4 Examples of Successful Non-Profits with Recurring Donor Programs

If your non-profit had human anatomy, recurring donor programs would arguably be its backbone. Yes, lump-sum donations are great. But it's incredibly difficult for a non-profit to stay upright without reliable, consistent incoming donations.

Getting people to give any money is hard, let alone getting them to pledge a monthly donation. So, how do brands manage to do it successfully? This article will look at some of the best examples of recurring donor programs and find out what makes them so special.

1. The Adventure Project

The Adventure Project focuses on providing entrepreneurial support for people in extreme poverty, effectively providing jobs, healthcare, and safer environments.

What Makes it Special?

The Adventure Project is very impact focused. Monthly donors receive regular updates, inspirational photos, and personal testimony from the benefitting entrepreneurs.

The Adventure Project's website showing the perks of monthly giving

People like bang for their buck, and the Adventure Project gives them just that: for every dollar donated, an entrepreneur can earn $2.30 in additional income and move themselves out of extreme poverty faster.

The Adventure Project is a great unique non-profit to get behind because it helps people thrive, not just survive.

2. The Red Cross

Ah, the benefits of being tried and true. The Red Cross is one of the most famous non-profits in the world. Although their donation model is not exclusive to monthly giving, like Charity: Water—they still have a very strong emphasis on recurring donations.

What Makes it Special?

When it comes down to it, the Red Cross’s presence behind every windswept news reporter speaks for itself; they are everywhere, responding to nearly 200 emergencies across the country every day (one every 8 minutes to be exact).

The Red Cross empowers its monthly donors to become “Champions” and assures them that their money will immediately be put to good work. Sure, they may not get a monthly impact report or a detailed documentary of the way their money is being spent, but if monthly donors to the Red Cross want to see the impact of their dollars, they can simply turn on the news.

Red Cross calls their monthly donors Champions to remind donors of their impact.

3. World Vision

World Vision is committed to keeping children healthy, educated, and safe. Its model allows donors to sponsor individual children through monthly donations. 

What Makes it Special?

In short: compelling individual stories. Unfortunately, people have grown numb to the news cycle: reports of natural disasters, and shocking statistics don’t even raise the hairs on our arms anymore.

People can’t usually empathize on that scale because it’s so far removed from their experience, especially when the crisis is far from home. 

World Vision takes a crisis and makes it something people can wrap their heads around: a single child that is impacted by poverty.

Donors receive photos, reports, and hand-written notes from the children they sponsor.

It’s easy to forget that a crisis is composed of individual people. World Vision is so successful because it reminds donors that there are living, breathing people behind every statistic.

Plan International and ChildFund International are also some notable charities that use a similar model. 

4. Charity: Water

Charity: Water is a non-profit that believes everyone should have access to clean water. Their model is based on monthly giving, with no option available for lump-sum donations. 

What Makes it Special?

A lot, actually. Not only does Charity: Water have a strong brand, they appeal to millennials and they’re extremely budget-friendly. Donors get a flood of tangible proof that their monthly donations, no matter how small, are making a big impact.

Monthly donors become a part of “The Spring,” a community devoted to a world where everyone has access to clean water. 

The Spring members have the ability to explore the impact their money is making, including getting a look at the actual wells that are being drilled and consistent updates about the benefiting communities. 

Charity: Water strives to make its donation program as immersive as possible. They don’t want passive giving, they want their donors to feel engaged and involved. Their video series The Journey shows volunteers at work on the ground so that donors can see first-hand how their money is making a difference.

And if that isn’t enough, the founder of the non-profit, Scott Harrison, wrote a New York Times bestselling book Thirst: A Story of Redemption, Compassion, and a Mission to Bring Clean Water to the World, that details the non-profits mission and impressive impact.

However, the real key to Charity: Water’s success may not their monthly giving program, but their utilization of Facebook birthday fundraisers. Facebook fundraisers allow users to donate their birthdays to a worthy cause. Instead of getting presents, user’s friends donate money to the charity of the user’s choice. This peer to peer form of fundraising has proven successful for many non-profits because they encourage people to market to each other, instead of directly interacting with the brand.

If you scroll down the list of Facebook fundraisers, you will find thousands of birthdays donated to Charity: Water, which is an indication that they’ve successfully designed a non-profit model that speaks to all kinds of donors, monthly or not. Also, it never hurts to have a bestseller kicking around.

What Makes Monthly Giving Programs a Success?

These 4 non-profit recurring donor programs range from new-aged millennial targeted to tried and true, but what they all have in common is their compelling messages and their devotion to providing tangible proof that they are using their donors’ ongoing payments to make a lasting impact.