In this guest post, CEO of Charity Digital Richard Craig looks at the fundraising platforms available to the charitiable sector and shares his top tips for choosing one.
With regards to fundraising platforms, choice is always good, but deciding your options seems to be getting harder. There are over 600 platforms for acquiring donations these days, and for charities that are just getting into digital giving, this can understandably be a bit overwhelming.
To help, I’ll just run through some of the options that I think are the best for charities to use.
If you’re just starting out, the best thing to do is to get a ‘donate now’ button on your website. The choice then becomes ‘which platform do you use?’ In a fundraising platform, you need to think about what is trusted, capable of gift aid management, and will share all of the contact data with you so that you can nurture donors for the long term. Even if the fees are slightly higher, the usual big players are the best place to start in my view, even for smaller charities. JustGiving, Virgin Money Giving and BT MyDonate are the most used platforms at the moment, while PayPal is growing in popularity as a fundraising platform. JustGiving, Virgin Money Giving and BT MyDonate all offer gift aid reclamation (although PayPal don’t), and all four provide access to donors’ contact details if donors opt-in. They also have the benefit of a trusted brand, as well as offering a good user journey; if you sign up to any of them, they provide you with a button that you can place on your website, which then sends donors to their own secure site to complete the process, and show a ‘thank you’ message upon completion. The pricing structure is different among them, and each platform offers different services and different levels of support, so you should spend a bit of time looking at their websites before deciding which one is the best for you.
My advice would be that the most important thing is to get donors to complete the process and not drop out along the way. Paying a slightly higher fee is worth it if this means you get a good level of support, a seamless donation process, and all the data you require to nurture relationships. Among the most popular options these days are easy-to-use platforms like Give As You Live and Pennies. Give As You Live installs a browser on your phone and as you purchase things, it donates a portion to a charity or charities of your choice. Pennies rounds up purchases to the nearest pound, with the extra little bit going to charities. One of the best alternatives to online giving is SMS giving. This has the benefit of making it much easier for people to make one-off donations quickly and painlessly. In practice, the donor sends a text to a 5-digit number with the charity’s name or a chosen keyword along with the amount they would like to donate (usually up to £10). They then receive a reply with a ‘thank you’ message as well as a link for gift aid reclamation, and the amount simply comes out of their next phone bill. If you set this up through JustTextGiving (run by Vodafone and JustGiving), the service is completely free. The only drawbacks are that you can’t set up regular donations and you don’t receive donor data. Otherwise, a paid-for option like Vir2 might be worth considering, as they also provide donor data that you can use, as well as the option for setting up regular text donations. While these options are good for larger charities that can get the most out of them, for a smaller-scale charity, it’s probably more sensible just to use a donation button that you can really focus on compelling donors to use.
Crowdfunding is legal in the UK and can be extremely effective. If you’re interested in utilising it, you need to read the small print on crowdfunding sites to make sure you comply with all of their guidelines, and you also need to make sure that you get all of the funds promised, even if the full target is not reached. Crowdfunding should be used for a specific project or campaign that has a clearly defined start and end, and a specific deliverable result that you can write a story around.
When comparing your options, you’ll find that some fundraising platforms will be beautifully designed, frictionless, flexible and a pleasure to donate on when compared to slightly cheaper options that don’t offer gift aid management, a good level of support or various other useful functions. What you need to remember in these instances is that the real value of any donation platform is getting people all the way through the process of donation without dropping out, rather than getting hung up on the costs. Ultimately, it doesn’t matter if you’re paying 3% or 30% to process donations if you aren’t getting any. The key is to get people to start and finish a donation. To this end, you need to offer a compelling reason for people to give to your cause through the content you produce and the messages you give out. If you can do that then having a slick donation platform might just seal the deal.