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What to Look for in an Online Giving Platform

Lindsay McGuire
December 3, 2019
Min Read

Americans give over $400 billion annually to charity. Around half of all Americans make at least one charitable donation each year. An online giving platform can help your nonprofit promote, collect, and manage a variety of online donations such as one-time, monthly, and for events.

When using any software, it’s important to save time for your administrative team while providing an even better customer experience to your donors and fundraising attendees.

In this post, we’re covering everything you need to know about choosing an online giving platform that works for you and your donors.

What is an online giving platform?

An online giving platform is the best way to collect donations online and is used by nonprofits, churches, and other community organizations. The platform should include registration and sign up forms, secure payments, receipts and invoices, and automated thank you and confirmation emails.

The top features to look for in a platform for giving and fundraising

The wrong software can waste time and hinder donations. The right software can save time and boost donations.

Let’s take a look at all of the features you need to make sure your platform helps you succeed in increasing online donations.

Accept payments securely

Your online giving software should be able to accept payments without you having to configure a merchant account. To handle payments, the software should have a direct integration with a secure payment platform such as Stripe, Bambora Chargify, PayPal, or Square.

Online payment processing for nonprofits must be able to accept a variety of payments: one time donations, event registration, and monthly recurring donations.

Your platform should also be able to automatically generate invoices and receipts as well as thank you letter confirmations, so that your team doesn’t have to handle these things manually.

Manage events, including availability and pricing

For many people, giving is about more than writing a check and they want to be involved. Events are a great way to involve donors and partners and expand your network.

Your software should do double duty. In addition to handling online donations, it should serve as an event management hub.

Within the overall category of events management, here’s what your platform should help you accomplish:

  • Customize event registration forms easily
  • Manage complicated pricing, such as adding up quantities of tickets, including different levels of tickets, and allowing extra donations and add-ons
  • Manage a list of attendees so you can communicate with them prior to or following the event
  • Redirect capabilities, so that after registering for an event, attendees can be taken to another webpage that gives them next steps, asks them to share the event with friends, etc.

Analytics and reporting to help boost donations

There’s always room to grow. That’s why it’s important to find an online giving platform that includes analytics and reporting so you can learn how to optimize your fundraising forms, event registration forms, donation forms, and other important pages using data on page read time, traffic source, and device type.

For example, you might find that mobile users have a much lower time on page, which would indicate that you need to make some changes to appeal to mobile users. Maybe shorter copy or a different layout could help.

Great customer experience for donors

You should make it as easy as possible for people to make an online donation. Choose an online giving platform that has a user-friendly design and navigation. The worst thing would be for a potential donor to give up on your software after a few unsuccessful or frustrating attempts.

There are a few ways that you can vet a platform:

  • Check that the design of their website is clean, simple, and modern
  • Check the design of any screenshots used on their website
  • Sign up for a free trial and pilot it yourself (check the user flows from a donors experience in addition to exploring the administrative features)

Easy to use and customize

Now that we’ve covered ease and enjoyment of use for donors, it’s time to explore this from the administrative side of things.

The event registration, one-time donation, and monthly donation forms that you create should all be very simple and easy to customize. It should also be easy to set up automated thank you and confirmation emails, and communicate as needed with donors and event attendees.

Donation forms for nonprofits look and perform best when branded. This helps donors associate the form or webpage with your nonprofit. Whether it’s a form to get volunteers for an event or to collect monthly recurring donations, it should be easy to use branded colors and fonts as well as your nonprofit logo. This way, your forms match your fundraising website and all of your marketing materials.

Ease of use should spread offline too. Offline data capture can help your team collect data and pledges in person, even when there’s no internet available. This information should easily upload into your platform once you’ve connected to the internet again.

Read Next: 5 Tips for Designing an Online Donation Form

Integrates with other software

Online fundraising tools won’t manage every aspect of your nonprofit. That’s why it’s so important that your online fundraising platform talk to whatever other systems you’re using.

It should include direct integrations with critical software and also integrate with Zapier, which connects over 1,500 different software together.

A Zapier connection means you can integrate your online giving platform to an email marketing system like Mailchimp in order to add new donors to your email newsletter, or to your donor management system or CRM to keep track of donors for any purpose. With Zapier, donations could be added to your accounting software, or any other place where you track and measure donations.

Because online donations are so critical, it’s essential that this platform already include easy integrations. Otherwise, it will create administrative work instead of eliminate it.

Online fundraising platforms help you collect donations easily online. They give you all of the analytics you need to optimize your donation forms and boost results. They should cut down on admin time while impressing donors. And most importantly, they must seamlessly transfer data to your CRM and marketing software.

If you’re in need of an online giving platform that makes it simple and easy to connect with donors, give Formstack a try! Start your free trial now to see all our powerful and intuitive tools in action.

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Lindsay McGuire
Lindsay is the Content Marketing Manager at Formstack, splitting her time between creating blog content, writing reports, and hosting Formstack's Practically Genius podcast. She's a proud graduate of the University of Missouri School of Journalism (MIZ!) and loves connecting with others on LinkedIn.
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