Online Donation Engine Providers
by Marc Lee, CFRE
a wide variety of options when it comes to obtaining donations online.
Mixed with genuine confusion about what the best approach might be are
the sales pitches of different companies all competing for a market share.
It's hard to unravel the various options. This article, together with
that follows, compares the fee structure of many different companies
that offer online donation engine services to nonprofits.
Donation engines are a type of software sometimes called an ASP because
they are sold by companies known generically as Application Service Providers
engine is (primarily) backend software that is (usually) transparent
to the user. It allows a nonprofit to place a "Donate Now" link
on their website. The engine collects and processes credit card information
for the donation. Often the ASP receives the gift directly, and then
later transmits payment to the nonprofit. The complete gift transaction
appear to take place entirely on the nonprofit organization's site, but
is in fact resident on the ASP's server.
The companies listed in the table are
not all encompassing. I have chosen to consider only companies offering
online donation engine services. Other
professionals have done excellent research on the giving vehicles offered
through "portal" providers and charity "malls," though
the ability to differentiate between them is becoming increasingly blurred.
the gift vehicles offered by Online Donation Engine Providers when donations
appear to be made at your site by donors who have come to your site. Getting
traffic to come to your site is its own challenge. Sending people off
to another site to make their donation is, in my judgment, a needless
step. I believe that one of our tasks, as development professionals, is
to make giving easy.
portals generally make their money by selling advertising. Donation engine
providers make their money charging transactions fees, much the same way
that credit card companies do.
If your agency
is as big as the Red Cross, it would make sense to build your own donation
engine. The principal cost savings in using a donation engine provider
are in the costs of developing your own online giving engine, and in
the (sometimes) reduced credit card rate you may be able to obtain through
the provider. Donation engines handle security concerns for you and provide
engine services were first offered they were evolutions of shopping cart
software. Transaction fees were often high, and you usually had to have
your own merchant credit card account capable of real-time transactions.
Now, many donation engine providers allow you to use their merchant account.
As competition emerges, the transaction fees, whether they are fixed
or a percentage of the gift, have come down.
Apples to apples comparisons are tricky. As you can see from the
following table, there is more to consider than just the transaction
cost. The least expensive options may or may not include features your
If you are looking at installing a donation engine on your site, in addition
to verifying that the information presented on the table
has not changed, be sure to ask these kinds of questions:
- Can we
do the setup ourselves or must we hire a web designer? Do you have a
- How user-transparent
is your process?
- Does the
transaction appear to take place entirely on the nonprofit's site?
the various possibilities for customizing the donation option.
- Must we
use your service exclusively?
- How long
is the contract period?
- What kind
of customer support do you provide? During what hours?
- Will the
donor see advertising or banners during the transaction?
- How is
the information collected from the donor used? Who owns it?
- What kind
of donation reports and alerts are offered?
- Tell us
about receipts and acknowledgements to the donor.
name is on the donor's credit card statement?
- Can you accept overseas credit cards?
- Do you have the ability to support automatic debits for recurring gifts?
- What other
services does your company provide? Event Registration? Membership renewals?
- Are there
any other fees?
is that you ask for the url of an organization that is already using the
donation engine you are considering. Go to that site, make a donation,
learn exactly what your donors will experience.
a lot of time and energy to research online giving thoroughly, but it's
worth it because the difference in costs can be significant.
to continue and view the table.
like assistance or more information, contact someone who really knows
both fundraising and online giving:
Marc Lee at 877.320.2299 (toll free).
to future editions of this free newsletter, enter
your email address below:
is important to us. Please let us know if you found this article helpful: