Guest post by Rich Aberman, Founder of WePay.
Despite the economic downturn and obvious fiscal implications, nearly 90% of Americans planned to donate to charity last holiday season. While the numbers of Americans wishing to contribute remains staggering, the current climate of frugality has led many to think twice: there were fewer donations and smaller average amounts in 2009.
Chronicle of Philanthropy’s annual assessment of online giving found that in 2009, overall donations fell by a median of 9%. In this same period, online gifts grew by 5%.
In an increasingly web-based world, accepting online donations is basically a necessity. If Americans are going to donate, they are most likely going to do so online.
Not only is the Internet the most effective medium for raising money, it’s also the most effective channel for reaching a broad audiences with your message. For more on developing a strategy for raising money online, read Fundraising on the Internet.
The following are some tips for getting set up to accept online donations:
1. Choose the Right Online Partner
The first thing you’ll need to do is decide how you are going to accept payments online – or, more accurately, who you want to work with. Do not make the mistake of plunging into a “payment processing” relationship before doing your due diligence.
The most important consideration is cost. You don’t want to work day and night to solicit donations if 20% of the money you collect is going toward credit card processing fees. Some payment processers will charge you a setup fee of a few hundred dollars, monthly maintenance fees, a gateway fee per transaction, and up to 4% of the transaction amount as well. Make sure you read and understand the entire agreement before you sign (or use a service that doesn’t require signed contracts). Is there a minimum term? When will you be charged surcharges? What is the actual cost of accepting payments online?
Once taking cost into consideration, think about how different processors and your website will combine. Ease of integration varies from site to site, and services can require some non-trivial engineering skills.
Finally, make sure to also prioritize choosing a company that makes it easy to track transactions. This sounds obvious, but you’d be surprised how difficult some of these systems are to use.
2. Make it easy to donate
Once you’ve chosen a company to work with, the next step should be making donating as easy as possible. Although many of your contributors will be web-savvy, don’t bank on this being the norm. Make sure your website has an easy to access “donate” page that is visible above the fold on the homepage.
Tip: The more clicks it takes to contribute, the more people you will lose. Therefore, put the “contribute” form directly on your site rather than sending people to a different donation provider.
In addition to making it super-easy to make a donation on your site, you should also make it easy for your potential supporters to pay for special fundraising events. Selling tickets for fundraisers or special events should also be a straightforward process. By making it easy to pay online, rather than forcing supporters to mail cash or paper checks, you will almost certainly attract more attendees.
3. Leverage your Contacts.
The easiest way to increase donations is to simply get your organization’s name and mission out there. In addition to the monetary contributions that you collect, you will also start to generate a database of contacts. In terms of fundraising, this information is invaluable because of an increasingly social Web.
I can’t emphasize enough how your networks, and those of your donors, can be your biggest assets. Check into your service provider’s social networking capabilities—can you enable automatic Facebook status updates and Twitter posts for your donors? Seeing “I just made a donation to [your cause]. If you want to donate as well, please click here” written by a friend is fantastic peer-to-peer marketing. (Additional tips on getting your network to donate online can be found here: Fundraising E-Mail Do’s and Don’ts).
After the earthquakes in Haiti, over 50% of individual donations came via online contributions. Once you execute these key online fundraising components, you too can see similar results saving time, money, and energy for executing your social impact aims.
Rich Aberman is the Founder and President of WePay, an online payment processing solution that allows groups to collect and manage money online. With WePay, you can collect donations, sell tickets, and request payments online, without the expense of a traditional payment processor.