Online donations make up a massive percentage of yearly giving in the United States, but the best digital tool for your nonprofit fundraising depends upon your needs. Here are eight options to get you started.
Finding the funds necessary to succeed in your nonprofit mission is a never-ending challenge. That’s why it’s especially important to have multiple strategies to help you raise funds. Hopefully, in addition to the traditional methods, you’re already exploring or about to explore the benefits of having a digital fundraising strategy. Well, no online fundraising strategy is complete without the right digital donation tools to help you succeed.
Digital donation tools assist your nonprofit with collecting donations. But more than that, they provide solutions that can range from creating donation pages to collecting data that can be seamlessly integrated into your nonprofit’s database for analysis and enhanced fundraising in the future.
Online giving has continued to trend upwards in recent years. And thanks to online donation tools like Givebutter and Qgiv, nonprofits have been able to make the most of their online fundraising.
Having the right donation tools in place makes your life easier. The trick is finding the one that best suits your needs. When it comes to digital donation tools, there are a lot options available. And whether you’re new to online donations or ready to scale upwards and take your organizations fundraising to new heights, you should be prepared to research and evaluate as many options as possible.
To make your life easier, we’ve put together a list of some of the best digital fundraising tools to help you collect online donations.
What is digital fundraising?
Digital fundraising is a way for nonprofits to raise money over the internet. With this method, donors contribute a one-time or recurring payment to your organization, usually through a donation page found on a nonprofit’s website or using an online donation platform. Depending on the payment method, funds are usually transferred from a donor using a credit/debit card or through their checking/savings account.
The various online fundraising methods include:
- Online donation forms/webpages: This is the basic way to collect donations on your website. This option makes it easy for donors to donate from their computers or mobile phones. The best online forms are customizable and can be tailored to the needs of the nonprofit. That means it will have options such as recurring gifts and donate buttons.
- Mobile giving: Donation tools that include mobile giving options will help optimize your fundraising for mobile devices. This can include any number of features, from ensuring your donation pages are mobile-responsive to giving donors the ability to donate simply by texting.
- Email campaigns: This is a great way to spread your message and inspire people to get involved in your nonprofit’s mission. Donation tools can help you set up and schedule emails that end with an appeal to donate. That call to action, in the form of a “donate” button, links to a secure online donation form or webpage. Depending on the donation tool you use, you can even track the analytics that matter to your nonprofit, which can help make it easier for you to develop a loyal donor base.
- Peer-to-peer: This multi-tiered method allows individuals to set up their own fundraising pages and reach out to their own network in support of your nonprofit. This is a great option for nonprofits who want to mobilize their supporters over social media using online donation tools.
- Crowdfunding: This method takes your mission beyond your normal audience. Donation tools that focus on crowdfunding help nonprofits share their mission and leverage the power of smaller, individual donations given by a larger, more diverse audience. If you have a specific project or goal with a fixed timeline, this could work well for you.
It’s important to remember that charitable giving online enhances your fundraising strategies but isn’t the most popular form of giving. Traditional donation methods, such as direct mail and in-person fundraising events are still vital tools for nonprofit fundraising. These methods have been on a slight decline in recent years, but even in 2015, over 92% of nonprofit funds came through traditional methods.
Online donations, on the other hand, have been on a slow and steady rise for many years now. One study noted a 6.8% increase in online donations in 2019, which represents a 10% increase since 2016. More than ever, nonprofits are making sure to incorporate online giving solutions into their fundraising efforts.
Why digital donation tools matter
Online donation tools offer nonprofits a powerful way to reach more donors. Some will just help you set up a specific campaign. Some will do that and help you manage all aspects of fundraising too, including providing donor management assistance. But here’s what all of the best donation tools have in common:
They’re safe. Donors want to know that their financial information is secure and won’t fall into the wrong hands. That’s why it’s important that nonprofits ensure they are offering secure online transactions. The best digital donation tools adhere to Payment Card Industry (PCI) standards which insist a donor’s personal and credit card information is securely processed and stored. The PCI compliant solutions your digital donation tools offer will help ensure online transactions are happening in secure and encrypted environments.
They’re fast and convenient. Online donation tools allow people to quickly and conveniently donate from anywhere in the world. Planning for and executing a traditional fundraising event, on the other hand, can be costly, time consuming, and limited in the number of people you can reach.
They offer better outreach and visibility. It pays to grow your online visibility. Online donation tools bring your digital fundraising strategies to life, helping to increase your audience and allowing you to branch out beyond your community. This can lead to more opportunities for donations.
They are affordable. Online donation tools have their own fees you’ll have to watch out for. But if you’re smart and shop around, you’ll find options that are far more cost effective than the overhead costs incurred with offline fundraising (which include printing, postage, travel, and transportation costs).
Did I mention they’re safe? When a pandemic puts everything on hold and you have to social distance, it helps to have online donation tools at your disposal. Even though in-person fundraising came to a halt, people were still eager to donate to charities. On May 5, 2020, Giving Tuesday rose to the occasion by sponsoring an event called GivingTuesdayNow in response to the impact COVID-19 has had on the world. In the U.S. alone, the event raised $503 million in digital donations.
What digital donation tool features matter to you?
Even before you begin looking around for online donation tools, you should have an idea of what matters to you. Maybe you only need minimal assistance running a specific crowdfunding campaign. Or maybe you also want to create a more personalized strategy to help you engage and retain donors. In that case, you want a tool that not only helps you fundraise but also provides donor management software. Whatever your needs, here are a few things to look out for:
- Cost: You’ll have to pay close attention to this one. From platform fees (as well as processing fees, monthly/yearly fees, and any other fees that might crop up) to asking donors to cover those credit card processing fees, you’ll want an online donation tool that gives you everything you want at an affordable price — without charging you for things you don’t want or need.
- Ease of use: The best online donation tool will be user friendly. You want something that’s easy to set up, easy to manage, and especially easy for your donors to complete their donations.
- Scalability: Looking for a tool that grows with your needs? If so, you want to look at online donation tools that have various packages and options that you can add on when you’re ready — and only when you’re ready.
- Support: Some online donation tools are easier to work with than others. If you are a tech guru or have one at your disposal, you may not need 24-hour assistance seven days a week. But for those of us who aren’t as tech savvy, support matters. This could be easy-to-understand instructions and troubleshooting options or a reassuring voice on the other end of a phone, walking us through our technical difficulties. Either way, make sure to pay attention to the support options each online donation tool offers.
Here are some of the best nonprofit-friendly donation tools
So now let’s take a look at eight online donation tools that can help take your fundraising to new heights.
Give Lively is a donation platform funded by philanthropists. Their goal is to ensure nonprofits have the best technology available to succeed in their mission. The straightforward features offered by Give Lively are practical. And while it lacks the bells and whistles of some of the other online donation tools, you won’t end up paying for features you won’t end up using.
- No platform fees.
- Free and unlimited access to all of its platform and technology. This includes a number of features, such as event ticketing, peer-to-peer fundraising, and text-to-donate.
The sign-up process is not as fast as other donation tools. Application for membership takes 7-10 business days and requires you to sign up for Stripe even before being accepted. Expedited applications are considered if a fundraising event falls within those 7-10 days.
Give Lively is free, but the payment processors charge a fee depending on how the money is donated:
- Credit Card: 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction
- ACH: 0.8% (capped at $5)
- American Express: 3.5%
- PayPal: 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction
Donorbox is an easy-to-set-up, embeddable donation tool. It has a range of features including customizable donation forms and the ability to let donors cover the credit card processing fee. Even if you don’t have a website, you’re able to create a donation page that will be hosted on their servers for free.
- Fees are low compared to most other options
- Accepts a variety of payment options including credit/debit cards, ACH transfers, PayPal as well as Apple and Google Pay
- Offers individual add-ons like employer gift matching, Mailchimp, and Salesforce NPSP.
- Provides a simple checkbox that gives donors the option to cover the processing fee
Donor management features are not as extensive as other online donation platforms.
Donorbox charges a 1.5% platform fee. There are additional fees depending on the payment method:
- Credit card: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
- ACH: 0.8% (capped at $5)
- PayPal: 2.2% +$0.30 per transaction
Since its humble beginnings in 2016, Givebutter has been recognized as one of the fastest-growing new fundraising platforms. It offers an impressive array of features and is especially well regarded by the younger generation of socially responsible donors.
- Base features include event and peer-to-peer fundraising as well as text-to-donate.
- Offers the option of donating using the credit/debit cards, Venmo, PayPal, Apple/Google/Microsoft Pay.
- Easily integrate with a number of third-party applications, including Mailchimp, Facebook, and Double the Donation.
- On average, over 95% of donors cover the processing fees.
It’s hard to find anything negative about Givebutter. A few users might complain about limited features or ease of use, but for the most part, Givebutter is enjoying a strong run of positive reviews.
Givebutter offers a free base plan, though you’ll have to pay the standard credit card fees (2.9% + $0.30 per transaction). Transaction fees are dependent upon whether you show or hide Givebutter’s tipping option. If you hide tips, there will be a platform fee for their collect (1%), fundraise (3%), and events (5%) options.
Donately is a platform built specifically for online fundraising. Their mission is to make fundraising easier for nonprofits. All of their plans include features like donation pages, peer-to-peer fundraising, and mobile-responsive forms and dashboard.
- Easy to set up.
- Donately’s customizable donation forms are responsive and can change to fit the device the donor is using.
- Donations via credit card, ACH or PayPal
- Option to ask donors to cover fees
The platform fees on top of the processing fees can be limiting depending on the size of the nonprofit.
Donately has a startup plan that charges no monthly fees, but you will pay a 4% platform fee. They also offer a team plan that’s $49 a month. It has more features than the base plan, and the platform fee is reduced to 2%. In addition, you’ll need to pay payment processing fees:
- Credit card/Stripe/Paypal: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction
- ACH: 0.8% (capped at $5)
Donately provides links to both Stripe and PayPal for nonprofits to apply for reduced processing rates.
Fundly is a crowdfunding platform that is popular with individuals and nonprofits. Known for its ease of use, nonprofits can start a fundraiser, share it with their contacts, who can then share it with their contacts.
- Ease of us.
- No minimum or maximum amount needed in order to keep the funds you raise.
- Mobile responsive
Fees are considered on the high end. In addition, there is only one payment processor. Nonprofits must sign up with Stripe.
Fundly charges a platform fee (4.9%), a credit card processing fee (2.9%), and a transaction fee ($0.30 per transaction).
Qgiv is a comprehensive fundraising platform with a suite of fundraising tools. From simple events to extensive donor management tools, Qgiv provides a range of solutions that will satisfy nonprofits of all sizes.
- Easy to customize and personalize with your nonprofit’s brand
- Can manage a range of needs, including online donation forms, peer-to-peer fundraisers, and events.
- Unlimited donation forms, events, and users for all of its packages.
Cost: To get the features you want, you may need to upgrade to a costlier package, which might also include features you don’t need.
Qgiv offers multiple packages. There is a free starter option that comes with a transaction fee (3.95% + $0.30 per transaction). From there, you can build upwards by adding on various packages that have their own monthly and additional fees.
Kindful is another comprehensive fundraising platform. It offers a host of fundraising, donor management, and reporting tools for everyone.
- One monthly price gives you access to all of Kindful’s features. No upgrades needed.
- Can manage a range of needs, including donation forms and peer-to-peer/event fundraising
- Numerous payment options, including Kindful Payments, PayPal, Stripe, Square, or Authorize.Net.
- Prebuilt, custom, and automated reporting tools
Kindful’s features can at times be confusing, oversimplified, or limiting depending on your needs.
Kindful has a scalable monthly pricing plan determined by your number of contacts. These plans start at $100 per month and have processing fees (2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for credit cards or 1% + $0.30 per transaction for ACH payments).
Better World is a free online fundraising platform that won’t charge you platform fees. It provides a wide range of options that can work well with new and smaller nonprofits.
- No platform fees
- Intuitive, easy-to-use tools, including donation pages, crowdfunding, auctions, and events
You won’t be able to seamlessly embed campaign features on your own website.
Stripe charges a 2.9% processing fee along with $0.30 per transaction. According to Better World, nonprofits can contact Stripe and receive a discounted rate of 2.2% and $0.30 per transaction.
In the end, the online donation tool that’s best for you depends upon your needs. But whether you need something simple or complex, with the right digital fundraising tools, there’s a lot you can accomplish. Just make sure you do your homework first. Analyze your nonprofit’s needs and take the time to look for the best tool that matches those needs.
And try not to pay for things you don’t need, especially if there are options available that won’t charge you for bells and whistles that aren’t worth your time. It’s hard enough raising funds to support your cause. You shouldn’t have to waste money on anything that doesn’t make your life easier and support you in your hard work. You deserve an online donation tool that works for you.
By Robert Thorpe