Update: I wrote this article in 2009 and surprisingly it’s advice and recommended resources are still relevant. The only thing I had to add is that many online church accounting and member management services now offer donation buttons. Just keep in mind the fees they charge.
I’ve added “Donate Now” features to four different non-profit websites which I help maintain. One is a church, another is a local soup kitchen ministry, another is a school for the disabled, and the fourth is rotation.org -the free Sunday School lessons site.
First: Paypal. You simply sign up, fill out a form and they generate some code which you can paste into your website code. If you’re a non-profit, they take a certain percentage of every transaction (typically 2.5%), plus a per transaction fee (typically 30 cents a transaction). Charging a fee is standard for all creditcard options and transactions. To learn more go to https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/donations
There are many other web companies willing to set you up with a “Donate Now” button, but while their transaction fees are competitive, they often ALSO charge you a one-time set-up fee of anywhere from $50 to $250. Paypal doesn’t charge a set up fee for non-profits.
The second option I want to recommend is www.NetworkforGood.org. Mnay churches use them to manage their online donations. This non-profit company offers two ways to let people donate to your cause: 1) Immediately through their webform, or 2) Through a custom form you can get from them (for a setup fee). The first time YOU go to their website, you need to perform a SEARCH for your non-profit organization so they can verify who you are. Look for the “Support Any Charity” option on their Home page.
There are similar non-profits on the web. Wouldn’t it be great if your DENOMINATION created an organization to manage this process to save costs and support things like missions?
To create a direct link to your donate now page at their website, you’ll need to register for their free option . They’ll need your organization’s EIN tax number and will send you a password. When you get the password, go back to their site and complete the registration. Their instructions will give you a link address to which you add your EIN number to the end of the address. That’s your donate now link you can post on any website or send in an email. When somebody clicks that link, they are taken directly to your non-profit’s info at the NetworkForGood website, and a creditcard form that can be filled out on the spot.
When people click that link, they are taken to Networkforgood’s website where they see your organization’s name and mailing address data, and a Credit Card Donation form on the screen for them to fill out. Very easy. [You could sign up and pay for a “custom” donate now page, but it’s not cheap and has a monthly fee as well. The ‘free’ option works fine.] When you donate through their form, Networkforgood sends a check to the organization you want to support. They know the mailing address, because every 501-3c’s mailing address is a matter of public record.
Sounds simple, and it is, but the first time I saw this, I had to test it, so I sent $5 to an organization. And sure enough, about a week later they got a check in the mail from Networkforgood with my name on it as the donor. You also have to pay attention to their options for “organization” sign up.
TRY IT OUT ! Go to www.networkforgood.org and look down the right side of their Home page for the “SUPPORT ANY CHARITY” search box. Start there and search for your organization. When you find it, click it’s name and note the page URL that opens up. That’s what you can send others to -to make their donation.
Of course, Networkforgood.org collected 2.5% of my donation plus transaction fee. But any CC processing will do the same. So for example, if you make a $100 donation, Networkforgood sends $97.20. UPDATE: the rate is now 4.5% if you do not sign up as a “customer” and pay their registration fee and montly maintenance fee. See my “COMMENT” below for details about this, and why CC processing charges are going up.
Why your organization should accept Credit Card donations…
My instinct is to say, “Do I REALLY need to explain this here in the 21st Century?” But yeah, we probably still need to explain it to some people. Here’ s my explanation: Credit and Debit cards are a fact of life. Many of us CHOOSE to manage our spending with these tools. We pay our bills online because it’s convenient and manageable. And the immediacy of paying through a “Donate Now” button allows us to follow through on our desire to be good stewards. Trying to remember to send a check later in the month is not good stewardship.
Millennials are essentially a “cash less” generation. If you’re doing a bake sale after worship to support a mission trip, they may walk by your table. Many don’t own checkbooks and will look at your sideways if you say you don’t have an electronic payment option (or set one up themselves through their online checking account).
There is no shame in giving people an option to respond to real needs. And some organizations have a real need to handle contributions VIRTUALLY. For example, three of the four non-profit websites I work with belong to organizations that have FAR FLUNG groups of supporters. Our “members” don’t congregate on Sundays to put money in a basket.
My church, for example, doubles in size every Winter with snowbirds. Our website is one way for them to keep in touch during the off season, and the Donate Now button allows them to support various fundraisers that pop up during the year when they are not physically present. Most of them WANT TO SUPPORT these efforts. And giving them a convenient “Donate Now” option helps them feel connected across the distance.
Rather than be embarrassed by creditcard donations, -or thinking that they somehow cheapen the giving of gifts (as some old-fashioned folks will say), donating via creditcard is as an opportunity for people to RESPOND to NEEDS in a way that’s IMMEDIATE, and in a manner that’s CONVENIENT to them. When someone comes to our soup kitchen website, we are ALREADY implicitly asking for their support. And God knows we need it… in any amount, as soon as they can donate it.
And before anyone decries the “cost of creditcard transactions,” consider the other costs:
- The cost of an envelope, a check and a postage stamp.
- The time and cost of accounting for checks
- And cost of losing potential donations because well-intentioned givers DO forget!
- The cost of people NOT giving because you didn’t make it easy.
It has been said that churches should not be encouraging the use of creditcards, especially these days when so many people have abused their credit. My response to that is that we should not be encouraging the abuse of cash and bank accounts either. Stewardship is more than asking for money, among other things, it’s about helping people manage their finances so that they CAN contribute. That said, I would suggest that we ask members to ONLY use their DEBIT cards, so that they are not financing their contributions.
If you discover OTHER ONLINE OPTIONS that are easy to implement and not very expensive, please leave your comments here below.
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