Building Your Recurring Donor Program
Creating a recurring fundraising ask
Any ActBlue contribution form can accept recurring donations. Here’s how to get started setting up your recurring contribution program:
- Create a new contribution form or navigate to a previously created one.
- Go to the Edit section and click “Show Recurring Contribution Options.”
- You can then choose to “Use specified duration monthly contributions” or “Use unlimited monthly contributions.” We recommend unlimited monthly contributions.
- Send out a fundraising email. You’ll want to make sure you preset the links for recurring and specifically ask for a recurring contribution in your email. What does that mean?
If you’ve set the form to use unlimited monthly contributions as suggested above, you should set the recurring option on the Promote page to ‘1’ which will ensure that the form will be preset to a recurring contribution. If you’ve set the form to use specified duration monthly contributions, write in the number of months it will recur for.
When you write your fundraising email, your ask should read something like “Can you chip in $10 a month?” And if you’re using ActBlue Express Lane, your link should say “Express Donate: $10 a month.” You can read more about that in our ActBlue Express Lane section.
Donors can always choose to give a one-time donation instead of a recurring contribution when they reach the contribution form, but it’s important to make the recurring donation process as frictionless as possible for supporters.
Note: You can also start your recurring program by enabling the pop-up recurring function in the Edit section of your contribution form. You can find specific instructions about the pop-up recurring function here. We think pop-up recurring asks are a great place to start, but remember that in order to build a robust recurring program, you’ll have to invest some time.
You need to make a specific appeal to your donors for a recurring contribution and explain why a sustained commitment is needed. If your organization is planning a series of big events over the next year, make sure you let donors know how important these efforts are to your cause.
Analyzing your recurring contributions
You can view the recurring contribution data for a specific form by clicking on “Stats” in the left hand corner of your form, just above your blurb.
If you’d like to see your overall projected recurring donations to your organization, visit the “Recurring” section of your Dashboard.
Here you’ll see the amount of recurring dollars you’re projected to bring in, broken down by month for the past 13 months.
You can also see the total amount you’ve raised from recurring contributions over time, by clicking the “Total contributions” bubble below the chart. Here, you can also see new contributions and any new contribution amounts.
If you scroll down further you’ll see a table with another detailed breakdown of your recurring program, including your number of supporters and your new supporters each month, as well.
Once you’ve got your recurring program up and running you can continue evaluating it on a monthly basis using the charts under the “Recurring Retention” tab of the Recurring section in your Dashboard.
The first chart you’ll see (the Retention Matrix) groups recurring contributions together by month. You can look left to right to follow the monthly trends of a group of contributions.
Here’s an example:
Rows represent every recurring contribution that began that month and the numbers 0-13 above the columns represent the number of months since the initial donation. The percentages represent the retention rate of those contributions.
You can look left to right to follow the monthly trends of a group of contributions, look top to bottom to figure out what happens to contributions after a specific number of months, and you can spot trends.
It’s important to note that a campaign or organization that is just getting started building a recurring program won’t see as many rows and columns in their chart and that every campaign and organization’s retention rates will be different.
You’ll also see a second graph (the Cohort Decay) below that. Here, you can hover over each of the lines to see the monthly recurring contribution fulfillment rates. This helps you to get an idea of the trends that are normal for your organization. Here’s an example:
The grey and yellow lines represent the retention rate for a month’s worth of contributions. Basically, each row from the chart on top of this page is represented as a single line in this graph.
The red line is a trend line, which can help you gauge whether a month’s recurring pledges are over- or under-performing. Lines above the red line are being fulfilled at a higher rate than average and the opposite is true for lines below the trend line.
If you’d like to read more about these visualizations you can do so here.
The reality is that some donors won’t fulfill their pledge, despite our best efforts to retain them. That’s why it’s crucial that campaigns and organizations are able to effectively predict how much money is going to be coming in month over month.
Head over to your Dashboard and click on the Recurring tab in the left menu. You’ll see another tab to the right of that menu labeled “Recurring Projections.” Here you’ll find a predictive statistical model to run this projection for you automatically.
Here’s an example of what you’ll see:
Below you’ll find a daily projection chart. Keep reading and we’ll explain how to look at the chart so you can get an accurate prediction of your recurring fulfillment rates.
This pane shows both the aggregate and daily amount of revenue we expect you’ll bring in from currently active recurring contributions over the next two months. These expectations are based off a predictive model that takes into account the historical performance of recurring contributions.
We provide both the exact estimate and a confidence interval between which you can reasonably expect your revenue to be. You can hover over the chart to find the exact estimate as well as the high and low estimates.
If your committee has received enough recurring contributions to make a statistically sound prediction, then the model used to calculate the expected value of your recurring contributions is unique to your committee. Otherwise, we use a model based on data we see all across ActBlue. In either case, this model is recalculated daily to ensure your data is accurate and up-to-date.
Supporting your recurring contribution program
Email receipts will automatically go out to all recurring contributors when their donation is processed. You can edit the receipt text to include a personalized thanks to your donors that they’ll receive within the automatic message.
That email contains a link that allows them to alter the number of months of their contribution, cancel it completely, or update their credit card information. The dollar amount cannot be altered. Recurring donations can be cancelled at any point in time.
If their card is declined and needs to be updated, an automatic email will go out letting them know that they were not charged and that they should update their information. If a card is declined, they will not be charged that month, but we’ll attempt to process the contribution again the next month.
Many donors will opt to email ActBlue instead of handling it through their receipt. In that case we’re happy to take care of these tasks for them. If your donors contact you with questions about their recurring contribution, you can forward them to us. We have a great customer service team and make every effort to get back to donors during the same business day.
Finally, make sure to follow up with your recurring donors and let them know what you’re up to. If you go to the Settings section of your Dashboard under the “Tools” header you can scroll down and click on “Blurbs, Disclaimers, and Tracking Codes”
Under the “Email Message Blurbs” you’ll see a place to edit the recurring email blurbs.
Donors have the option of cancelling their commitment, but we find that upwards of 80% of the pledged money actually comes in. That has a lot to do with the relationships that you build with supporters over the course of their commitment.