November 19, 2017
 
Comparing the Pros, Cons, and Ease-of-Use of Online Giving Tools

By Kevin Martone and Joseph Ruotolo

While donors expect the convenience of a secure and simple online giving option, the right solution for your organization depends on your budget, expected number of online gifts, need to integrate responses with your system, and your technical know-how.

All of the options described below will bring donors to a separate website to process their donations. Other providers can integrate a giving vehicle and form into your website, but the process usually takes more time and effort (and money) to implement.

These brief reviews explain the benefits and challenges with each option. For a detailed comparison chart of each of these options, click here.

Amazon Simple Pay Donations — www.Amazon.com

Amazon Simple Pay Donations are an easy-to-use and secure way for Amazon's tens of millions of customers to donate using the information they already have on file with Amazon.com. The nonprofit organization simply adds a donation button on their site, which redirects the donor to Amazon's server for checking out.

Amazon Simple Pay Donations allow the organization to define the sizes of gifts that can be donated. You can set a fixed or minimum amount or let donors choose the donation amount--even as small as $1.

Pros:
  • Trust in the security of the process; donors will recognize the Amazon brand and most likely already have an account, so donations are quick.
  • Fees are reasonable and competitive.
Cons:
  • There is no customization of the checkout form.
  • Users must leave the organization's website to donate.
  • Cannot customize the look and feel.
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: Beginner

Fees: 2.9% + $0.30 processing fee per transaction

BlackbaudNow — www.bbnow.org

BlackbaudNow seamlessly integrates online giving with PayPal. The service includes WebNow, a tool to easily create a basic website (including an online giving form); DonorNow, a very basic constituent/gift management database; and EmailNow, which offers basic email functionality.

These services can help an organization just getting started with online giving cultivate its donors, display its cause online, and accept online donations via credit card or PayPal account. BlackbaudNow can also be used to set up a "microsite" for a specific fundraising cause or event.

Pros:
  • Offers a free integrated website in addition to an online giving form.
  • Very simple donor management system is built in.
  • Each organization has its own subdomain (http://you.bbnow.org).
  • Your page is white labeled, meaning there is no Blackbaud branding on the site.
  • Moderate customization is available with a selection of templates.
Cons:
  • If you already have a website, look at other tools to integrate online giving with your current brand.
  • Relatively expensive per transaction fees.
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: Beginner

Fees: 4.95% + $0.30 processing fee per transaction

Click & Pledge — www.clickandpledge.com

This is a strong online giving solution that allows you to collect as much (or little) information as you want from your donors. A button on your website will redirect the donor to Click & Pledge servers to go through the robust checkout area that can be customized with your colors and your own header image.

Pros:
  • Organizations are able to sell items as well as collect donations.
  • Supports pledges.
  • Offers extensive customization with colors and custom images.
  • Offers some integration with a variety of tools.
  • Offers different fee packages (Premium and Premium Global).
Cons:
  • American Express per transaction fees are extremely high (8.5% + $0.30).
  • Fee structure is relatively complicated.
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: Beginner

Fees: 4.5% + $0.30 processing fee per transaction for Discover, JCB, MasterCard, and Visa. Also a $5 per month fee; additional fees for Premium Global option.

DonorPerfect Online — www.donorperfect.com

DonorPerfect Online (DPO) WebLink allows its DPO customers to offer customized, integrated online donations and events forms. Reviewing, accepting, and downloading data from completed forms is quick and simple using WebLink's Review and Acceptance Center.

Simple forms are limited to five to six standard background colors; such standard fields as name, address, phone, email; and up to five custom fields. The direct integration with DPO comes at a cost. You'll spend almost $1000 before even receiving your first donation.

Pros:

  • Direct integration with DPO.
  • Offers support for pledges.
  • Form is made to resemble your site with colors and images.
Cons:
  • High setup and annual costs.
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: N/A. Setup fee includes customization completed by DPO.

Fees: Setup fee of $395, yearly fee of $480. Sample merchant account fee is 2.99% + $0.35 + $10 monthly statement fee

Firstgiving — www.firstgiving.com

Firstgiving offers nonprofits and even their supporters the ability to create easy-to-use donation forms to collect funds online. Constituents who wish to promote a cause or an organization can quickly search Firstgiving for the organization they wish to solicit funds for and then create a form with customized text, images, and video files. By allowing supporters to create the donation form, the nonprofit can lose control of its messaging, however. Nonprofits can also use FirstGiving for running their own events, allowing participants to register, create teams, and fundraise for the event all in one place. Nonprofits are also able to brand their page with custom themes and images, to avoid the message being lost.

Supporters can make a direct donation to the organization or they can create a fundraising team page.Nonprofits can create their own accounts to control branding and messaging, event management, and widgets for their website, including Donate Now, event registration, top fundraising teams and individuals, and total amount raised.

Pros:

  • Ability to add YouTube video and Flickr pictures to your donation page.
  • Thermometer that shows goal progress can include offline donations as well.
  • Form can be setup by anyone interested in soliciting for the organization.
  • Event registration.
Cons:
  • High per-transaction fees. (7.5%)
  • Does not support pledges.
  • Cannot add custom fields to form.
  • Colors cannot be changed; customization is limited to videos and images, but a template offering a high level of customization and branding is available.
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: Beginner

Fees: $500 annual fee for the nonprofit; 7.5% per transaction processing fee for peer-to-peer donations and 4.25% fee for direct donations.

Google Checkout — www.google.com/checkout

Google's online giving option, Google Checkout, offers a low price but doesn’t offer features found with other services. Organizations can put a button on their website that redirects the user to Google's servers. Users who don’t have a Google account must register for one on the spot in order to complete the donation process. Basically, Google has simply repurposed its Shopping Cart to collect donations.

Pros:
  • Low per transaction fees (2.9% + $0.30).
  • Users with a Google account can check out very quickly.
  • Can integrate with Google Analytics.
Cons:
  • The cart can be confusing, especially references to quantity ordered and shipping address.
  • Limited features and very little customization.
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: Beginner

Fees: 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction processing fee

JustGive — www.justgive.org

JustGive.org is attractive to an organization that doesn't have the technical know-how or the budget to pay high transaction fees. It offers a clean interface for quick donations and supports recurring gifts and honors/tributes. However, during the checkout process, the service asks each of your donors for an additional $3 donation to JustGive.

Pros:
  • Low per transaction fees. (3%)
  • Offers recurring gifts.
Cons:
  • During the checkout process, your users are asked to donate to Justgive.org as well as to your organization
  • No customization.
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: Beginner

Fees: 3% per transaction processing fee

Network for Good — www.networkforgood.org

Because it is affiliated with Guidestar, Network for Good already lists all nonprofit organizations. It offers three levels of service—DonateNow Lite, DonateNow, and Donate Now Deluxe—each with distinct levels of customization and pricing. It's basic per-transaction fees are relatively high, but the service can be cheaper than services where the user pays the credit card processing fee.

Network for Good's DonateNow Lite page offers an average online donations form with a unique “tipping” feature. The processing fee is passed onto the donor by requesting a "tip" of 5-15% to cover Network for Good's costs. A minimum “tip” of 5% is required. No other fees or monthly charges apply. DonateNow and DonateNow Deluxe offer a customized donation page. The processing fee is 3% with a setup fee of $199 and a monthly fee of $49.95 or $99 respectively; the user is not asked for a tip. Pros:
  • DonateNow Lite level offers recurring gifts.
  • DonateNow and DonateNow Deluxe have a single page donation form that resembles your website.
  • DonateNow and DonateNow Deluxe gives donors the option to cover the credit card processing fee; these levels do not require users to register.
Cons:
  • DonateNow Lite does not offer customization and the form is multiple pages.
  • DonateNow and DonateNow Deluxe have relatively high setup and monthly fees.
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: Beginner

Fees: DonateNow Lite has no setup or monthly fees but requests the customer pay a tip; DonateNow and DonateNow Deluxe has a setup fee of $199, monthly fee of $49.95 and $99 respectively, and a processing fee of 3%.

PayPal Website Payments Standard — www.PayPal.com

PayPal is one of the most recognized online payment gateways and offers some of the lowest fees for qualified 501(c)(3) nonprofits. PayPal has multiple options to accept payments and donations through your website or PayPal's own website. PayPal Website Payments Standard—which allows you to easily place a “Donate Now” button on your website—is the most appropriate PayPal option for many smaller nonprofit organizations; it easily redirects donors to the PayPal website to complete the donation process.

Pros:
  • Secure; well-recognized brand.
  • Users can donate without creating an account.
  • Low per transaction fees (2.2% + $0.30)
Cons:
  • Website Payments Standard offers limited form customization.
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: Beginner

Fees: 2.2% + $0.30 per transaction processing fee (for Website Payments Standard option)

Sage Donate Now — www.sagepayments.com

Sage, which is best known for credit card processing, now offers one-time and recurring credit card and check donations for nonprofits. The checkout process takes place on Sage's servers and allows the organization limited customization of the form such as colors, logo, and page uses sees after checkout.

Pros:
  • Relatively low monthly and per transaction fees (for customized form).
  • Supports donation allocation and fund designation.
  • Users don't have to register in order to donate.
Cons:
  • Limited customization of fonts and colors (but more than other low-cost providers).
Level of tech knowledge needed to implement: Beginner

Fees: $75 setup, $6 monthly. Approx. 2.3% (2.5% for AMEX) + $0.10 per transaction

This article is adapted from “Short Reviews of Online Giving Tools,” compiled by the Grinspoon Institute for Jewish Philanthropy, a program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation.

March 2011

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