Create Recurring Donations

Learning Objectives 

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

  • Create open-ended recurring donations.
  • Create fixed-length recurring donations.
  • Update recurring donations to reflect changes to donors’ plans.
  • Explain the difference between tracking pledges with payments and recurring donations.

Recurring Donations Overview

If a donor wants to give a gift in installments, or give a series of gifts over time on a schedule, that’s a recurring donation.

In Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP), the Recurring Donations object lets you define regular installments for multiple donations (opportunities) over a period of time. We often use recurring donations to track donations from an individual who gives the same amount repeatedly, such as a monthly donor. 

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

Open-ended recurring donations are a single donation amount given at regular intervals with no set end date. For example, if Candace Evans gives our fictional nonprofit, No More Homelessness (NMH), $100 every month, and continues to do so far into the future, NPSP creates a Donation (Opportunity) record each month until you close the recurring donation.

Fixed-length recurring donations are a single donation amount given at regular intervals for a defined period of time. For example, if the company Cloud Kicks pledges to give $10,000 split into four $2,500 quarterly payments, the recurring donation would end after those four payments. This type of donation is similar to a standard Salesforce opportunity with multiple payments—and making the choice between payments or fixed-length recurring donations can be complex. We’ll discuss this decision at the end of the unit.

Create an Open-Ended Recurring Donation

The NMH team recently started its Give a Life campaign asking donors to sponsor services for one recipient each month. Candace decides to become a sponsor with a monthly donation of $100. 

Our development associate, Sofia, needs to enter the donations in NPSP. Let’s follow along as she creates an open-ended recurring donation.

Note

Note

This unit focuses on Enhanced Recurring Donations, which was enabled by default in new trial configurations of NPSP as of March 2021. If you don’t see the fields in these instructions, ask your admin to check which version of recurring donations you are using and, if needed, follow the upgrade guide. See the links in the Resources section below.

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

    Recurring Donations tab, highlighting New
  2. Click New.
  3. Enter the Donor Type. Choose Contact for an individual related to a household account or Account for an organization account. Sofia selects Contact.
  4. Enter a Contact. Sofia finds and selects Candace Evans in the Contact field.
  5. Enter a Date Established, or the date the recurring donation was opened. Sofia enters today’s date.
  6. Enter the Amount of each donation. Sofia enters $100.
  7. Pick a Recurring Type. Choose Open for ongoing recurring donations or Fixed for recurring donations with a set number of installments. Sofia selects Open.
  8. Select a Recurring Period. Choose Monthly or, for any other schedule (weekly, quarterly, etc.), choose Advanced. Sofia selects Monthly.
  9. Choose a Day of Month for all future installment dates. Sofia selects Last Day Of Month.
  10. Set an Effective Date, which sets when the schedule you're defining takes effect. Sofia keeps the default date of today.
  11. Choose a Payment Method that NPSP will automatically copy to each related Payment record. Sofia selects Check.
  12. Optionally, you can associate this recurring donation to a campaign. Sofia finds and selects Give a Life, which already exists in the NMH org.

    New Recurring Donation form, including Recurring Type, Amount, and Recurring Period fields
  13. Click Save.

On the Recurring Donation record, Sofia can review the active schedule, effective from today’s date, including the details of the schedule and the next 12 monthly installments.

Current Recurring Donation Active Schedule and 12 Upcoming Installments

She can also verify that NPSP automatically created the first Opportunity record in this recurring donation with a Pledged status.

Opportunities related list with the first opportunity’s stage listed as Pledged

Sofia already has Candace’s first check, so she updates the opportunity’s stage from Pledged to Closed Won. When she does this, NPSP automatically creates the next scheduled opportunity according to the active schedule, with a close date on the last day of the next month.

Opportunities related list with the first opportunity stage listed as Closed Won, and a second opportunity automatically created

Sofia notices that the current and next year values have automatically been calculated.  However, the total paid amount and the number of paid installments for this recurring donation have not. Never fear! These statistics are calculated in a nightly batch. Click the Recalculate Rollups button if you want to update them sooner. 

The Details tab of a new recurring donation on the Contact record, focusing on the Statistics section which includes the updated Paid Amount, the Total Paid Installments, and the Current and Next Year value

Create a Fixed-Length Recurring Donation

What about situations where a recurring donation isn’t open-ended? For example, Candace’s employer, Cloud Kicks, is inspired by NMH’s work and wants to make a $10,000 donation to the NMH Transitional Housing Campaign in four quarterly installments. That’s a perfect fit for NPSP’s fixed-length Recurring Donation object.

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

  1. Click the Recurring Donations tab or find and select it through the App Launcher (The App Launcher icon).
  2. Click New.
  3. Enter the Donor Type. This time, Sofia selects Account.
  4. Associate an Account. Sofia finds and selects Cloud Kicks.
  5. Optionally, you can give soft credit to an individual contact by finding and selecting a record in the Contact field. Sofia leaves this blank for now.
  6. Enter a Date Established to track when the recurring donation was opened. Sofia enters today’s date.
  7. Enter the Amount of each installment. Since Cloud Kicks wants to donate $10,000 in four quarterly installments, Sofia enters $2,500.
  8. Choose a Recurring Type. Remember that we use Fixed for a set number of installments. Sofia selects Fixed. This gives you some additional fields to enter.
  9. Enter the Number of Planned Installments. Sofia enters 4.
  10. Enter a Recurring Period. Because this is quarterly, Sofia selects Advanced.
  11. Enter and select Every and Installment Period values. For a quarterly donation, Sofia enters 3 in the Every field and selects Months in the Installment Period field.
  12. Choose a Day of the Month for all future installment dates. Sofia selects 1 for the first day of the month.
  13. Select an Effective Date, which sets when the schedule you're defining takes effect. Cloud Kicks wants to pay starting March 1, so Sofia chooses that date.
  14. Choose a Payment Method that NPSP automatically copies to each related Payment record. Cloud Kicks did not indicate a payment method, so Sofia leaves this blank. She can update this field later, or edit each Payment record individually when she receives the money.
  15. Optionally, associate a campaign. Sofia finds and selects NMH Transitional Housing Campaign, which exists in NMH’s org.

    The New Recurring Donation form, including Name, Amount, and Installment Period fields
  16. Click Save.

The Details tab of the Recurring Donation record now lists the active schedule and upcoming installments for Cloud Kicks's four quarterly installments.

Current Recurring Donation Active Schedule and four Upcoming Installments

Update a Recurring Donation

Occasionally, donors need to update a recurring donation for one reason or another—maybe they want to increase (yes!) or reduce (oh, no!) their monthly donation. Donor Candace just let NMH know that she wants to increase her monthly gift amount from $100 to $150 starting in July. Let’s follow along with Sofia as she updates Candace’s record. 

  1. Navigate to the donor’s Recurring Donation record, and then click Edit under the menu (The menu arrow) in the upper right corner.
  2. Update the Amount. Sofia changes it to $150.
  3. Update the Effective Date just before the first gift you want to affect and after the last gift at the original value. Sofia changes the date to July 1.
  4. Click Save.

Now the new amounts are reflected in the Future Schedule information with the effective date in early July, and the new amount of $150 in upcoming installments. 

The Future Schedule and Upcoming Installments after the edit

Pause or Close a Recurring Donation

All good things must come to an end (or at least be put on hold temporarily). Fortunately, NPSP is built to flex with real-life changes. 

For example, if Candace lets Sofia know that she needs to pause her recurring donation for a few months due to financial difficulties, Sofia can update the Donation record to reflect Candace’s wishes. Sofia navigates to the Recurring Donation record and clicks Pause

Candace’s Recurring Donation record and the Pause button highlighted

Sofia then selects which installments should be paused and notes the reason. She can see at the bottom when the recurring donation schedule will resume, and this will be reflected on the Upcoming Installments component as well. 

The Pause interface with three months selected and Financial Difficulty listed as the Paused Reason

What happens if a donor requests to end a recurring donation? When a donor lets Sofia know that they want to close a recurring donation, she clicks Close Recurring Donation and indicates a reason. This marks any future opportunities Closed Lost and adds a notation that there are no Active Schedules or Upcoming Installments.

Active Schedules and Upcoming Installments on a closed recurring donation noting that there are no active schedules or installment Opportunities.

And in cases where the installment Opportunities are complete, NPSP automatically closes fixed recurring donations when the last installment is paid. Of course, you can close them earlier if a donor requests that you do.

Pledges Versus Recurring Donations

So far in this module, we walked through how to enter pledges and recurring donations in NPSP. Make sure you align everyone in your organization on how you distinguish between the two. Technically, a donor who gives $50 a month could be managed either way in Salesforce, with the difference being how you opt to solicit, track, recognize, and account for a donation as either a pledge or a recurring donation.

One key distinction is that typically, pledges are considered binding commitments while recurring donations are not. Check with your development and accounting departments to learn how your organization recognizes these types of gifts. No matter your organization’s preference, NPSP is equipped to handle both.

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.

Resources