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 by clicking on “Create form” in the upper-left corner of your campaign Dashboard or navigate to a previously created form by searching for it in the Form Management tab. Once you’ve located your form, click the “Edit” button.
2. This will automatically open your form editor. If you just created a form, you will also be brought to this page. Select “Recurring Settings” from the menu.
3. As a default, your form will be set up to accept unlimited monthly contributions. It will also automatically use pop-up recurring asks with a threshold of $101: This means that after a supporter gives a one-time contribution that is less than $101, a pop-up box will appear that asks them to make their donation recurring. You can easily change both of these settings in the “Recurring settings” tab.
CUSTOMIZING YOUR RECURRING ASK
To change the pop-up ask threshold, just enter a different dollar amount in the “Pop-up recurring ask threshold” box. To turn off pop-up recurring asks, enter “0” in the box.
Instead of unlimited monthly contributions, which can recur as long as a donor wants to remain a monthly supporter, you can choose a different setting in the “Recurring donations” dropdown.
You can choose to use monthly contributions that recur for a specified amount of time, or use unlimited monthly recurring and smart pop-up recurring together. The combination will show one-time donors a pop-up prompting them to commit to a monthly contribution amount that is smaller than their initial contribution. You also have the option to disable recurring contributions on your form.
Make sure you click on the orange “Publish changes” button to save any changes you make.
SENDING YOUR ASK TO SUPPORTERS
Now you’re ready to send out a fundraising email! You’ll want to make sure you pre-set the links for recurring and specifically ask for a recurring contribution in your email.
It's easy to pre-set your links for recurring. If you’ve set the form to use unlimited monthly contributions as suggested above, you can do this by clicking on the Promote button on the left side of your form. To ensure that the recurring option is preset, set the “Recurring” section to ‘1’. 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.
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.
You can also reach the Statistics page by locating your form in the Form Management tab of your Dashboard and clicking on the numbers beneath “Contributions” or “Amounts.”
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 see the total number of recurring donations you’ve brought in by clicking on the “Total contributions” bubble below the chart. You can also view the new contributions you’ve brought in this month by selecting the “New contributions” bubble, and you can check out the amount that these new contributions brought in by selecting “New amount.”
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, or look top to bottom to figure out what happens to contributions after a specific number of months.
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 Retention Matrix 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:
You can also find a daily projection by selecting the “Daily” bubble at the bottom of the Recurring Projections 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 DONORS WHO HAVE RECURRING CONTRIBUTIONS
Email receipts will automatically go out to all recurring contributors when their donation is processed. These receipts contain a link that allows donors 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.
ActBlue’s integration with Account Updater automatically updates most expired or lost donor credit cards in our system, preventing lost contributions. However, occasionally credit cards will still be declined. In this case, we send an automatic email letting the donor know that they were not charged and that they should update their information. If a donor does not update their card, 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 making a change 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 at email@example.com. 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. This message will be included in your recurring donors’ receipt each time a recurring donation is charged.
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.