Comparing Cheap and Free "Donate Now" Button Services

Thinking about changing your Donate Button, or maybe getting one for the first time? Jenny Henry of Sumac Software has compiled this guide to online donation services that are quick and easy to use.

But first, we hear from Brady Josephson of Opportunity International Canada and his (probably typical) experiences with Donate Now services:

I was working for a start-up nonprofit -- Smart Ventures. We were looking to use the fastest-to-get-going, cheap, free, easy-to-use solution to offer a way to purchase items or to give online. We started with Google Checkout. Our thinking was that we were already using Google Analytics and other Google services, so it would be good to be able to go to one place and get everything.

What we found was their checkout purchasing was okay, but donation options were very, very limited. For example, we had a gift catalog where people could make donations that would buy bags of seeds for people in developing countries, or a chicken, or a plot of land, or just make an outright donation. We wanted to offer options, like $15 that would buy one bag of seeds of $30 for two. We couldn't do it just with the plug-and-play. We did some coding to customize it, but it just got away from us.

Then we moved to Paypal.

We wanted the credibility of Paypal. If you go to a site like Red Cross, you assume their system is secure. But we were just a year old, and it was very important for people to think that we were legit and that their financial information was secure. Plus, a lot of people have Paypal accounts. Unlike Google Checkout, we could integrate Paypal with some things we were doing on Facebook and Twitter.

For both Google and Paypal, the flow of donor information back to us was really frustrating. In both cases you have to go to their websites, log in and pull the information. It's a nuisance to remember to do this on a weekly basis, and the information comes in a format that's really hard to use. You can't add any questions, like "How did you hear about us?"

And in some cases we could only get email addresses and account codenames, not their real names and street addresses. A lot of things would have been possible but they required more and more knowledge, and more and more additional coding.

I'm at a different place now and we use Beanstream here, which is a lot like Authorize.net, but hopefully isn't as clunky. I'm still getting to know Beanstream.

My advice: simplicity! I would rather pay a little higher rate and even lose a little data information if it was simple and easy. We spent hours finding data, synching it up, sorting through data.

Thank you, Brady. It's good to know the frustration isn't just ours. Click here for the Comparison of Online Donation Services. Please note that this Comparison was compiled by Sumac Software, an online donation services provider, and is not complete, but does look at some of the most commonly used, inexpensive/free services. The partial chart above shows you the format.

Jenny Henry is Director of Communications at Sumac Software. She loves nonprofit technology; "my bag is gidgets, gadgets, and buttons that help nonprofits raise more money." She is seen here trying to improve her Dance Dance Revolution score.

Comments (7)

  • Anonymous

    The key to finding the right online donation tool is the ability to customize, not only on the donation check out page (many fields), but also in reporting. I've heard and experienced many of the same frustrations with Google Checkout and PayPal (although there are certain situations where both may be viable). Two that offer customization and reasonable prices are www.networkforgood.org and www.cloud501.com - Suzanne Oehler, Yapper Girl www.YapperGirl.com

    Jul 20, 2011
  • Anonymous

    Jenny, Thank you so much for this comparison document. I manage a small non-profit and have been itching to move away from our Merchant Services account that processes our credit card donations at an extremely high rate. We also use Google Checkout for our online donations. The customer service for Google checkout and Paypal are awful. And there are so many other options, I've found it very time consuming to compare them all and find what we need. I've found the whole project to be frustrating because some tools allow you to process other people's credit cards that have been called in, whereas it is illegal for you to do so on others. This article came at a perfect time for me. Thank you! Michelle

    Jul 20, 2011
  • Great topic that needs more discussion! I did a lot of research about a year ago for a donation page/service for our very small nonprofit. We needed the ability to make the page look like it's on our site, daily/weekly deposit to our account, and recurring donation setup. I decided on the GiftWorks Online Donation service. I like it quite a lot and would recommend it. The support is really good, too. We use the Giftworks Standard software, so it's nice that it imports the contact info and donation info to our database for us. It's by Mission Research and it's $30/month, then a low (under 3%) credit card processing fee. Jennifer Berger About-Face www.about-face.org

    Jul 21, 2011
  • Thanks for this article. We have just started looking into options that are better than our Merchant Services account which as a high fee. This comparison will help. Faye -Mimbres Region Arts Council

    Jul 30, 2011
  • Anonymous

    DonorCharge (http://www.donorcharge.com/nonprofit_pricing.aspx) also has online donation options that range from 0.75% for e-check donations to 3.75% for credit/debit card donations - free setup and no monthly fee for the lite version. Donors may also opt to become immediate supporters of your Non-Profit which enable them to donate 10 cents to your non-profit each time they checkout.

    Sep 15, 2011
  • Anonymous

    Computer software is so called to distinguish it from computer hardware, which encompasses the physical interconnections and devices required to store and execute the software. At the lowest level, executable code consists of machine language instructions specific to an individual processor. Thanks. Regards, Local SEO Services

    May 04, 2012
  • GivingTools.com offers a service that is really polished has credit card rates at 1.99% + 15¢ and offers e-check (ACH) for just 25¢ per transfer with NO PERCENTAGES. The system was designed to be accessible for nonprofits and has no signup fee, minimum use fees, or termination fee.

    It provides a giving page where you can display appeals, but you can also embed appeals right in your site or create "Give" buttons right in the system. AND GivingTools can track your other non-electronic donors, too. So you have access to all the stats and all of your donors can receive emailed statements.

    I strongly encourage folks to check it out! www.givingtools.com

    Jul 22, 2015

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