Taking advantage of every donation opportunity is an important priority for nonprofit organizations. If you’re the head of development or in charge of fundraising for a nonprofit organization who is looking to plan a successful and financially-sound year of donation growth, these five tips might help:

1. Accept Credit Card, Debit Card & eCheck Donations

The days of collecting donations with only paper check have long since passed. Online banking and online payment processing are widely accepted as “the norm.” With this in mind, nonprofits are expanding their payment acceptance portfolio to grow their fundraising potential. Credit/debit cards and eCheck acceptance are the two most popular payment methods for online giving.

With the help of online donation software, you can simply use a laptop (or smartphone) at your next event and collect electronic donations on the spot. Beyond in-person donations, you can also set up online donation forms that give your website visitors the power to donate directly from the comfort of their home.

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2. Set Up Auto-Recurring Donations

One-time donations are still the most common type of giving, but sustained giving or automatic-recurring donation programs continue to increase in popularity. Creating a business and marketing plan for recurring monthly donations can help nonprofit organizations better forecast and plan their organizational spending. Setting up monthly (or weekly/yearly) donations is as simple as inputting your donor’s credit card or checking account information into your online donation software. Once in the system, their billing information is secure, and you can set up both the amount and frequency of the donation. Perhaps they want to donate $10 every month or $50 per quarter; you’ll have the flexibility to boost donation volume that accommodates your organization and your donor.

3. Maintain a Donor Database to Remember Milestones

What’s the monthly contribution of the ‘Smith’ family? How much did they give in total last year? What day is the birthday of Mrs. Smith, the 80-year-old wealthy benefactor? If you can’t answer these questions, you’re missing out on opportunities that come for proactively managing your donor information.

Using online donation software gives you the ability to set up easy-to-use databases that help you keep all your donor information in one place. It may seem trivial, but something as simple as sending a birthday card to your donors might be just the thing that helps them decide to increase their monthly contribution or attend an upcoming event. It’s these small details that can matter the most. You can also use your donor database to help you customize your fundraising mailings. If Mrs. Smith gave $5000 last year, having an updated database will ensure you send her the appropriate $5000, $7500 or $10,000 contribution mailing, instead of the $25, $50 or $100 mailing.

4. Make the “Giving Process” as Simple as Possible

There’s nothing more frustrating for donors than having to navigate a complicated giving process. Look at it this way, the more steps you include in the giving process, the better chance you have of losing potential donors to confusion and frustration. By using online donation software, you can link the “Donate” buttons on your website to secure online donation forms. Your potential donor can create an account for easy future donations, or just do a one-time donation. You can also set up a “Recurring Donation” button or an online store that lets them select from a variety of automatic recurring donations or one-time giving options.

5. Communicate Your Organization’s Value Proposition

Last but not least, make sure your donors know exactly how their money is going to be used. As you can likely relate, when a person gives they want to know that their money is making a real difference.

Some organizations publish a pie chart showing how a donation is broken down into various business segments (i.e. 5% to administration costs, 25% to supplies, etc). Another method of showing fund utilization is by setting up “fund designation” fields on your online donation forms. This gives your donors the power to choose for which of your projects they want their money used. Knowing that their donation is being spent to their liking builds trust with your organization and encourages future donations.

If you’re thinking of starting or optimizing an existing sustained giving program, consider these three things first.

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Editor’s note: A version of this post was originally published in May 2013, it has been updated for accurateness and completeness.