If your not-for-profit organisation isn’t accepting donations online yet, you are missing out on a huge pool of potential donors. However, there are so many options out there that it can be a bit overwhelming to determine the best fit for your organisation. That’s why we’ve put together this guide.

There are three broad categories of online donation systems to choose from – we’re going to call them “Off-Site”, “Embedded” and “Native”.

Off-Site Donations

Accepting off-site donations involves simply linking to an external website which handles all of the processing for you. This could be a generic payment service like PayPal or Stripe, or a donation-specific one like Raisely, GiveNow, MyCause and countless others.

While in theory this may seem like the easiest choice, that ease comes with a few caveats.

If you use a service like PayPal or Stripe, you have no control over the design of the page. While they are well-known, reputable brands, the visual disconnect between your website and the payment system can be jarring for potential donors, and the lack of donor-specific options and language makes these options look cheap and unprofessional.

Third-party services which are specifically designed for online donations are better in this regard, usually giving you a degree of control over the look of the page so that it will at least include your logo and colour scheme. However, it is still difficult to make these systems look seamless with your site. Donors may also be put off by the fact that they’ve been sent off to a completely different website. They also tend to charge significantly higher fees than the more direct options, reducing the amount you receive from each donation.

Embedded Donations

Embedded donation options such as DonorBox still involve using a third-party system to process payments on your behalf, but offer the option to embed the form within your website. This is better than the off-site options as donors remain on your site for the entire process, meaning that the header and footer are consistent with the rest of their online journey with you. However, the form itself may still look out of place. It often takes a few seconds to load after the rest of the page has already finished, which can be off-putting for potential donors (in some cases donors may even leave before it loads).

Like the other third-party services, systems which offer embedded donations tend to charge relatively high fees, and collect your donor details on your behalf which may limit your ability to connect with your donors following their donation (and raises additional privacy concerns).

Native Donations

Native donation processes involve setting up your website to talk directly to a payment gateway (e.g. Stripe) in the background in order to process payments, but the actual form and visual experience is completely part of your site. This is the ideal approach, resulting in minimal cost to you and the smoothest experience for your donors – as well as being much more customisable if you need to collect specific information or build a custom integration with other systems such as your CRM.

However even within this category there are a number of possible approaches. For WordPress sites, there are three main options.

1. WooCommerce

WooCommerce is the most popular ecommerce plugin for WordPress, and if you already have an online store it may make sense for you to process donations through WooCommerce as well. This carries the benefit of only having to connect to your payment gateway once and means that donors can purchase from the store and make a donation in the same transaction. However because WooCommerce is designed primarily for selling products, the experience isn’t going to be entirely optimised for donations.

2. GiveWP

GiveWP is a plugin specifically designed for online donations, and is worth considering if you don’t have WooCommerce. It does a lot more than just offer donation capabilities, though if you want anything more than the basics it comes with a sizable annual price tag.

3. Gravity Forms

Our preferred approach however is to build a custom donation form in Gravity Forms. This gives us full control over every aspect, enabling us to create conversion-focused, optimised donation processes that meet the specific needs of each organisation. If you work with Spark, you get full access to Gravity Forms and all of their official add-ons through our Developer licence. Otherwise, Gravity Forms have recently introduced a specific “non-profit licence” for charities and other not-for-profit organisations which is definitely worth checking out.

How does your organisation process online donations? Is there another option you think we should have covered? We’d love to hear from you!

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