Selecting the right donation platform for your nonprofit website can be a game-changer.
The problem is that there are dozens of different nonprofit donation platforms to choose from, each boasting its own features and pricing structures. How are you supposed to know which platform is best for your organization?
That’s where this article comes in.
Our goal with this piece is to provide a clear, unbiased review of 8 online giving platforms frequently used by nonprofits.
In this article, we break down our findings across three core areas – Features, Pricing, and Integration – using a detailed scoring system to objectively compare and contrast these platforms.
Whatever the size of your nonprofit, our goal with this study is to help you make an informed decision in the ever-evolving digital landscape of nonprofit fundraising.
Choosing the Platforms
For this review, we chose 8 nonprofit donation platforms that we see most frequently being used for online giving experiences.
Our goal with this review was to include platforms that focus specifically on online giving. For this reason, we excluded all-in-one platforms like Blackbaud, Salesforce, and Bloomerang. While these platforms offer online giving tools as part of their suite of products, these are typically only a part of what they do, and therefore the quality of these products suffers.
You can learn more about the pros and cons of all-in-one tools by reading our article on the topic here.
We also include PayPal as part of this review even though it isn’t an online giving tool. We see a lot of nonprofits still using this to capture donations so we wanted to show the pros and cons of this decision as part of this review.
Here is a full list of the online-giving-focused platforms we reviewed:
- Fundraise Up
Designing the Scoring System
As mentioned above, we scored these platforms across three core areas – Features, Pricing, and Integrations – and designed a weighted scoring system to objectively compare each platform.
The total available points for each critical area is 18.
Then, we attributed different weighting to each core area based on importance.
This weighted scoring system indicates that when it comes to evaluating options, we think features are most important, followed by pricing, and finally integration is the last consideration.
All are critical, but not equally.
Let’s take a deeper dive into each core area.
People today expect to have easy, high-quality experiences when interacting with brands’ websites. They expect multiple ways to pay, easy checkout processes, and control over their information and data.
We even recently wrote a piece about how expectations around donor experiences have evolved so definitely check that out before you continue with this comparison.
The best way to deliver a modern giving experience is to select tools that design these considerations – multiple payment methods, easy checkout, and account control – into their products.
As part of this review, we identified 9 of the most important features that these products should include. We’ve listed them below with a quick description:
- Recurring Giving
This one is pretty straightforward. Does the product allow users to easily turn on recurring payments for their donations?
- Donor Portal
Does the product allow donors to create accounts to view their donation history and manage their payment methods themselves?
- Embeddable Donation Form
Can nonprofits embed the donation form directly into the website, rather than redirecting users to an external URL?
- Donation Widgets
Beyond just the donation form, does the product allow nonprofits to embed other interactive donation widgets, such as goal trackers, sticky buttons, donor leaderboards, impact sliders, and more?
- Digital Wallets
Beyond just accepting PayPal, does the product allow donations to be made through ApplePay, GooglePay, or any other digital wallet?
- Peer-to-Peer Fundraising
Does the product allow people to easily start their own personal fundraising campaigns through the website?
Does the product allow people to donate via text message?
- Campaign/Fundraising Pages
Does the product allow nonprofits to easily spin up campaign and fundraising pages?
- Donor Off-set
Does the product allow nonprofits to prompt users to offset the credit card transaction fees?
Each feature is worth 2 points towards the product’s final Features score.
If you talk to most nonprofits about a new tool, their first question will be about pricing.
How much does it cost?
And this is fair. Nonprofits are expected to be highly cost-conscious and this is the lens in which many of their decisions are made.
We get it.
But when we talk about pricing, we don’t necessarily just mean which option is the cheapest. We also want to compare the transparency of the pricing structure along with the flexibility of the pricing for different-sized nonprofits.
So, here is a breakdown of what our Pricing review looks like.
- Pricing Transparency
How clearly does the product communicate its associated costs?
Is the product’s pricing structure flexible enough for smaller nonprofits to be able to use all of its important features?
- Estimated Annual Cost
What would be the yearly cost of the product to the nonprofit that receives 1,000 individual donations totaling $50,000 in total online donations?
For items #1 and #2, a “Yes” equals 6 points.
For item #3, the point system is outlined in the table below:
The ability of your selected online giving platform to integrate with the other tools in your ecosystem makes a huge difference when it comes to running your organization.
That is of course, unless you enjoy manually updating donor records in three places.
Let’s say you’re running a major fundraising campaign and your donors give through your online giving tool, great!
Now someone on your team has to manually copy that donor’s information to your donor management system. Not so great.
Finally, you’d like to send a thank you email to all of your donors at the end of the fundraising campaign. Now you have to manually import all of that donor data into your email marketing tool.
That sounds miserable and a waste of your time and resources.
So we try and find tools that play nicely together.
Our Integration review includes the following criteria in it’s scoring system.
- Native CRM Integrations
Does this product integrate natively (without the need for fancy programming) to one or more CRMs?
- Native Accounting Integrations
Does this product integrate natively to one or more accounting software
- Zapier Apps
Does this product offer easy-to-setup Zapier integrations (a bridge tool for building integrations) for third-party tools?
Each “Yes” is 6 points.
Each “No” is 0 points.
Below you’ll find a table that shows how each platform performed across the 9 features we outlined as part of our methodology.
Right away it’s clear that PayPal is lacking big time in terms of features. PayPal is not designed specifically for online giving.
Let me say that one more time for the nonprofits in the back…
PayPal is not designed for online giving.
Okay, glad we got that out of the way.
The next biggest loser here is DonorPerfect, which scored a 10 out of 18 for features.
In terms of big winners here, both GiveLively and GiveButter got perfect scores, including all 9 features as part of their platform.
Both GiveLively and GiveButter had all 9 essential features.
Next up are the results from our Pricing comparison. We know this is the one you’re probably most interested in.
The first thing that becomes pretty clear is that DonorPerfect is in bad shape. After a pretty lackluster score on our Features comparison, it turns around and also presents the most expensive investment for nonprofits. Not only that, its pricing is confusing and many of its features (which are already limited) are hidden behind expensive plans.
That’s an interesting business strategy…
Further, Classy suffered here simply because there is no pricing information available online. Trust us, we looked. To get pricing info, you have to get roped into a sales call with one of their account managers.
Every other platform has a clear “Pricing” tab on their homepage that actually tells you about their pricing. So, since we couldn’t find any pricing information, we just gave them a big ole “0”.
Maybe that’s immature but we’re annoyed.
In terms of winners, the two that stand out are GiveLively and Zeffy. Both platform’s costs are passed on to donors, asking them during their donation to support the platform that is facilitating this transaction.
The big difference is that Zeffy also covers credit card fees.
This is huge. Credit card fees add up.
So while both platforms offer a great value, Zeffy wins out on this one.
Zeffy proved to be the platform with the lowest cost.
Lastly, let’s look at how these platforms compare when it comes to their ability to easily integrate with the rest of your nonprofit’s tools.
Yikes DonorPerfect! Another lackluster performance.
To be fair, DonorPerfect does have a donor management product that it is likely trying to get people to use in addition to its online giving tool. But if its donor management product shows similar scores as its online giving product, we don’t want it!
We’ll stop picking on DonorPerfect.
The big winners here are PayPal, Donately, and Fundraise Up.
Fundraise Up has the largest library of native product integrations.
Final Scores & Comments
Drum roll, please…
Below are the final scores after each area has been added up and weighted according to the importance we outlined in our methodology.
Okay, lots to discuss here so let’s go platform by platform with a quick review of their performance.
Why do so many nonprofits still use PayPal for their online giving? Well…it’s cheap and easy. That’s about it!
Donately scored well when it comes to integration. It also had most of the features we were looking for but it was one of the more expensive options.
…we don’t like it. It is expensive, has very few key features, and it doesn’t play nicely with other tools.
Perhaps it’s time for a rebrand?
How about “DonorDisaster”?
GiveLively tied for the highest score! We love this option. It’s low-cost and offers a wide variety of features.
The only challenge here is that it is limited when it comes to integrations. The only native CRM integration it supports is with Salesforce.
But at that price…we still love it.
Just behind GiveLively and GiveButter (“Give” seems to be a smart branding choice) is Fundraise Up with 16.4 points.
Honestly, we still like this option a ton.
It’s got every online giving feature you could need plus it integrates easily with dozens of other tools. The only reason it’s not kicking everyone else’s a$$ is because it’s more expensive.
That being said, its pricing structure is highly flexible and transparent so that’s a major plus.
Classy…oh Classy… had you just provided us with more transparent pricing, we may have been nicer to you. Instead, after spending 30 minutes trying to get a sense of cost and coming up empty, we resented you throughout the rest of the review.
Even still, a mediocre performance when it came to Features and Integrations means we still aren’t super jazzed about this option.
Tied with GiveLively for first, GiveButter is a great option to consider for online giving. It offers full set of features at a bargain price.
And while both GiveLively and GiveButter scored the same in the Integrations area, GiveButter actually presents more native integration options than GiveLively does.
That being said, it is a bit more expensive. Tradeoffs right?
Zeffy is an interesting one. It has ZERO native integrations (everything goes through Zapier) and a mediocre Features list, however (and this is a big however), it is 100% free.
So, if cost is your biggest concern and you don’t want to spend the extra $1 – $2k on a tool live GiveLively or GiveButter, than Zeffy is your move.
Are you struggling with choosing a new online giving platform for your nonprofit? Feel free to schedule a no-commitment call with our team to discuss your online giving strategy.