Sustaining members our heros

Recurring donations for sustainability and building patron loyalty

Contributed income generally runs somewhere in the neighborhood of 40-50% of the operating budget of a performing arts organization, with the remainder being made up of earned income.  This contributed income comes in the form of donations, grants, sponsorships and other similar gifts.  As we all know, the ask is often the hardest part. In standard donation programs you must ask patrons to donate over and over again, each year, or two or three times a year. This can be come laborious, tedious and you run the risk of alienating your donors from all the requests for donation.

recurring donation

Recurring donations have become a very nice alternative to the regular task of asking for one donation after another. By converting donors to an automatically recurring donation program, the donor gets to spread their gift out over the year with small transactions every month or quarter, or even automating their yearly gift.  The Arts People system, as one example, offers these three recurrence frequency options for your donors.  While it can be a significant thing to ask a donor to contribute $120 all at once, asking for $10 per month can be both more comfortable for the person asking, and also for donors to accept.

Recurring donations can be open ended, where they continue to recur time after time until the patron communicates with you to stop.  Or they can specify an ending date upon which they want the recurrence to stop.  In Arts People these choices are simple to setup by the donor themselves online, or in your office as you begin their recurring donation, or at any time to schedule or immediately stop the recurrence.

Recurring donations also play well into Membership structure in the Arts People system.  When a donor begins their recurring gift, if that gift applies toward membership the system will automatically calculate how much they will donate by the expire date and then set their membership to the appropriate level.  So if your membership is based annually, with a yearly expire date for all members, their $10 monthly recurrence might run for 7 months.  This 7 month calculation will the apply $70 toward membership levels. They might earn a silver level.  However if your membership is rolling where each member has their own expire date based on the anniversary of their membership start, they will have $120 apply toward levels, giving them a gold level membership.

Many organizations with recurring contribution option will promote it with enhanced benefits both to the donor and to the charity, referring to it as a “sustaining membership” or some specific label to imply to the donors that this helps their organization more than one time donations. With it perhaps the donor receives some extra perks, such as a pair of free tickets along with the standard member ticket discount.  Working to drive donors toward this option can be very beneficial as donors contribute more over time with their recurring gift, and you need less asks to the donors through their giving history, only needing to thank them periodically and sending an end of year summary for their tax purposes. The Arts People system automatically notifies the donor of each recurrence being processed and the system makes it easy for you to acknowledge and thank the donors and provide them a tax receipt.

If you want to learn more about how the Arts People system can help increase your fundraising success through recurring contributions and other means, contact us for a consultation and free demonstration.


Patrick Spike - Marketing Director of Arts PeoplePatrick Spike is the Marketing Director, system expert, and one of the original architects of the Arts People software system, with over 30 years in performing arts creation and administration. His work with clients has helped them to increase their revenue while streamlining their box office and back office operations.

Arts People, software for the performing arts, serves theatres, music and dance groups, choirs and opera, high school, college and university programs, performing arts center facilities and more.  

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