Over the past few months, I've been talking a lot with my local nonprofit community, and I’ve noticed some of them are thriving in this new era of online marketing, while others are having a hard time adjusting to this new technology need. For those of you who are struggling, who are maybe at the very beginning of accepting online donations, or for those of you who are thinking about shifting and changing the way you accept donations online, this post is for you. We’ll examine different ways you can collect donations online, whether through your website or through another platform. Hopefully one of the options we cover will seem extremely doable, and you can put it into action and start collecting donations online right away!

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Monica Maye Pitts
Monica Maye Pitts Chief Creative Officer

Ways to Collect Donations Online – Donation Tools and When to Use What

Over the past few months, I've been talking a lot with my local nonprofit community, and I’ve noticed some of them are thriving in this new era of online marketing, or forced online marketing, I should say. Others, though, are having a hard time adjusting to this new technology need. 

For those of you who are struggling, who are maybe at the very beginning of accepting online donations, or for those of you who are thinking about shifting and changing the way you accept donations online, this post is for you. 

We’ll examine different ways you can collect donations online, whether through your website or through another platform. Hopefully one of the options we cover will seem extremely doable, and you can put it into action and start collecting donations online right away!


Ways to Collect Donations Online

  1. Email Form
  2. CRM Iframe
  3. PayPal Button
  4. WP Give Plugin
  5. Social Networks 
  6. CRM/All-in-one Donation Marketing Solution
  7. Stripe Donation Form


Pros & Cons: On Your Website vs. Not on Your Website

Collecting Donations on Your Website  

There are pros and cons to collecting through your website, and there are also some pros and cons to collecting donations elsewhere.

Pros

  1. When you collect donations on your website, you're driving people back to your marketing home, which gives you more opportunities and flexibility to share information about your organization. 
  2. You own your website space, so you have the ability to adjust it the way you need to on the fly without having to answer to anyone else or worry about anything changing without you knowing.
  3. Collecting donations through your website offers the freedom to implement something more robust than what third-party platforms might provide. This can present a challenge, though, that I’ll address when we get to the cons. Which is… now….

Cons 

  1. If you’re trying to do something more robust through your website, the implementation process is not always super streamlined. You may have to do a little research and troubleshooting to get things set up the way you want them. 
  2. Unless you have thousands of visitors coming to your website each month (or day, if you’re killin’ it), you don't have a huge community built up waiting to give donations. 

Collecting Donations Outside of Your Website  

Pros

  1. Asking for and collecting donations in an external location, say on social media or on a website that specifically caters to generating donations for nonprofits, gives you an opportunity to reach a bigger audience because they’re already there. 
  2. Those people are already familiar with the interface, which eliminates that barrier of entry
  3. If there are lots of causes asking for donations on that platform, you could get new donors you've never met before because your cause aligns with their values. 

Cons 

  1. Basically the opposite of everything we listed in the Pros list for using your website… 😉

Option #1. Email Form 

The first and most logical way you would collect a donation on your website is through an email form. So there's lots of different email form builders out there. I like to use Formidable Pro, and also Gravity Forms does a really great job. Those are both plugins you can use in your WordPress site and you connect to those forms with a payment gateway, like PayPal, Stripe, or Authorize.Net. You collect your donations through the form.

Adaptive Functionality 

This form is pretty cool because it allows you to gather as much or as little information as you want. I have some nonprofit clients that just have it super simple like name, donation amount, and billing information. However, I have others who want to gather more information or provide more functionality. So they might want to allow people to give donations in honor of someone else or in memory of someone or they also might want to allow their donors to determine where those funds might be used. In both cases, the email form works! 

Email Form Drawbacks 

Now, the drawback to using a form is if you're using a CRM, you're going to make sure the form can talk back and forth with the CRM and push information into it automatically. Or else you'll need to go out and export the information from your form and push it into your CRM so you can manage your donors in your normal donor database. 

This takes me into my next way you could collect donations on your website, which is using a CRM iframe.


Option #2. CRM Iframe

So a lot of donor management systems or client relationship management systems allow you to just use an iframe, which kind of is a window into your CRM to collect donations on your website. Basically you can make a window to any other website from your website. It just displays the other website from the box you create with the iframe. This can be really cool because it can be super easy to implement.

How to set up a CRM Iframe?

It doesn't matter what type of website you have, you can just plunk that code in and make it work. So you would set up the donation form in your CRM or in your donor database management system and then you would take the little slice of code they give you and you would paste it into your website and gather donations. So this can be neat because it's usually super easy to integrate and it will talk immediately with the software you're using to manage donor information. So there isn't that back and forth you might get from using a form on your website.

Drawback - Limited Flexibility 

Now, the drawback is it might not be as flexible, it could be super flexible, but it might not be. It all depends on what software you're using. So this can be a great solution for people, especially if they're already using a CRM and paying for it. 


Option #3. PayPal Button

The third way you could simply collect donations is by putting a PayPal button on your website.

All you have to do is go to PayPal and follow their instructions through the system to create a button and then paste the little piece of code on your website. Now what happens from there is when people click on the button, it takes them over to PayPal to make their payment. 

PayPal holds your donor information on secure servers.

The PayPal button can be confusing. 

So while this is a super-simple method, I don't use it very often because people get confused by the PayPal pop up window. A lot of people think they have to have a PayPal account to pay through PayPal. This is false—you can just use your credit card, but you have to click another option down below to do it. 

Paypal Lowers Security Risks

Taking a donor to Paypal to pay can be really positive because it means all of the donor information is pushing out into PayPal, and is housed on their secure servers. So there are no security risks with taking your donations. 

You don't have to worry about a breach of information caused by you directly. Remember when Target had their information compromised, and people's financial stuff was all over the place? You don't have to worry about that when you use another solution to process your payments. Really any of these solutions, you shouldn't have to worry about that. This makes gathering the donations safe for donors. 

The Paypal button may be difficult for an older audience. 

Some people are really used to seeing PayPal. Like me for example, I love PayPal, I use it all the time. I pay for as many things as I can with PayPal so I don't have to put my financial information out on all these different websites. I'm clearly a tech freak so it’s a great option for me, but it can be off-putting to some of your donors, especially older ones. 

When people pay using the PayPal button, they will be taken to the PayPal website. This can make visitors uneasy because they don’t understand why they’re on this new random website. If the visitor isn’t at all familiar with PayPal this creates a huge red flag for them. This can even cause them to abandon their donation 

The PayPal button can be awesome. While it's a great quick way to implement a donation option, it's definitely not the end all be all for everyone. 


Option #4. Wordpress Give Plugin 

So the last example I'm going to give you of ways you can collect donations on your website would be using a plugin that's specifically geared towards collecting donations. So for some of our clients, we use a plugin called Give WP, which is pretty cool because you can have multiple causes you're collecting donations for all at one time.

For example, one of our clients that use this plugin is the Mozambique Initiative. These folks connect Methodist congregations with communities in Mozambique, and they create a partnership between the two and then fundraise to be able to meet the needs of the community in Mozambique and they have multiple fundraisers going at once. So for example, they have a fundraiser for a mobile health clinic which has raised $1,019 in response to COVID-19. Then they have another fundraiser called Cabo Delgado, which has raised $73,000 of its goal of $110,000. All of these are run through Give WP plugin.

Easy and Affordable 

Now the plugin isn't free, but it's pretty affordable. It starts out at $199 a year and it gives you the ability to make all your donation forms and all the different pages for your fundraisers. It's really pretty easy to use and they just upgraded the interface to have lots of flexibility and add ons. 

Give WP Additional Features 

We really like it. We've used it for multiple clients now. It also allows you some additional features to manage your donor database through your website. So it's pretty fully featured and a great example of a way you can collect donations online and give yourself some extra functionality like managing donors, or conducting multiple different fundraisers all through the same interface. It might be a little bit robust for those of you guys who are just trying to collect simple one time donations, but it's really cool. So you might check it out, if it sounds like it matches up with your fundraising needs. 


Ways to Collect Donations on Your Website RECAP 💪

So to recap, when we collect these on our website, we are keeping people in our own marketing home where we often have more flexibility. And we own that space, so we have more control over it! The different ways that you can collect donations on your website is you can use an email form, you could put in an iframe that is provided by your donor management or client relationship management software. You could just have a simple PayPal button, or you can find a more robust plugin like Give WP. 


Collecting Donations Off Your Website 

Now let's talk about collecting donations off of your website. Let's say that you don't have a website, you've just got a Facebook page, or you're just getting started and don't have the time or the funds to create a website. So you need to collect donations and you need to do it now, but you don't want to put them on your website. Another reason you might use a donation collection method that's not on your website is if you're trying to push out and build a greater audience. These solutions can allow you to build more relationships with new people you haven't met before. 


Option #5. Gathering Donations Through Social Networks 

Now, the first one is using a social network. So you can generate donations, for example, through Facebook, they have a process you go through to validate your nonprofit status. Then you can collect money directly through Facebook. There are so many benefits to collecting donations on Facebook and there are a few drawbacks too.

Benefits of Collection Donations on Facebook 

Katie ran a peer to peer campaign on Facebook to collect donations for Society Humane Friends of Georgia Inc.

 Some of the benefits are that people are used to being on Facebook. It's an interface they're comfortable communicating back and forth and even buying things, thank you Facebook Marketplace!  So the idea of giving a donation through Facebook is wonderful because it's meeting them where they are and it's really easy to do. Facebook has features like allowing you (once you have it enabled) to have people run peer to peer campaigns on behalf of your organization. That's awesome because people can say, “I don't want to get gifts for my birthday this year. I want people to donate to this nonprofit!” and they set it up on their own, and you start getting donations from it.

One of our newer clients is running a COVID-19 Regional Relief Fund, and they had a person do a birthday fundraiser on their behalf that raised $775 for them. So if that's not a success story with why you could use peer to peer fundraising on Facebook, I don't know what is. I was just blown away by people's generosity. The momentum behind it is even cooler because your organization is getting out there in front of people you wouldn't have met before who likely have similar values to yours and these are the people you really want to meet. 

Facebook Donation Drawbacks 

But there's also a drawback to it. For the longest time, Facebook did not allow you to gather donor information. So what that means is people could donate to you, but you didn't know who they were, you just got the money. While money is good, donor information is gold, right? We need it so we can continue to make relationships with these individuals. Now they've transitioned further into allowing you to get some information from people when they make a donation. 

So when people make a donation, they can choose not to share their information with you, which would mean you don't get it. But they can also choose to share their information with you. It's still not a 100% foolproof way to make sure you gather donor information, but it is way better than it was and there are lots of benefits to generating and gathering donations on Facebook. 

Make sure your donor management system collaborates with Facebook.

Another drawback with Facebook is it doesn't integrate with your donor management system. Now, I've never actually been tasked with having to make them talk to one another (thank God because that would be really interesting). But there are lots of ways to integrate different systems. If you do plan to wholeheartedly fundraise through Facebook, and you use a donor management software, make sure they talk back and forth or it's gonna be a lot of manual entry for you.

Causes - The World’s Largest Campaigning Platform  

Another cool social solution is Causes which is a website that allows you to build your own page inside of it and generate donations for your cause. Now for the general public, I can go out and type in dogs, and then it shows me all kinds of different people who are collecting donations for dog-related causes, which is really cool. And it's a way to piggyback on other people's fundraising efforts and get a new audience that you might not have met before. 

Community Fundraising Websites - CoMoGives 

Another way that's kind of social are these community fundraising websites. So what I mean is like the big Giving Tuesday websites or Giving Day websites where a whole community comes together and multiple nonprofits are trying to generate donations at the same time. We have one of those in our community called CoMoGives, and we've been working on the technical back end and marketing since its inception (for years now). Working on ComoGives has been really neat because it gives you some social momentum that Facebook also gives you. 

We've found people donate to an average of two nonprofits per transaction, and some people donate to like $40-$50. It's astounding and heartwarming to see it all come through as we run this campaign. All of the organizations who are sending their personal donors to the CoMoGives website, they're not just helping themselves, they're helping other nonprofits in the community become introduced to these generously minded individuals. They're potentially encouraging a donation for another organization. A lot of energy comes together in these types of websites, and it creates social movement. 

Your local area needs a giving holiday!

So that is the first way you could get donations off of your website would be social, you could use Facebook, you could use Causes and you could also jump into a community website like CoMoGives. There are all kinds of those websites running, especially for Giving Tuesday. There's giving days throughout the nation and if you don't have a Giving Day in your area, consider contacting your local Community Foundation and see if they are interested in planning one because that is where I find a lot of them start.


Option #6. CRM/All-in-one Donation Marketing Solution

Okay, so a second way you could collect donations off of your website would be using your CRM or an all-in-one donation marketing solution. So one example of this is Classy. Classy does it all. They allow you to manage your donor database. They also have a little page you set up in there. You can promote stuff through it, do peer to peer, crowdfunding, and much more. You can even do your events there— It's fully featured!

 I haven't personally worked with it, but I was really impressed with all the different options it had. One of these might be a great solution for you if you don't have funding to implement one of these solutions in your physical website. If you use an external solution, like Classy or one of its competitors, then you would get all this functionality. And yes, you would pay for it, but they've already created it for you. And you don't have to pay a programmer to implement it for you on your own website. So I feel like there's a lot of benefit and a ton of functionality that can be harnessed by using these third party solutions.

Some third party solutions may be better than building your own.  

Now, I am a tech person and a web developer, so I LOVE solving these problems for people and I love building custom solutions and websites, but sometimes it does not make sense to recreate the wheel. We have clients where it makes far more sense for them to find a third party solution that’s catering directly to their needs, then for us to build it for them. Some of these solutions have thought through every avenue to provide people with this super robust, fully functional system to gather donations and let people sign up for events. Some of them even have communities like forum functions, questions and answers sections. 

It doesn't necessarily replace their marketing website for them. What it does is it gives them all of this functionality for less than what I would be able to build it for. So if you're trying to do something very robust, definitely go look at third party solutions and rule them out before you decide to build it on your own. I know it gets daunting having to evaluate them, however, it could save you so much energy in the long run. 


Option #7. Stripe Donation Form

Okay, so the last way you might generate donations off of your website is by using a simple donation form. So we talked about putting a PayPal button on your website, right? Now stripe, which is an alternative to PayPal, also has added functionality of a donation form you can create that is not on your website that allows you to collect donations online. 

Stripe is pretty cool as a payment gateway. We use it for my Rotary group, we like that we don't have to log in and transfer the funds into our bank account, they're automatically transferred every month, which is super convenient. Stripe takes one more thing off the treasurer's plate, which she loves. It allows you to make donation forms, you'll still have to pay the payment processing fees, but you can make the forms and collect those donations and give people a link over to the form. 


RECAP on Ways to Collect Donations not on your Website 💪

Okay, so the ways that we talked about collecting donations, not on your website would be through social using something like Facebook or causes or a community giving campaign. Also through your CRM, or like an all in one donation solution and a third party service or using that simple stripe donation form. 


Start by Working Backwards 

So I've given you so many options and I hope that I didn't overwhelm you with them all. Really, when we're trying to figure out what type of solution is going to fit for what client, we just start at the end, and then work our way backward. Ask yourself, what do you need out of it in the end? What are all the things that you're going to do with it and how can we use the system to help make life simpler and generate donations in a way that's easy for people to give? So really outline all that and it will narrow down the options!  

Stacy and I actually talked about some of those things in our recent podcast about an Online Event Sign Up Application Evaluation Checklist. So basically, we talked about how to evaluate different systems that allow people to sign up for an event. And those are actually really similar to collecting a donation online because you collect people's information, you click their payment and voila. Give it a listen (or read) if you have time! 

EPISODE GOODIE BAG

Links Mentioned

Payment Gateways 


Donation Tools 

Referenced Assets

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