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Fundraising Tips

How to Accept Donations Online as a Nonprofit (for free)

December 28, 2023

Launching a successful fundraising campaign that inspires online donations requires more than just passion.

Today's digital world makes developing and promoting online donation pages crucial. Compelling nonprofit storytelling and solid donor relationships provide a foundation for organizations to build a solid fundraising strategy.

This article offers a comprehensive guide with seven essential steps and tips to help your nonprofit organization accept online donations today:

  1. Set up a website
  2. Choose a Payment Processor
  3. Create Donation Pages
  4. Promote Donation Opportunities
  5. Express Gratitude
  6. Track Donations and Create Reports
  7. Make Improvements to Your Fundraising Campaign
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7 Steps to Accept Online Donations For Your Nonprofit

1. Set up a website

Set up a nonprofit website

One of the first things a new nonprofit needs is a website. While a Facebook page and other social media accounts can help spread awareness of your organization, you must have a website as a central online location for potential donors to visit.

Nonprofits can not only collect donations on their website, but they can also use it to share their organization's history and program details, volunteer opportunities, fundraising events and campaigns, and more. Nonprofit websites are the best way to encourage online giving and convert visitors into donors.

Pro Tip: When you formed your nonprofit, you had to fill out your organization's purpose on your state's Articles of Incorporation and when filing as a 501c3 organization with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

This purpose is why you decided to start a nonprofit in the first place. It can also help you develop a compelling mission statement for your organization. Once you have that mission statement, you must state it clearly on your organization's website.

A nonprofit mission statement tells potential donors who you are, what you hope to achieve, and how you plan to do it. This statement can be the primary reason many donors support a nonprofit.

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2. Choose a Payment Processor

Payment processor for nonprofits

There are a host of online payment processors for nonprofits. As you visit their websites and research each option, there are several features you must be aware of. A few of these features include

Pro Tip: The cost of an online payment processor can vary depending on the services they offer. Zeffy is the only 100% free fundraising platform. Nonprofits can use Zeffy to create online donation pages with a donation form, sell event tickets, raffle tickets, and products, encourage membership, run peer-to-peer campaigns, and collect donor data.

3. Create Donation Pages

Create a donation page

Donation forms and pages are the best way to collect donations online. Fundraising platforms allow nonprofits to create separate online donation pages for fundraising campaigns and events. When creating a donation form for your fundraising campaign, add your organization's branding with your logo, colors, font, and content. You must also share compelling stories and images on your online donation page to inspire donations.

Campaigns are successful when they inspire urgency and a sense of community. Your nonprofit organization can do that on an online donation page in several ways.

Recurring Donations

Nonprofits rely on recurring donations to plan for future events and program updates. Many online fundraising platforms allow donors to give one-time, monthly, and annual recurring donations. Nonprofits can develop memberships or recurring donor benefits that entice more supporters to join and give regularly.

Corporate Matching Gifts

Did your donors know they can double their donations? Many businesses match donation amounts of their employees as part of their employee benefits. Online platforms like Double the Donation allow nonprofits to add a link to donation pages that share lists of companies that offer this perk.

Matching Gift Challenges

A matching gift challenge is an excellent way to create a sense of urgency on your online donation page. Find a major donor or sponsor to give a significant fund if you can collect the same amount as other donor gifts. Promote your campaign online via email, social media, and peer-to-peer campaigns and compel action from your donors immediately.

Pro Tip: You must have a clear call to action to encourage more donations online. Make sure your donate button is obvious and easy to find. Use bright colors and text that inspire immediate action, like "Donate Now" or "Give Today."

Check out our article for our best tips on creating an engaging donation page →

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4. Promote Donation Opportunities

Promote donation opportunities

If you hope to find fundraising success, creating a multi-channel fundraising campaign and sharing your donation page online is best. Fundraising strategies like social media campaigns, email newsletters, and events are all excellent ways to spread the word about your organization and raise funds.

It's crucial to stay transparent about how you use donations. Donors have more options than ever before, so if you hope to gain their trust and long-term support, transparency is a must. You'll gain more attention from donors before, during, and after your fundraising campaigns if you share impactful stories and updates about programs and your fundraising success.

Pro Tip: Most people would rather purchase an item or give to a campaign suggested by a trusted friend or family member. Peer-to-peer campaigns are a way to do just that. Adding a peer-to-peer campaign to your next fundraiser will help you spread the word and use recommendations to excite new donors to give.

Learn how to start a peer-to-peer campaign with Zeffy here!

5. Express Gratitude

Express gratitude donations

The best way to boost donations for your organization is by expressing gratitude. You can do this before and during your fundraising campaign by treating donors as partners and sharing your mission and fundraising goals.

Once they give, donors should receive automated tax receipts. A donation receipt includes basics about their gift and gives them critical details to get tax deferments. After that, your nonprofit should also send personalized thank-you letters and work to develop relationships.

Pro Tip: Everyone appreciates acknowledgment, but if the only time you contact donors is after they give, they start to feel like an ATM.

Nonprofits can improve donor communications by collecting personal details and adding them to their donor management platform. Throughout the year, nonprofits can use this donor data to send birthday and anniversary cards, or holiday greetings and strengthen relationships with their supporters. 

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6. Track Donations and Create Reports

Track donations

Another crucial step to take after your campaign is to monitor the success of your online donation page. You should track donations and monitor donor engagement to see where your fundraiser is finding success and where you need to improve. As you pull reports and assess your fundraising efforts, do your best to understand donor behavior and why they gave. This will help you create future strategies.

Pro Tip: Before you track the success of your fundraising campaign and donation page, it's important to define your goals and set critical metrics, like:

These key performance indicators (KPIs) give you a fuller view of your fundraising campaign's success and concerns.

7. Make Improvements to Your Fundraising Campaign

Make improvements to your fundraising campaign

Pro Tip: Another way to monitor the success of your fundraisers and donation pages is to ask for donor's responses. Sending surveys via email and social media platforms can help you get essential donor feedback.

Once you ask donors for their opinions, listen to them and adjust your donation pages and forms when necessary. These changes can limit you from repeating the same mistakes next year and help your nonprofit organization save time.

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8 Effective Tips to Receive More Online Donations

What To Say On a Donation Page?

Craft Compelling Stories

Nonprofit stories raise awareness, create connections with donors, and inspire them to act. Think of the last time you gave to an organization or purchased an item. Can you remember what made you spend that money? Was there a person or story that you had in your head?

Many large corporations excel at storytelling. Typically, they'll create a hero and convince you that you want to become that person. Nonprofit storytelling is unique. The hero of your story must be a compelling character, but they're usually someone who has received your organization's services. Donors take the role of "Yoda" and are essential to help the hero reach their goals.

Effective storytelling is there to explain the need for your organization and direct potential donors to various ways they can make the most difference.

Offer Engaging Content

Nonprofits create donation pages to encourage larger and more frequent gifts. One of the best ways to do this is with the addition of features like:

Each of these helps nonprofit organizations educate, inspire, and motivate donors to give.

Customizable donation page

Highlight Donation Impact

Donors respond best to fundraising campaigns that share their impact. Nonprofit campaigns that show tangible results, statistics, and success stories will get their attention. Organizations effectively leveraging social media to share these impact details and updates see more visitors convert into donors.

Utilize Social Proof

One of the best ways to build trust and credibility is with testimonials. People have learned to ignore advertisements but are much more likely to try a new product or give to an organization that's been reviewed by a real person.

Nonprofits can add testimonials to their website, and donors can add their own reviews to the organization's donation forms. Nonprofits can also film and share endorsement videos from leaders and influencers in the community via emails and social media.

Include Calls to Action

Your donation page can have the best story, images, and impact details, but you won't receive their donation if visitors aren't encouraged to take the next step.

A call to action is essential. You can add calls to action throughout your page's content and with donation buttons. Make your call to action button visible and easy to find. Add bright colors and persuasive language that encourages immediate action. Common call-to-action statements include "Donate Now" or "Give Today!"

Link to Segmented Donation Forms

Personalized donor communication is critical to relationship building. A personalized donation appeal from your nonprofit organization reminds visitors of their connection to your mission and can entice them to click the link to your donation page. The issue comes when that donation page is not personalized with donation amounts and programs for that individual.

Nonprofit organizations can segment donors based on demographics, their program interests, and ability to pay. Creating a segmented donation page for different donor types and campaigns can increase donor engagement and help you reach your fundraising goals.

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Simplify the Donation Process

Another thing that may stop donors in their tracks is a complicated donation page. Effective email fundraising campaigns and social media appeals have convinced supporters to click on your donation form. If you've done your due diligence, these individuals have already been segmented to receive optimized donation pages.

When donors reach your donation form, the worst thing you can do is add too many questions and pauses that make them click away. You must streamline the donation process and reduce the number of clicks required to give.

Optimize Donation Pages

An optimized donation form directly impacts donors' gifts. Your donation form should be quick and hassle-free. More advanced donation forms take less time to load and have no broken links. Before going live, you must address the following issues that can limit you from accepting online donations:

How To Thank Your Donors?

Build Relationships

Nonprofits must build relationships with donors if they have any hope of accepting donations online. When thanking donors, you must show appreciation and share how their gifts have impacted the organization.

Treating your donors like partners will give them a stronger connection to your organization and encourage them to become long-term supporters. You can do this by involving them in your organization's mission and updating them on the campaign's progress throughout the campaign.

Promote Other Ways to Help

After showing appreciation for a donor's gift, you can share volunteer opportunities and promote upcoming events to excite them about your nonprofit. You should rarely ask for another gift in your donor acknowledgment letter, but educating donors about additional ways to learn about the organization or help can help strengthen relationships.

What are the Best Online Platforms To Get Donations?

Zeffy

Online platforms fees comparison

Zeffy is the only 100% free fundraising platform. Nonprofits can use this tool when accepting online donations, selling event and raffle tickets, selling products, and running peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

Key Features:

Pricing:

100% Free

Review:

“It was extremely easy to set up our account with Zeffy and create different forms for different fundraising activities. Customer service has been terrific. The platform's ability to allow easy communication with donors has been especially helpful. It has exceeded all my expectations."
Rochelle H.
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PayPal

Paypal for nonprofits

PayPal is one of the most used payment processors online. PayPal was not initially created for nonprofit organizations, but they have since included several features that offer online donation capabilities and encourage online giving. With their purchase of Venmo in 2013, PayPal can now provide users with more payment options than before.

Check out how PayPal and Zeffy compare.

Key Features:

Pricing:

PayPal charges 1.99% + $0.49 per transaction for nonprofits. Additional PayPal pricing can get complicated. Visit this article to review all potential fees for PayPal users.

Review:

"PayPal is a recognized and trusted platform for making/taking payments. It's great that they have a really good charity function that allows us to take donations via eBay for our cause. Also excellent that you can set up collection pots for causes or for group costs that people can put money into quickly and easily."
Ruth H.

Square

Square for nonprofits

Square was created in 2009 to offer a suite of financial services and tools to businesses of various sizes. Square has enabled nonprofits to accept payments, manage sales, and streamline business operations with their donation app.

Check out how Square and Zeffy compare

Key Features:

Pricing:

Square charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. There are no discounts for nonprofit organizations.

Testimonial:

"Anyone can run the devices and collect payments with ease. This functionality is a major bonus for nonprofit events that rely heavily on volunteers. You do not need a super savvy staff member to manage this." Megan N.

Givebutter

Givebutter platform

Givebutter is a fundraising platform designed to streamline the process of collecting donations online and managing fundraising events and campaigns. Givebutter stands out for its user-friendly interface and innovative approach to online fundraising.

Check out how Givebutter and Zeffy compare.

Key Features:

Pricing:

Givebutter charges 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Donors can cover processing fees for nonprofits. Givebutter claims that 95% of donors cover these fees.

Review:

"Givebutter offers a simple interface for the user and donor that makes giving less of a hassle and more of a conversation. Givebutter has supported the launching of our capital campaign with tools that put our organization in control of the relationship with the donor."
Carlton T.

Classy

Classy website for nonprofit

Classy is a comprehensive online fundraising platform that empowers nonprofits and social enterprises to create impactful and successful fundraising campaigns. It provides a range of tools and features to streamline the fundraising process and maximize donor engagement.

Check out how Classy and Zeffy compare.

Key Features:

Pricing:

Classy's website doesn't include pricing but invites nonprofits to get custom pricing for all three packages.

Testimonial:

"Its functionality is very unique compared to what other sites offer and it's simple and easy to learn. I also love the access to support and customer service lines that help us help our donors fairly immediately."
Leslie R.

Ready to Start Accepting Donations Online?

Mastering online fundraising is vital for nonprofits looking to make a lasting impact. From establishing a robust online presence with a purpose-driven website to investing in the right payment processor and crafting compelling donation pages, each of the following seven steps is pivotal:

Begin using Zeffy to implement these strategies today - no fees involved - and watch your organization's fundraising efforts grow.

Start accepting donations now for free

Keep learning about donations for nonprofits:

14 tips to Create a Donation Page That Actually Works

11 Best Donation Websites for Fundraising

5 online donation form best practices