Daniel Fluskey — head of policy at the Institute of Fundraising — spoke in the Guardian recently about online fundraising platforms:
“The experience of our members is that having a good site that they can rely on, that they know works and minimises fraud is incredibly useful, and it is also important that donors and supporters get a smooth experience. If it is clunky and doesn’t work well, people won’t give.”
Having the right fundraising platform for your charity is essential. But how do you choose when they’re all slightly different, with various features and benefits? Even a simple fee comparison can be confusing. Some platforms claim to be free, but ask donors to pay 5% on top of their donation to support the platform. Others charge annual fees, or one-off membership. There are also the payment provider fees to consider, that vary from platform to platform.
Fees aren’t the only consideration, either. Many platforms offer more than just payment processing and Gift Aid collection. Some provide useful resources to help you whip your campaign into shape and maximise reach. Some give you your own microsite. Some are major players that dominate the field, while others help with specific scenarios, like grant applications.
Another vital aspect that Fluskey highlights is user experience.
Finding the right balance of fees, features and user experience will help you decide which platform to opt for. It may be that your charity could benefit from being on more than one platform, too. We’ve rounded up the best online donation and fundraising platforms in 2021 to help you decide.
We’re also throwing our own fledgeling platform into the mix...
DonateFlow is a free online donation platform we developed during the early days of the Coronavirus crisis to help charities raise much-needed funds. It allows charities to fundraise directly through their own domains. It’s super easy to use (we set it up for you — all you need is a Stripe account or other payment processor) with a smooth donation process. You'll find more details on our DonateFlow case study, at the end of this page 👇 or at donateflow.com.
So here we go...
Best for donor confidence and trust
We have to start with Just Giving. It’s the platform that helped Captain Tom Moore raise an awe inspiring £32.7m and counting from over 1.5 million supporters at the peak of the coronavirus crisis. Just Giving is clearly a major player and has likely done more for online fundraising than any other organisation. It is a for-profit company owned by Blackbaud, Inc. It boasts 22 million users worldwide. It has all the benefits you’d expect from a big platform, including some great advice and resources to help charities raise more and get the most out of the platform. It has a 4.5 star “excellent” rating on Trustpilot from 1,650 reviews.
Just Giving fees
- In the UK charities pay a monthly subscription fee of £15+VAT if the charity’s total fundraising is less than £15,000. If over £15,000 the monthly subscription is £39+VAT.
- Processing fees are 1.9% + 20p and there’s a 5% charge on Gift Aid, too.
- Funds are delivered to the charity on a weekly or monthly basis.
Virgin Money Giving —UPDATE— closing down November 2021
Virgin Money Giving announced that is would cease operations on November 30, 2021.
While it was another big player and Just Giving’s main competitor, it's operation was tied to Virgin Money's sponsorship of the London Marathon. With that sponsorship coming to an end in 2021, so will the giving platform that hundreds of thousands of people have used to raise millions for good causes. Consider DonateFlow or another platform in this article as a Virgin Money Giving alternative.
Crowdfunder offers rewards based crowdfunding projects that they say can raise significantly more than straight donations. It also offers “+Extra” funding, a match funding feature that could help you raise more funds through the platform. Expert coaching is available, and Crowdfunder encourages you to put your ‘story’ at the heart of your fundraising to get the most out of your project. All donations including Gift Aid are handled by Crowdfunder. It has a 4.6 star “excellent” rating on Trustpilot from 1531 reviews.
- Charities pay no platform fees or transaction fees.
- To support the platform donors are invited to give a little (optional) extra when they pledge.
- A fee of 5% + VAT may apply to any +Extra funding you receive, according to specific terms and conditions.
Best for small or local charities
As you can guess this from its name, Localgiving is on a mission to help local charities. It says more than £24m has been raised on the platform including £3.5m in match funding and £400k in grants. It offers crowdfunding as well as fundraising campaigns and competitions. One-to-one support, in depth reporting and tips and resources are all available to charity members. At time of writing, £500 grants are being offered to charities promoting sports and physical activity.
- Membership for charities is £80+VAT per year.
- Payment processing is charged at 1% +16p for debit cards, 1.4% +16p for credit cards and Paypal, and more for non-UK cards and American Express. Monthly Direct Debits carry a 10p fee per transaction.
- 5% commission is charged on donations above £200 and donors can ‘tip’ the platform, too.
- Payments are dispersed to charities every 2–3 weeks.
Givey champions small to medium sized charities that they say account for nearly 95% of the market, but receive just 10% of charitable donations. They reverse that trend, claiming that 90% of donations on Givey go to small to medium sized charities, with focus on community and local causes. It benefits UK charities that are strong on social media by collecting donations through popular platforms like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook. If that sounds like your charity, it’s definitely worth checking it out. Like a lot of these platforms, Givey provides a range of features and resources to help charities maximise their incomes. It’s worth noting that Givey does not automate Gift Aid; you have to download the data and submit it to HMRC yourself.
- Donors pay an additional 5% on top of their donation amount to cover fees, with no charges, subscription or membership fees for the charity.
- Payment schedules can be set via the ‘Charity dashboard’.
Best for grant applications
The Good Exchange
The Good Exchange is an organisation that helps connect funders (trusts, foundations, philanthropists and so on) with charities and other organisations that want to raise money for specific projects or causes. Its independent research found that only 2 in 5 grant applications succeed, equating to “22 working days of wasted effort” for each charity in the study. The Good Exchange uses technology to make the process more efficient. For project-based charities this seems like it could be a game changer.
The Good Exchange fees
- Fees are capped at 5%+VAT of the money being sought through the platform, and are paid by the charity monthly by Direct Debit, after the funds are disbursed to the charity.
- No fees are due on unsuccessful applications, and there are no other fees to pay.
Best for joined up services
The Charities Aid Foundation’s donation platform is used by over 6000 charities to raise funds and process donations. It offers branded donation pages, campaign pages, Gift Aid reclaim, Direct Debit, embeddable buttons and forms and a raft of other features. CAF is a charity in itself. It provides a whole range of support to charities and even runs its own bank. If you’re looking for joined up services the CAF should definitely feature on your shortlist.
CAF Donate fees
- Fees are 3.6% on one-off donations (including Gift Aid), but if you bank with CAF you get a discount on this fee.
- For regular donations CAF charges 2% (capped at £5) and a £1 set-up fee for new Direct Debit instructions.
Best for accessing a large supporter community
GoFundMe claims to be “the world's largest social fundraising platform” with a network of hundreds of millions of donors. It has a number of tools for charities covering donations, fundraising and events, with unrestricted access to data for reporting and insight. It offers all the support and resources needed to manage a whole raft of fundraising activities and free integrations with other key systems like Salesforce, Mailchimp.
- For UK charities the fees are 1.9% +20p per donation.
- Payments are administered by the PayPal Giving Fund.
Best for match funding
The Big Give
The Big Give promotes itself as the “UK’s #1 match funding platform” and runs the UK’s biggest online match funding campaign, The Christmas Challenge. It specialises in bringing individuals, charities and philanthropists together (a bit like The Good Exchange) and has helped support over 10,000 charities since 2007. Charities on the platform can take part in Big Give match funding campaigns and build their own fundraising and match funding campaigns on the site. Research commissioned by The Big Give found that 84% of respondents believed that they would be more likely to give to a charity appeal if they were told that the donations would be matched.
The Big Give fees
- Payment processing is run by Charity Checkout (see above) and fees are calculated at 1.9% of the donation amount (before Gift Aid) plus 20p, plus 4% of Gift Aid.
- Donors are given the opportunity to leave a tip to help with running costs.
- Payments are made to charities every two weeks.
Any nonprofit, anywhere in the world can join GlobalGiving, subject to approval. It provides fundraising pages, incentivised giving, training, one-to-one support and match funding. It claims to be the only platform offering the equivalent of Gift Aid and 501c3 around the world, reaching 170 countries to date.
- The platform levies a 5–12% support fee, plus 3% donation processing fee.
Niote: GlobalGiving claims to raise an average of £2 for every £1 spent in fees through match funding, corporate partner donations and so on. It states “Most of our partners experience a 0% net fee”. On top of that, it says no other organisation does more to help nonprofits improve their day-to-day performance on the ground.
Best for events and ticketing
Enthuse (formerly CharityCheckout)
NOTE: Fees may have changed since writing.
Enthuse is a “tech-for-good” company offering a platform for regular and one-off donations, customisable and branded donation pages and Gift Aid processing. When branded as CharityCheckout (they rebranded in July 2020) they claimed of their fundraising suite “your supporters will feel like they never left your website”. CharityCheckout’s fees for processing payments were low, and it claimed to charge “0% platform fees to charities” but it did levy a subscription for the fundraising suite.
CharityCheckout fees were:
- Payment processing is charged at 0.5% + 20p per transaction and 5% on Gift Aid.
- The fundraising suite attracts a subscription of £299+VAT billed annually, or £29.99+VAT billed monthly.
- Payments are sent to charities once a month.
Best for giving directly to the charity
Total Giving claims to be the UK’s fastest growing online funding platform for charity — a not-for-profit that makes a big show of it’s features and calls itself “the platform with no limits”. Donations go directly to the charity at the point of donation, rather than being transferred periodically. This leads to another grand claim that Total Giving is “the only platform to 100% guarantee the charity receives its donations”.
Total Giving fees
- It’s fees are low, at just 1.3% +20p per transaction. A handy donation fee calculator shows that charities receive more through Total Giving than a number of other providers.
- Donations go directly to the charity at the point of donation.
Almost a platform in its own right, GiveWP is a comprehensive plugin for wordpress that claims to “increase your online donations, manage donors, and gain insight on your effort — all from directly within your WordPress website”. It's worth noting that we would never advocate for Wordpress, but if you're already sold on it, GiveWP offers a range of impressive features and integrations and claims 90,000 active installs with over 350 5-star reviews.
- GiveWP comes in three tiers: Basic is $144 for the first year ($240 thereafter); Plus is $216 for the first year ($360 thereafter); and Pro is $288 for the first year ($480 thereafter).
- It is covered by a “100% zero risk guarantee” 30 day no-questions-asked full refund.
- No other fees are payable.
DonateFlow is a new offering from Ten4. It’s a simple donation platform that uses your own domain throughout the whole process, so your donors never leave your website. That means you can control every aspect of the experience. We know how important it is to keep trust with your supporters and believe our platform is a great way to achieve this during the donation process.
Other standard features include:
- Your own branding;
- One-off and monthly or yearly recurring card payments;
- Suggested donation figures to ‘nudge-up’ your per-donation average;
- Easy export of data for analysis or Gift Aid submission;
- Apple Pay for super-easy donations on mobile;
- Google and Facebook analytics integration so you can track everything you need to.
Here are some of the things on our roadmap:
- CRM integration so you can create and nurture long-term relations with your supporters;
- More ways to pay, like direct debit, Paypal and Google Pay;
- Multiple campaign or appeal pages;
- Automated GiftAid to reduce administration.
- DonateFlow is free for six months. Please get in touch if you’d like to discuss platform fees.
- Stripe payment processing incurs fees of 1.4% +20p for European cards (2.9% for non-European cards), although Stripe says the fees are discounted for nonprofit organisations.
How to get more donations through your website
Many organisations are turning to online donations to help them through the coronavirus pandemics. Here are some ways to make your donation page more effective.