Which payment gateway to choose for your small charity

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Donations are crucial to many charities, so a good donation platform is a great starting point.

There are countless payment gateways that can help that all offer different capabilities and payment structures. You should work out what type of plan would suit the sort of payments you’re processing and how you’d prefer to handle payments.

We’ve attempted to make it as straight forward as possible by providing some key tips and examples of established donation gateways with fair price plans.


What is a payment gateway?

Put simply, it’s a big part in what gets the money from the donor to your charity.

Payment gateways act as an interface between your website and the bank so that the process is as quick and easy as possible.  They relay information between all those involved in the transaction. This type of online service provider can authorise credit and debit card transactions online.

To break it down in more detail, this is the step by step of how it works:

  • When an individual presses the donate button, their payment information is encrypted and sent from their web browser to your charity’s server.
  • It is then forwarded on the to the payment gateway via another encrypted connection where the transaction information can be sent to the payment processor of whichever bank your charity have chosen.
  • The information is sent to the cardholders bank for them to authorise the request for money to be sent.
  • A response code is sent to the payment gateway to be passed on to the website for interpretation and oth you and the cardholder are informed of the relevant information.
  • You can now submit all your approved authorisations to the bank for them to deposit the approved amount. This is the step that can take up to two days



Now you’re (hopefully) a little better informed on payment gateway systems and what you need to address when choosing one, it’s time to take a look at some examples. All of these offer charity friendly price plans without compromising quality, though of course there are many more out there.


Key facts and figures

  • Direct debit only
  • 1% transaction fee

Breif overview: GoCardless  process direct debits for a charge of 1% per transaction. This fee is capped at £2 (so £2 for any transaction over £200).

Pros: This is a good choice if you only process direct debits. If this is the case it’s pretty much the cheapest option around and also one of the much simpler price plans available. GoCardless is also pretty user friendly with its flexible integration options. This means it can easily be set up on your website.

Cons: the biggest con is that it only deals with direct debits. If your organisation need to process debit and credit card transactions then there will be options that cover a broader range of transactions.

Charity Clear

Key facts and figures

  • Donates profits to charity
  • £18 per month
  • Budget option available

Brief overview: CharityClear cover a range of transactions including credit and debit card transactions. They charge a base fee of £18  a month which gives you 350 transactions. After this each transaction has a 9.9p charge.

ProsCharity Clear is a charity in itself. It’s owned by Epilepsy Scotland and therefore donates all profits to the charity. It also boasts a high level of integration with merchant accounts as well as good security, with three levels of access.

Cons: Charity Clear needs to be paired with a merchant account such as WorldPay, which can increase the price somewhat. Fortunately it has partnered with some UK merchant accounts which make costs more manageable.

Sage Pay

Key facts and figures

  • Free support
  • PayPal integration
  • 0 – 1000 transactions per quarter – £19.90 per month

Brief overview: Sage Pay can process online payments, invoices and face-to-face transactions and offer support along the way. They have a range of price plans ranging from £19.90 – £45.

Pros: It’s the biggest independent payment gateway provider in Europe. Sage Pay is well-respected and a recognised brand and offers great support for its clients due to their high level of expertise.

Cons: Extra transactions outside of your monthly or quarterly quota cost an extra 10p each. If you only process a small amount of transactions this may not be best due to a higher base fee. If you handle a lot of transactions, however, Sage’s expertise and lower additional costs may suit you.


Key facts and figures

  • No merchant
  • Instantly recognisable brand
  • Doesn’t require PayPal account

Brief overview: PayPal is well-known for handling eBay transactions but is also a fully fledged payment gateway system. People can pay via credit and debit cards or through their PayPal account. The pricing is done per transaction rather than at a monthly cost.

Pros: It’s a simple-to-integrate system that requires little technical knowledge and can be set up quickly. Add in the fact that a merchant account isn’t required either, and PayPal becomes one of the most simple payment gateways to get your head around. Better yet, charities can get a special low rate of 1.4% + 20p.

Cons: There is sometimes confusion amongst buyers, as many people don’t know that you do not need a PayPal account to purchase through the payment gateway. Pricing can also seem a little complex but there are a variation of plans for your needs.


Key facts and figures

  • Established brand
  • Charity rates

Brief overview: Worldpay started in 1994, making it one of the first online payment services and are now one of the most popular.

Pros: They have a wealth of experience that means their support and security is of a high level. They also offer charity-specific discounts that means there is no initial sign up fee.

Cons: This service comes at a higher price than the others, with a 2.75% transaction fee for credit cards and 39p for debit cards. As mentioned, however, they do offer discounts you can look into here.



A few extra points to consider…

There’s some important things to consider whilst your choosing a payment gateway system. When you create a website it’s understandable that the first thing you want to do is  ensure people can donate.

Nonetheless, while your getting that sorted, it’s also crucial to consider these related points; do you have:

  • A good website: This drives more traffic to your website and hopefully increases the time they spend there too. Make sure your website is easy to navigate for donors. You can stay on top of this by tracking your drop-off rate on Google Analytics.
  • A clearly set out fundraising campaign: It’s key that your cause is clearly explained so that potential donors know exactly what will be done with their money. When they are better assured of where their donation is going, they’re more likey to donate.
  • email marketing and social media platforms: Having a strong online presence across various platforms is a great way to drive further donations. The more people who are aware of and directed to your site, the better.


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