all questions are answered. 

7. Emphasize the Impact of Boosting Your Gift Size

Once or twice a year, it’s beneficial to ask your active recurring donors to increase their gift, even if it’s only by $5. Emphasize the impact each dollar makes by providing specific examples of the incremental work you could fund. 

Operation Broken Silence sends out a branded email to all active recurring donors once a year asking them to consider increasing their gifts, but they also take it one step further. The team individually reaches out to all donors who have had a positive status change that year, like a job promotion, to initiate the conversation from a different angle. This allows them to congratulate the donor on their accomplishment and also encourage them to dedicate a portion of their increased income toward Operation Broken Silence’s mission. 

Pro Tip
After a gift has been active for about a year, reach out and ask if an increased commitment is possible. Explain how their current giving level has impacted your mission, and remind them that even a small addition could dramatically help your organization achieve its goal.

A strong recurring giving program has allowed Operation Broken Silence to follow through on their promises to the Sudan community. By establishing a steady stream of revenue, the team has been able to build a uniquely deep level of trust with their beneficiaries while also strengthening their relationships with valuable donors. 

Take these donor acquisition strategies back to your team and experiment with what works best for your nonprofit audience.

To learn more about elevating your nonprofit’s recurring giving program, check out our other resources:


ultimate recurring giving

The Ultimate Guide to Recurring Giving

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