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Create Recurring Donations

Learning Objectives

After completing this unit, you’ll be able to:

  • Create open-ended recurring donations.
  • Create fixed-length recurring donations.
  • Explain the difference between a Payment and a Recurring Donation.


In this module, No More Homelessness is using Legacy Recurring Donations. has reimagined this package and introduced Enhanced Recurring Donations in April 2020. Learn about migrating to the new Enhanced Recurring Donations in NPSP Recurring Donations Overview in the Power of Us Hub.

Recurring Donations

Slightly different from a pledge, a recurring donation is a series of gifts given repeatedly on an open-ended schedule with no specific commitment from the donor. The donor can decide to pay indefinitely or end the arrangement at any time.

In NPSP, the recurring donations object lets you define installments for multiple donations (opportunities) regularly coming in over a period of time. We often use recurring donations to track donations from an individual who gives the same amount repeatedly over time. 

NPSP supports two kinds of recurring donations: open-ended recurring donations and fixed-length recurring donations.

Open-ended recurring donations are single donation amounts given over and over again, with no ending date defined. For example, if Candace Evans gives our fictional nonprofit No More Homelessness (NMH) $100 every month, and will continue to do so far into the future, the donation will continue in NPSP until you close the recurring donation. This is very different from a standard payment, which demarcates a specific number of payments for a single donation.

Fixed-length recurring donations are single donation amounts given over and over again, but for a defined period of time. For example, if Candace Evans has pledged to give $50 a month for a year, the donation continues for a year and ends at that point. This type of donation is similar to a standard Salesforce opportunity with multiple payments attached to it. Making the choice to use payments over fixed-length recurring donations or vice versa can be complex. If you’d like to know more, see the Resources section at the end of this unit.

Create an Open-Ended Recurring Donation

As part of a cross-functional initiative, the NMH team recently started a campaign asking donors to sponsor services for one homeless person per month. Candace Evans decides to become a sponsor with a monthly donation of $100. Our development associate Sofia now needs to enter those donations in NPSP. Let’s follow along as she creates an open-ended recurring donation:

1. Navigate to the Recurring Donations tab. If you don't see it in your main navigation, go to the App Launcher ( ) and find and select Recurring Donations.

 Recurring Donations, highlighting New

2. Click New.

3. Enter a name in the Recurring Donation Name field. (Your organization should decide on a standard naming convention that will meet your needs.) Sofia names this Recurring Donation Give a Life - Evans and Wong Household.

4. Enter either the Contact name or the Organization name—but not both. Sofia decides to enter the donor, Candace Evans, in the Contact field.

5. Enter the recurring donation details:

  • Amount: The amount of each donation. Sofia enters $100.
  • Open Ended Status: Select Open.
  • Date Established: Date the recurring donation was opened.
  • Next Donation Date: The date on which the next donation will occur. This date also determines the date of all future donations. For example, if you enter December 1, 2018 for the Next Donation Date, and the donation is a monthly installment, then Salesforce will create donations for December 1, 2018, January 1, 2019, and so on.
  • Last Donation Date: Don't enter anything here! NPSP calculates this value automatically based on the last time a donation was marked as Posted (NPSP records the date of your most recent donation).
  • Installment Period: How often you’ll receive the donations.
  • Installments: Don't enter anything here, either! This option is for fixed-length recurring donations only. For open-ended recurring donations, NPSP automatically calculates the installment number based on the Opportunity Forecast Months setting in the Recurring Donations Settings.
  • Schedule Type: Don't enter anything, yet again. (You hardly have to do a thing here!) For open-ended donations, the value is always “Multiply By.”
  • Campaign: Sofia wants to attach the recurring donation to the “Give a Life” campaign to track the campaign's effectiveness, so she uses the lookup field to select the campaign here. If NMH wants the campaign to be placed on all of the donation records in a Recurring Donation, their admin can use the Add Campaign to All Opportunities checkbox in the Recurring Donations Settings.
  • Paid Amount: Once again, don't enter anything here. NPSP calculates this value automatically as the donations are made and marked Posted.
  • Total Paid Installments: Last place, don't enter! NPSP calculates this value automatically as donations are made and marked Posted.

New Recurring Donations form, including Name, Amount, Installment Period, and other fields

6. Click Save.

On the Related tab of the Recurring Donation record, Sofia can see that NPSP has created the appropriate number of donations and marked each donation with a status of Pledged.

Contact Record detail of a New Recurring Donation, highlighting the Stage

As Sofia changes donation stages from Pledged to Posted, the NPSP recalculates some of the fields described above:

The New Recurring Donation on the Contact Record, highlighting the updated Paid Amount and Total Paid Installments

Create a Fixed-Length Recurring Donation

Recurring donations are great, but they’re not always open-ended (unfortunately). Sometimes, they come with an end date in sight. This time, Candace Evans wants to also make a fixed-length recurring donation to the NMH Transitional Housing capital campaign. Yes, she is THAT engaged.

Let's follow along with Sofia again as she creates the fixed-length recurring donation:

1. Click the Recurring Donations tab. Click New.

The Navigation Bar selection menu, highlighting Recurring Donations

2. In the Recurring Donation Name field, enter a name. Sofia names this the “NMH Transitional Housing Capital Campaign - Evans and Wong Household.”

3. Enter either the contact name or the organization name, but not both. You can use the lookup field to locate existing contacts and organizations in Salesforce. Sofia decides to enter Candace Evans in the Contact field.

4. Enter the details of the recurring donation:

  • Amount: The amount for each separate donation or the total pledge amount, if you want NPSP to divide installments up for you accordingly. Sofia's donation is for the total pledge amount of $10,000.
    • Open Ended Status: Select None.
    • Date Established: The date you opened the recurring donation.
    • Next Donation Date: Sofia leaves this blank because she's creating 12 donations to be made quarterly. NPSP will calculate the next date for her.
    • Last Donation Date: Don't enter anything here! NPSP calculates this value automatically based on the date of the donation related to the pledge was marked Posted.
    • Installment Period: The frequency of donation payments made to the pledge. Sofia enters quarterly.
    • Installments: The total number of expected installments. This is a fixed-length recurring donation with 12 installments.
    • Schedule Type: Select either Multiply or Divide. Sofia enters Divide because this is a fixed commitment of $10,000.
    • Campaign: The name of the campaign. Sofia enters NMH Transitional Housing Capital Campaign. If you want the campaign to be placed on all of the donation records in a recurring donation, use the Add Campaign to All Opportunities checkbox in the Recurring Donations Settings.
    • Paid Amount: Don't enter anything here! NPSP calculates this value automatically as donations are made and marked Posted.
    • Total Paid Installments: Don't enter anything here, yet again! NPSP calculates this value automatically as donations are made and marked Posted.

The New Recurring Donations form, including and Name, Amount, Installment Period, and other fields

5. Click Save. On the Details tab of the recurring donation record, you can see the information for the new fixed-length recurring donation:

Recurring Donation Details, including Donor Name, Installment Amount, Next Donation Date, and other fields

When creating a recurring donation, just remember that choosing the appropriate value for the Status field is the key to creating open-ended or fixed-length recurring donations.

None (or blank)
This value is used for fixed-length recurring donations. It creates the correct number of installments based on Installment Period and Schedule Type. There are no new installments added unless the number of Installments or Schedule Type are updated.
This value is used to create open-ended recurring donations. It creates opportunities based on the Installment Period, but instead of creating installments it bases the number of opportunities on the Forecast Month setting in NPSP Settings.
This value stops an open-ended recurring donation from creating additional opportunities. Existing open opportunities are handled based on the behavior specified in NPSP Settings.

Pledges vs Recurring Donations

We've walked through how to enter pledges and recurring donations in NPSP, but you should align with others in your organization on how you define pledges and recurring donations. A donor who gives $50 a month could be managed either way, but how you solicit, track, recognize, and account for either a pledge or a recurring donation can be very different.

Typically, pledges are considered binding commitments while recurring donations are not, but check with your development and accounting departments to clarify how it’s handled at your organization; there are organizational implications of recognizing a gift as a pledge (using payments) versus a recurring donation. The good news is that NPSP is equipped to handle whichever you choose.

Fundraisers often partner with their finance and accounting teams in their commitment to ethical practices including transparency, accountability to donors, and respecting donor intent. In the next unit, we'll dig into how NPSP helps support some of those practices, including managing restricted gifts.