How to Double Your Recurring Donations

Posted by Kevin Conroy on July 31st, 2012

We’re constantly experimenting with GlobalGiving.org in order to improve the website for all of our users, and we do our best to listen to (and act upon) your feedback. We’ve heard you tell us that monthly recurring donations of smaller amounts are more valuable than once-off donations; that recurring donations are a more reliable and sustainable source of funds that help you budget and plan. Therefore, we decided to undertake an experiment to figure out how we could get more recurring donations to more of your projects.

Since last November we’ve been trying to see if there’s a really good way to convert someone who was going to make a one-time donation to a project into a monthly recurring donor during the checkout process. With the help of several behavioral economists we conducted three rounds of testing with more than 20 different test conditions, all aimed at increasing recurring donations on the site.

Today we’re pleased to make two big announcements as a result of this work: first, we’ve found a way to double the rate at which donors sign up for recurring donations and second, we’re going to implement this finding into our site as a permanent feature.

How We Doubled Recurring Donations

We experimented with a number of different calls-to-action to get donors to upgrade to recurring donations. Thanks to a generous donor who was interested in this experiment (and who prefers to remain anonymous), we were able to offer matching funds as a part of the experiment.

Here’s how it worked: when donors added a project to their giving cart on GlobalGiving for $100 or less we presented them with one of our experimental offers.

First, we tried just asking them nicely to upgrade. Although our mothers’ would be proud of our manners, donors didn’t respond and hardly anyone switched from a one-time to recurring donation.

Then, we tried offering a simple 1-to-1 match offer:  “Upgrade to a recurring donation and we’ll match it.” This worked well, but was only slightly better than not even asking donors at all.

Finally, after many rounds of testing, we found that the most effective offer was to leverage the social pressure of groups. We said, “If 75% of donors who see this message upgrade to a recurring donation today, we’ll match all of their donations.” What we discovered is that when we created a sense of collective responsibility and shared reward, donors were twice as likely to upgrade to a recurring donation (compared to us not having asked at all.)

How We’re Helping You Raise More Money

Based on this finding, GlobalGiving is pleased to announce that starting today we will be making this an ongoing offer for every project on GlobalGiving.org.

To be clear, this offer is very different than our typical matching or Bonus Days in which every single donation is matched. Our goal with this new recurring matching opportunity is to take our limited supply of matching funds and use them to convert donors who would have made one-time donations to your project into monthly recurring donors for your project, giving you a steady stream of donations that you can use to plan and expand your services.

In order to prevent anyone from abusing this offer in an attempt to get matching funds, we’ve set up a few terms and conditions which you can read at the link below: http://www.globalgiving.org/recurring-donations-matched/

More Donations To Your Projects

So what should you do differently as a result of this offer? Not much. Keep promoting your project and asking your supporters to donate to your GlobalGiving project like you have been. When your supporters come to make a donation they’ll see the offer and, on average, twice as many will set up recurring donations. (Remember: As stated in the terms and conditions, although your organization’s staff and board of directors are welcome to make recurring donations to your project, they are not eligible for matching funds.)

GlobalGiving will track everyone that sees the offer and upgrades and we’ll disburse matching funds for eligible donations with your regular monthly disbursements. These matching funds will appear as “Recurring Matching Funds” on your disbursement reports. In fact, many of you may have already seen these very funds in your disbursements over the last few months as a part of our experiments.

You can read the full terms and conditions on the recurring matching program at http://www.globalgiving.org/recurring-donations-matched/

We’re committed to listening to your feedback, experimenting, and learning in order to help you  raise more funds for your projects. As always, if you have any questions or comments about how we can better do so, please contact us.

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