How to turn one-off donors into long-term supporters

Many charities receive larger numbers of one-off donations at a certain time of year – whether a religious festival or night of TV fundraising. We explore how charities can encourage recurring donations and build a loyal, long-term fanbase that will go the extra mile for your cause.

Chloe Green | 8th Jan 20
How to turn one-off donors into long-term supporters

There’s a lot to be said for one-off charity events or periods of the year, such as Christmas, Ramadan or the annual charity fun-run, for bringing in the meat of charities’ annual funds. But much of this support comes from one-off donors, rather than long-term supporters. How do you keep your charity’s activities fed for the rest of the year?

In order to achieve sustainable growth, charities need reliable, consistent donation streams that come from regular donations. But first-time donors can easily be left cold by a lack of communication or response on behalf of the charity. Research indicates that for every 100 new donors a charity acquires, 98 of them remain just that – one-time-only donors.

It seems that charities are missing an enormous opportunity to engage with that 98% and help them become long-term supporters and advocates. This is where the importance of building a strategy comes in to convert those enthusiastic one-off donors to regular givers.

As a starting point for smaller charities, charity advice organisation NCVO has some great tips for maximising regular donations, including what to think about when planning how you will communicate with donors and the important art of picking the right payment platforms.


> See also: How charities can make the most of online awareness days


Fundraising is a marathon, not a sprint

Telethon-based charities like Comic Relief and BBC Children in Need are a prime example of charities that have traditionally relied heavily on donations around a specific time or event.

But they certainly don’t rest on their laurels for the rest of the year. We recently covered how digital tech has helped BBC Children in Need evolve beyond the television event, to solicit donations throughout the year and hit their record-breaking fundraising target.

The charity uses digital channels to ensure it can raise awareness as widely as possible, accept donations in as many ways as people want to give, help volunteers to share their own stories, and target the right supporter audience through Google advertising.

Comic Relief’s Product lead, Caroline Rennie explained how the charity’s new regular giving programme seeks to build more intuitive user journeys and payment methods, in her webinar ‘How to make more by spending less’ for Charity Digital’s Fundraising Day.


> See also: Tech could be the key to trust and transparency in fundraising


“We had no means of setting up direct debit with Comic Relief until recently,” said Rennie, “but we’re in the process of setting up those regular giving conversion journeys now, and data is absolutely at the heart of that.”

“75% of TV donations are from people texting, and the data quality you get from that is pretty low. So we have a real push to try and push people onto Gift Aid. Although we’ve been around 30 years we’ve only got like eight years of super quality data. We can see from that data that we do have regular givers who come back every year, it’s just that we’ve only asked them to give once a year.”

Comic Relief’s strategy was previously based around pushing donors into becoming fundraisers in an effort to recruit as many donors as possible around their annual Telethon event. But examining the limited donor data they held led them to conclude that donor groups weren’t readily converting into become fundraisers.


> See also: Predicting the data trends of 2020


Rennie concludes: “The much larger size of our donor groups means it really makes sense for us to turn them into regular givers, rather than drive them down a fundraising journey.”

She also emphasises the importance of building a relationship of trust with supporters. A key strand of Comic Relief’s ongoing fundraising strategy is connecting supporters and beneficiaries as part of a clear and transparent donation journey.

Long-term supporters value transparency, and there has never been more opportunity to tell your charity’s authentic story, show accountability and prove the impact of their donation.