Given the current pandemic social distancing, many nonprofit organizations are rushing to get online donations working on their websites. There are a number of options, all with costs and benefits to consider. Here are some suggestions as you are weighing options for your organization.
The first thing to know is that there is a general principle of “you get what you pay for”. Maybe your small nonprofit can’t afford to invest in a more robust donor platform, but maybe you also don’t need all the bells and whistles. Or you don’t have technical help to implement more complex solutions.
The simplest, least complex, and least costly option is to use PayPal. It doesn’t have any annual fees, but like all online credit card payment gateways, will charge you “transaction fees”. The default rate is 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. That’s the only cost. (If you are a 501(c)3, you can apply to be approved for a nonprofit rate of 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction.). Create your account, connect it to a bank account, generate a “button code”, and put that code on your site (if you use WordPress, you can put it in an HTML widget or Custom HTML block.)
When a donor clicks on the button, they will be redirected over to PayPal to complete the transaction. You don’t have any part of the transaction on your site, and you have limited ability to customize automatic email notifications to either the donor or yourself.
Over the years, we have seen about a 3-5% rate of some sort of payment issue with PayPal, which are generally user-related. Some users are startled by being redirected to PayPal, some can’t figure out how to make the donation without creating a PayPal account (and just don’t want another account to manage), some have negative memories of security issues with PayPal.
Also as users become more sophisticated in their expectations about online payments, being redirected to PayPal begins to seem a little less professional. That might be ok for your tiny, shoe-string organization, but it may impact the size and frequency of donations from those outside your most ardent supporters.
PayPal + GiveWP
If you have a WordPress website, you can address some of the perception issues by using the free plugin GiveWP on your site. You can create donation forms to gather more info from donors, and control some of the emails (like setting up a “thank you”). GiveWP will also give you nice reporting on giving in your WordPress dashboard. Your donors can view their donation history and generate tax-deductible receipts.
You still ultimately have the redirection to PayPal, but you can help educate and set expectations for your donors, as well as give them a little better donation experience.
Stripe + Give WP
Stripe is a payment gateway created for use on websites and in apps. It charges the same transaction fees as PayPal – 2.9% plus $0.30 per transaction. The advantage to using Stripe is that the user never leaves your website. While the transaction through Stripe does happen over on Stripe’s platform, that happens via an “invisible handshake” between the backend of your website and Stripe, and to the user, it seems like they never left your website. This vastly improves the donor experience.
Unlike PayPal however, Stripe requires that your website have an SSL certificate – the thing that gives your website the padlock in the address bar. It used to be that these were fairly costly and technical to install, but anymore many web hosts provide them for free or low-cost. Even if you have to pay for an SSL certificate, it may be worth it in terms of the improved donor experience.
Additionally, using Stripe requires a form of some sort on your website. The free level of the GiveWP plug-in mentioned above is able to utilize the Stripe payment gateway without any redirection, so you can give your donors a smooth professional donation experience all on your website.
Paid Add-ons for GiveWP
Except for the transaction fees, all of the plug-ins mentioned above are free. GiveWP offers some really nice add-ons that can help take your donor experience to the next level. Depending on your organization, it may well be worth the cost of paying their annual license fees.
While it is entirely possible for a non-technical person to set up these advanced features – and the support team at GiveWP is amazing – it may be that you want a developer to put this entire system together for you, especially if time is critical to get things implemented. Here are some of the features that can be added:
- Recurring Donations – Having donors be able to set up regular monthly (or even weekly) donations is a huge benefit to many nonprofits, and something many donors appreciate.
- Fee Recovery – Ask your donors for just a little bit extra help cover the cost of the credit card processing fees.
- PDF Receipts – Downloadable or printable receipts of individual gifts for tax purposes.
- Annual Receipts – Set up an automatic annual receipt of all gifts over the tax year.
- Stripe + Plaid – This configuration allows you to take ACH payments, which directly debit a checking account instead of charging a card.
Larger Organizations & CRMs
Organizations of all sizes need to track their donations, but for larger organizations, dealing with a larger number of donations pushes them toward some system of automating their donations platform and tracking giving. Look at your financial or donor tracking software (sometimes called a “client relationship manager” or CRM app) to see if they offer ways that you can offer online giving that are connected to your tracking system.
Sometimes, these platforms will offer a “branded” page with your logo, and you simply link to it with a button or link from your website. Your logo on the page helps counter some of the anxiety of being redirected off your website.
Because there are so many different CRM software applications, it’s impossible to name them here. And you probably aren’t going to change CRM’s just to get online donations, but when are ARE looking to change, DO look for this as an option.
This will be the most costly way to offer online giving, but when the costs of having volunteers or staff enter transactions into the CRM are factored in, it may make the most sense. Often, the costs will include a monthly fee (on top of whatever you pay for the CRM), plus the transaction fees.
If you have questions about how any of these options work, we would be glad to chat with you and point you toward examples of sites that are using them. Let us know if you have questions about how to implement donation options on your website!