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.