Finding the Right Platform for your Nonprofit to Fundraise Online

cc_logo_full_horiz_color_600Guest post from Alessandra Madrid, Content Marketing Manager at CommitChange. CommitChange is an innovative fundraising and donor management tool, and  trusted Technology Partner of 501cTECH.


Did you know nonprofits raise over $20 billion every year from individual donors? That figure is quickly growing every day as the usage and reach of Internet continues to rise among both younger and older populations. The giving environment is changing and it is important that all nonprofits are prepared to embark on this new fundraising adventure. But don’t be intimidated; thankfully, there are plenty of new tech tools already developed to make this transition run smoothly within your organization. It is important, however, that you start becoming familiarized with the processes and terms that these platforms utilize. The more you know about them, the better decisions you will be able to take about what kind of platforms and technologies will adapt best to your nonprofit’s structure and needs.

The Basics

Credit Cards & Transaction Fees

Collecting credit card donations online has become a hassle-free process for nonprofits thanks to technology. There are plenty of software applications that allow you to do this, keep in mind that all of these come with a credit card processing fee. Unfortunately, these costs cannot be avoided. You can, however, encounter software that will charge higher rates than others. So it is important you evaluate these costs before deciding on an online donation processing tool for your organization.

Most donation processing companies charge around a 2.9% + $.30 per transaction. Keep in mind that credit card fees do not include the additional costs of utilizing the platform of your choice (we will cover these below)

Platform Fees + Other Costs

Business models and costs of every nonprofit software out there vary. The most controversial costs you will usually encounter are “platform fees”. What is included in these platform fees? In simple terms, these refer to when your donation processor skims a percentage of donations for profit. These rates are usually lower for simple processing forms (1–2%) and higher for crowdfunding and event ticketing tools (3–5%). These percentages are generally in addition to your credit card processing costs.

When diving into the world on online fundraising choosing a platform be, in my opinion, the most crucial decision for your organization Percentage-based fees significantly lower your online fundraising efficiency and can make it harder to raise money from major donors and foundations. Below is a chart of processing costs from different online donation processors, the first percentage row refers to the average percentage each platform skims off total donations raised, the second row outlines the unavoidable credit card processing costs and finally, the cost for acquiring the software

Source: Let’s Talk About Donation Processing

Features and Functionality

Let’s move on to the fun stuff. What kind of features and functionalities should you be looking for your nonprofit’s online donation processor? Prior to knowing what kind of campaign you want to run, there are a few key things you need to look for in an online fundraising platform. These functionalities should mimic traditional fundraising letters, yet they should be making the process quicker and easier for both the donor and the organization. At CommitChange, we believe these features are imperative for you to have in your donation processor to be able to successfully launch campaigns

Easy Setup and Maintenance:

Technology and online fundraising tools are there to make your life easier. They shouldn’t take too much of your organization’s time for implementation, data migration or training to learn how to use them. Find a platform that will easily fit into your organization’s structure and that you can maintain it without needing extensive technical assistance.

Automatic Donor Receipts

Thing about it, if you are investing in an online platform that should be simplifying things for your organization, you don’t want to have to manually create and send receipts at the end of the year. The platform you pick to fundraise online should most definitely send automatic receipt emails to your donor. The platform should have the capability to make customizable, professional receipts. Meaning that you must be able to add custom text, your logo, and any relevant tax information.

Customizable Donation Forms

What’s the most important step in an online fundraising campaign? The moment when the donor goes through your donation form and successfully submits a gift. When choosing a donation processes, make sure you are able to easily create customized donation forms. Being able to deploy custom forms quickly will also allow you to experiment and improve strategies more easily.

Option for Recurring Gifts

Recurring gift options are the best way of maximizing your online donations. Data shows that recurring donors give around 40% more than new donors, and remember that it is also much easier to steward your existing donors than find new ones.

By prominently highlighting the recurring gifts option, at CommitChange we’ve observed increased recurring gifts from 2–3% to 12% of our platform’s total donations.

Comprehensive Analytics and Reporting Tools

Having good analytics with strong data is VERY important if you are serious about online fundraising. To raise funds, have successful events and campaigns you need to know what works with your supporters, what doesn’t work and how changes in your campaign settings affect your fundraising. It is also important that your software can easily display and export your data for further analysis.

Bottom line: find something that you know your organization can handle, both financially and usability. Asses the fees and features carefully. Ask questions, as many as come to your mind! Ask for trials or testing periods before investing your resources and your staff’s time, and you’ll soon be on your way to successfully fundraising online.

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