Recurring donations boost your overall giving, retain donors longer, and are the best way to financially help your organization. This article will help you get started using the Give Recurring Donations Add-on. It includes an overview of important plugin functionality and describes how you can enable recurring donations for your Give donation forms.

Downloading and Activating Your Recurring Donations Add-on

In order to get started you’ll want to download, install, and activate your Recurring Donations Add-on. You’ll also want to activate your Add-on license so you have access to our Support and you get automatic update notices.

Learn How to Install & Active Give Add-ons »

Introducing Recurring Donations: How it Works

It’s important to have an understanding of how Recurring Donations works. This section will help you understand the recurring donation subscription lifecycle.

After you have setup & configured the plugin (more on this in a bit), it’s time to create a number of donation forms with recurring giving options. Once you have created the forms and made them live on your websites donors can now start giving on a recurring basis.

When a donor gives a recurring donation, they are required to have an account, unless you have Email Access enabled. If a user account is required, the user is given the “Give Subscriber” user role upon creation. This new user will not have access to any administrative capabilities on the site but will have access to manage their subscription and view their own giving history.

When a donor gives a recurring donation the first transaction is called the “Parent Payment“. When viewing this transaction in Give you will see:

A Give Recurring Parent Payment

When subscription donations are made by the donor the gateway will notify Give and a new donation payment will be created attached to this parent payment. (more on that in the next section)

When viewing the parent payment transaction details you will see a metabox showing all child subscription payments after one or more subscriptions donations are made:

The Subscription Meta on a Recurring Donation

Supported Payment Gateways for Recurring Donations

It’s important to understand how the Recurring Donations add-on interacts with the supported payment gateways. When a donor initiates a recurring donation, Give sends the subscription info to the payment gateway to set up an initial transaction, as well as subsequent payments (renewals). Then, the payment gateway does the “heavy lifting” of charging the card again at the specified interval, and once that’s done, using various methods depending on the gateway, notifies your site of the renewal.

Find out more about how each gateway works:

If your site does not get notified in a reasonable amount of time (usually 24 hours or so) after the renewal date, Give transitions the subscription status to “Expired” because it never heard back from the payment gateway. That doesn’t mean that the renewal didn’t take place, just that your site wasn’t notified about it. Renewal emails from Give won’t be sent until the gateway notifies Give of the renewal.

As of version 1.3.1 of Recurring, there is a method for syncing donations (except for PayPal standard, due to a limitation on PayPal’s side). On the individual subscription that is out of sync, (Donations> Subscriptions > Subscription Details) there is “Sync Subscription” button which will attempt make it current. As long as you have properly set up the method for the gateway to properly alert the site going forward (according to the links above), you should be good to go.

Choosing the Right Payment Gateway

Currently, not all of Give’s payment gateways support recurring donations. Furthermore, some features of recurring are only supported in certain gateways. Depending on your exact needs, choosing the wrong Gateway could mean you will not be able to do the particular type of campaign that you want.

See this guide on the “Supported Payment Gateways” for which features of recurring each gateway does or does not support.

Donor Subscription Control

Providing donors an area to control their subscriptions is important. Recurring Donations does this with the [give_subscriptions] shortcode. It is a best practice to list this page in your menu for your donors to easily be able to access and update their subscription information. Here is an example of a navigation menu setup for donors:

A Donor’s only navigation menu

Read more about managing subscriptions »

When you add the [give_subscriptions] shortcode to a page on your site donors will be able to see their various subscriptions. They have the option to view the invoice, cancel the subscription, or update the address information for that subscription. Card data is never stored on your site, and not currently able to be updated from your site.

The [give_subscriptions] shortcode

Configuring Recurring Donations

There are different ways that you can ask for recurring donations. Generally, you’ll want to consider each of the following:

Length of recurrence

Periods are the day-increment that passes before the next recurring payment happens.

  • Daily
  • Weekly
  • Monthly
  • Yearly

Number of Recurrences

  1. Ongoing: This is the default. These subscriptions recur at the period that you designated continually. They do not end automatically and will not end until cancelled by either the administrator or donor.
  2. Set number: These subscriptions will recur a set number of times determined by the period you set.


For example, with a combination of recurrence length and numbers you could set any of your forms for any of these types of recurring payments:

  • Daily donations for 7 straight days and then stop automatically
  • Monthly donations that never end until cancelled
  • Yearly donations that never end until cancelled
  • Yearly donations that stop automatically after 4 years

Learn more about configuring recurring donation forms with periods, billing times, and which Gateways support each of those in the recurring donation form fields article.

Donor or Admin Determined Recurring

With Recurring Donations, you have the ability to set whether the form allows for the donor to choose whether the donation is recurring or not. Here’s the options:

  • None — this form does not support recurring donations at all
  • Yes, Admin Defined — this form is set to recurring donations and the donor has no influence over that
  • Yes, Donor Defined — this form is set to allow either one-time or recurring donations based on what the donor chooses in the form.

Subscriptions and Multi-Level Forms

When you choose to create a Multi-level form, you can choose whether each level is either one-time or recurring. The most common configuration is “Donor’s Choice“. This allows the donor to choose whether or not they would like to make their donation recurring:

A familiar checkbox allows donors to easily opt-in to subscription giving

You can also elect whether or not you wish to have the donor choose the giving frequency:

Donors can choose whether to make a donation recurring and also select the giving frequency.

A less common method to accept recurring donations is called “Admin Defined”. This approach makes one or many multi-level options recurring:

A Multilevel Recurring Donation Form

Each of these configuration options is found within each donation form. When you toggle the “Recurring Donations” options additional fields will display depending on the selections made:

The Recurring Donations options for a specific donation form.

Recurring Emails

Once you have your forms all configured as you like, you might want to notify your donors each time their card is charged for a recurring subscription donation. The Recurring Donations add-on has this capability. Read about this in the Recurring Emails documentation article.