Introduction

For even the smallest charity or community group, covering running costs and financing projects can be time consuming and frustrating. In this increasingly digital world, the coin collection tubs are looking less relevant and less successful. They’re not redundant in all situations by any means but increasingly, sustainability will drive all of us online to some extent or other; from creating a simple donation facility on social media or website to a national match funding campaign to cover running costs or crowd funding campaign to finance a project. So, in this resource we look at some of the growing army of fundraising platforms to see what they can do and how they compare.

Our research

We started by identifying 10 fundraising platforms that are currently available. This isn’t all of them, but this selection gives a good representation, we think, of where the market is at just now. In the main they’re run by charities or other not-profit social enterprises and there doesn’t seem to be any sinister profiteering going on. There are differences though between them in terms of:

  • Objectives: what their principle focus is
  • Functionality; what additional services they deliver
  • Connectivity; how they can be used in partnership with other software
  • Price; how much you pay to use the platform and how it’s taken.

We’ve put together a comparison table that you can read by clicking here, but if you’re new to all this, we encourage you to read the rest of this resource first, so that the column entries make sense.

Features

The four bullets from above give us our headings under which to start considering the features of the platforms:

Objectives

The basic objective of any portal is to make it easy for people to donate funds. At it’s simplest that might be just to enable people who pay subscriptions or membership fees or activity costs. We know that some of you have become pretty adept at attracting enough funding to keep going this way. As you’ll see under the functionality heading, later in this resource, all of the platforms we reviewed can be used for that purpose.

We’ve identified four further differentiators between platforms though, which are relevant when you are planning your fundraising:

  • The USP of one of the platforms, (Donate) is facilitating payment by alternative means such as text and payment card machine. The latter is like the really modern equivalent of the donation box and could be helpful at an event to collect donations on the spot or to use to take payment for products that you sell to raise funds.
  • Some platforms enable others to run their own fundraising activities, with their own fundraising page on the platform that feeds your campaign.
  • Some of the platforms have functionality and support to help you with getting Match Funding. This can mean one of two things:
    • One of the portals registers potential donors and records their interests. The portal then matches you with people who looking to donate to groups like you.
    • The portal gives you access, support and functionality to work with, for example, employers who run schemes for employees where the they match any charitable donations made by their employee.
  • A number of the portals encourage and support crowdfunding. This is where the view is taken that an appeal could generate wide interest, so you can run a national campaign to meet a clear and specific funding target.

Some of the terms here may appear to be just fashion. After all, they just involve attracting donations. But if you think the project that you want to fund for is likely to be attractive to a wider audience, platforms that encourage and support developments like match fund funding and crowdfunding will be known by donors who themselves use these routes to identify appropriate causes to support. In other words, the platform itself helps you to find a wider audience to support you.

So, planning your fundraising project is needed before you start looking at software. Essentially that’s about:

  • Being clear about the amount you need and the benefits that success will generate.
  • Taking a view on:
    • who your most likely donors will be,
    • where they are,
    • what approach will appeal to them,
    • how best to reach them and,
    • whether you have a big enough contact database already.

If you have a good following in your community, it may be that tidying up (or getting!) a website or social media account, adding a simple donation facility and running a social media campaign will be sufficient for your purposes. We can help you with all of that. And if you want to go bigger, we can go on the journey with you too, if you want us to.

Functionality

The columns in the comparison table that relate to functionality are:

  • Campaign page – your shop window for your activities and funding aspirations
  • Fundraising page – The ability for your supporters to run their own page and activities to support your charity or group.
  • Local community Search – If you think your appeal is only going to be supported by the local community then this enables them to find you more easily
  • Web donation link and payment card process. All platforms provide these but we included them for avoidance of doubt!
  • Donation by text and Donation by card machine are features of only one platform (Donate) and has some terms and conditions that you need to investigate before using.
  • Crowdfunding and Match Funding are, in our view, more about how you find donors than how you process their donations. We have indicated all the funds where these terms are used on their website, as an indication that they are likely to have functionality and online support for these facilities. Further research would be needed if you choose to go down one of these routes.
  • Finally, there’s a column for events. This could appear as either functionality or connectivity but it’s in this section because many of the platforms allow you to manage the events as well as collect the related donations. One though integrates with the online event management tool, Eventbrite. We don’t see it as being beyond the realms of possibility to run event management separately from the donation platform, so it’s not a biggie, in our view.

Connectivity

The columns in the comparison table that relate to connectivity are:

  • We’ve included reporting under connectivity because you may want to manage some of the reporting data in other software packages. In our experience, most portals allow you download data tables in CSV format although we haven’t investigated this in detail. We’ve only noted YES against platforms who advertise reporting functionality because if they don’t mention it they are unlikely in our view to give it much attention. Data could include all campaign activity, financial transactions and gift aid details that you’ll need for your accounts, along with any contact details that are collected from donors. You can use this to populate CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software IF the platforms operate GDPR Compliant Marketing Opt-In, which is indicated in the adjacent column.
  • API Links are a way of connecting software packages by magic (well, it feels that way!) so that you can eliminate the need to download and upload data files. You’ve probably embarked on a major and sophisticated project if you need them, but we’ve indicated where software developers can use them, just in case.

Pricing

Platform charges seem to be as complicated here as anywhere else and if cost is a key consideration, it would be wise to have a good idea about donation traffic and volumes in advance so that you can run some projections to identify the most efficient route for your campaign. Anyway, the columns in the comparison table are:

  • Sign up fee – what you need to pay upfront before you can use the platform
  • Regular charge £– As is says.
  • Platform fee – This is normally expressed as a % of each donation. You’ll note that a number of platforms don’t charge a specific fee to the user group but do invite donors to give a ‘tip’ in addition to their donation as a contribution toward the platform running costs. Donate claims that 70% of donors do exactly that.
  • Payment Processing Charge – Again this is normally expressed as a percentage of each donation. The principal cost that this covers is the processing charge levied by the card issuer. So it’s unavoidable really. Card issuers charge slightly different rates so most platforms try to come up a charge that means they can cover all of the cards levied by all card issuers. A couple add in their own costs. Totalgiving doesn’t handle the money at all, they get they card issuer to pay the money straight to the user group. So even though they make a thing of their being no charges, in reality the cost of the payment processing is similar to that of other platforms.
  • Gift Aid Charge – Which varies much more than we expected

Next steps

So now you know what some of the terms mean, have a look at the comparison table.

We don’t have enough experience of using the platforms yet so we’re not going to offer recommendations at this stage. We think though if you’re a small group looking for a simple donation facility to add to your facebook page or website, we’d start by looking at these 3 first:

  • JustGiving START – which is a simpler and cheaper option than the full featured GROW proposition
  • Virgin Money
  • Total Giving

If you have any questions and/or have decided what you need and need support. Please contact us. There is no charge for our support for full Unity members.

If you’ve read all and have experiences of any of the fundraising plaftforms or funding methods, again please contact us and if appropriate we can add you’re your comments to this page to help your fellow members.

Feature Comparision

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