Kevin Conroy, GlobalGiving

#GivingTuesday and other high-volume giving days are more popular than ever. But do they translate to long-term, sustainable support for vulnerable communities? Critics say ‘no.’ How can nonprofits address the issue? GlobalGiving partnered with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to find an answer.

The Big Question

#GivingTuesday and other community giving days can be terrific campaigns for nonprofits to engage donors, but they’re often criticized for not creating a lasting impact for nonprofits and discouraging long-term relationships with donors. This year, GlobalGiving wanted to know: Could we leverage the momentum of our biggest giving day of the year, #GivingTuesday, to create recurring impact for nonprofits and lasting relationships with donors?

What We Tested

We conducted an A/B test with more than 200,000 potential donors on #GivingTuesday to learn how donor behavior changes when presented with a standard matching offer for a one-time donation versus the option to upgrade to a recurring donation with a higher matching incentive.

Why It Matters

Nonprofits need to be thoughtful about donor relationships and fundraising strategies to create lasting change in the vulnerable communities they serve. In recent years, they’ve reported increasing challenges with donor retention.

Although opportunities like #GivingTuesday have set new fundraising records for nonprofits, many are struggling to figure out how to turn the momentum of a single giving day into a sustainable source of support.

Recurring donations are an excellent way to solve these challenges, but it can be difficult to convince donors to make a monthly commitment.

Our Method

We conducted two large-scale experiments to determine how to best incentivize repeat donations on #GivingTuesday.

For the first part of our experiment, we conducted an email-based A/B test with approximately 275,000 newsletter subscribers and previous donors. Our control group was offered a standard matching offer saying that if they donated on #GivingTuesday, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would match their donation at 50 percent. The test group got a similar email, but this email highlighted that if the donor made a recurring donation on #GivingTuesday, their initial gift would be matched 200 percent.

For our second experiment, we focused on donors on our website on #GivingTuesday who had indicated that they were giving $100 or less. We presented them with two different callouts on our donation form. In the control, they were told that if they donated today that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation would match their donation at 50 percent. In the test, the donors were prompted with two radio buttons and asked to select between two options: make a one-time donation and get matched today at 50 percent or make a monthly donation and get matched today at 200 percent.

Although our standard matching offer generated a greater number of one-time donations via email, the recurring matching “upgrade” incentive generated 3x the number of new recurring donations, a statistically significant finding.

The Ultimate Outcome

First, here are the results from our email experiment:

Although the test email drove a higher quantity of recurring donations, even if you multiply by 12 to get a maximum annual impact, the test email underperformed compared to the control. This is in stark contrast to the results of our donation form experiment:

Make It Yours

Based on our tests, we recommend keeping your nonprofit’s email appeals simple. Focus on a clear call to action to drive donors to your giving page. Getting donors to make that first click is always the biggest challenge. The more complex your communications, the harder it typically is to get a donor to take action.

However, once you have a donor who is ready to make a donation to your nonprofit, giving them an opportunity to select between two matching offers—a lower percentage for a one-time matching and a higher percentage for a recurring match—can lead to a significant increase in your recurring donations.

We believe this a very powerful finding for #GivingTuesday and other popular giving days. If your nonprofit already has matching funds available and is driving donors, en masse, to give on that day, consider providing an additional prompt on your donation form with an incentive to upgrade to a recurring donation. You may be able to significantly increase the number of recurring donations, particularly for donors giving $100 or less.


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