Monthly donors are gold, but they’re hard to come by! Nonprofits have tried tactic after tactic to recruit new monthly donors online – from monthly checkboxes on donation pages to rolling sustainer invite series to themed monthly giving options – with varying degrees of success. But even the most successful monthly giving programs are always looking for new ways to turn one-time donors into sustainers.

Here’s one you might not have tried: the “upsell lightbox.”

Rather than forcing nonprofits to choose between asking donors for a monthly gift and asking them for a one-time gift, the “upsell lightbox” provides the best of both worlds.


You’re ready to make a donation to your favorite non-profit. You fill out the donation form, plug in your credit card info, check off the radio button to pick your gift size, and hit “Submit.”

Then, instead of processing the transaction, a box pops up in your web browser and asks if you’d like to make a monthly gift instead.


The monthly gift amount is picked through an algorithm – so if you’ve just made a $50 one-time gift, you’ll be asked to make a $15 monthly gift; a $300 dollar donor is asked to give $75 each month, etc.

Using a sliding scale ensures that your donors are bumped up, not down, if they make a monthly gift.


M+R tested an upsell lightbox on two of our clients’ main website donation pages – i.e. the pages linked from the “Donate” button on the organization’s homepage – over the course of 9 months.

In our testing, between 2.5% and 9% percent of the one-time donors on the pages ended up making a monthly gift – meaning that if you’re running a campaign where you get 1,000 one-time donations coming in, you could expect to sign up between 25 and 90 new monthly donors. It’s a wide range, but even on the low end, that’s pretty good!

All groups have different average gifts – but if you take our $50 example, that would mean you’re giving up about $1,250 ($50 x 25 donors) in order to make about $375 ($15 x 25 donors) every month.

Your investment will break even in four months. In a year, by converting those one-time donors to monthly donors, you’ve brought in $4,500!

Nothing to sneeze at. But if you’re not seeing that kind of volume on your donation pages, you might want to think twice – because it might not be worth the time you spend setting it up.


Do you have a donation form (like the one on you promote on your homepage) that you expect to receive 1,000 or more donations in the next year? If so, the math should work out for you.

Do you have a strong monthly giving program already? Having a program that provides tangible benefits to monthly donors – like premiums, event invites, discounts, or special insider communications – can help encourage one-time donors to give monthly, but it isn’t required.


Working with Oxfam America and the League of Conservation Voters, we’ve run three tests on upsell lightboxes to answer some important questions:

  • Could the upsell lightbox turn off donors? Before diving in head first, we tested the waters to see if people were abandoning their gifts altogether when asked to become a Monthly Donor. The data says… no! People who were shown the lightbox, even if they chose not to make a monthly gift, still went through with their one-time donation.
  • How does the upsell lightbox tactic stack up against a checkbox? Many groups include a checkbox on their donation forms, allowing donors the option to make their gift monthly.

    We tested that proven tactic on its own against a donation page with both a monthly donor checkbox and an upsell lightbox. We found that adding an upsell lightbox recruited measurably more monthly donors, even on a page with a checkbox, than just a checkbox on its own.

  • Can a premium sweeten the deal? We tested offering a simple premium – a set of mission-related postcards that had improved monthly gift conversion in a previous campaign – to entice more people into giving monthly. We found that the premium did not boost monthly donor conversion on this lightbox. As with all premium testing, every organization is different, and every premium is different – so you still may want to try this for yourself!


If you have questions about setting up your own upsell lightbox, or if you would like to discuss your organization’s online fundraising strategy, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.

Jonathan Benton
Senior Consultant, M+R Strategic Services

Marc Ruben
Vice President, M+R Strategic Services

Steve Peretz
Senior Analyst, M+R Strategic Services

M+R is dedicated to helping our clients advance their missions in order to bring about positive change. We do this by helping organizations and campaigns we believe in develop smart and effective strategies, hone their messages, mobilize their members, build grassroots support, raise money, and communicate effectively with the media, the public and decision-makers, both online and offline.