Today, individual and organizational fundraising is really beginning to come into its own. With a wide variety of online services and apps to choose from, you can begin fundraising for an individual project, a charity or an organization nearly as quickly as you dream up the idea in the first place! But this doesn’t mean that all fundraising tools are created equal. The whole point of raising funds is to net as much towards the bottom line—the project or cause you’re raising money for, whether for-profit or nonprofit—while paying the least amount in fees.
Choosing an online fundraising platform
If you’re actively searching for an online fundraising platform that offers a partial or fully turnkey approach to accepting donations online, it can be helpful to be aware that certain platforms are specifically targeted to certain types of events. Here are a few examples you can use as a go-by.
- Crowdrise: This platform is best for athletic events (such as marathon or walk fundraising), special events and team-based nonprofit fundraising.
- Indiegogo: This platform is best for donation-based fundraising efforts for individuals, creative projects, nonprofit projects and other "catch all" projects.
- Kickstarter: This platform is best for individual creative projects only—not for charitable causes.
- Crowdfunder: This platform is best for funding business-based projects (both for profit and nonprofit).
Tips to help you save on online fundraising fees
These tips can help you capture the most funding for the causes you care about.
Setup fees refer to that fee you pay to initialize your campaign. It’s a true "catch all" category, encompassing everything from administrative overhead to support with technology.
Tips to avoid paying: Rather than paying one setup fee and then a bunch of other fees for different services, you want to look for an “all inclusive” setup fee that incorporates everything you’ll need to run your campaign—simple, efficient, easy!
Here are two examples of sites with different types of setup fees.
- FirstGiving: If you’re fundraising as part of a nonprofit organization (this is separate from fundraising as an individual on behalf of a nonprofit) FirstGiving will only take a percentage of donations…unless you wish to take event registrations. At this point, you’ll also pay an additional 4.25% as a setup fee to accept RSVPs.
- QGiv: QGiv has a one-time setup fee of $199 that includes everything you need, then charges only a transaction fee for processing credit card donations (fees range from 1.95 – 4.95 plus a small additional flat charge depending on the payment type).
Customization fees may be assessed if you want your giving campaign to look like an external website—this can be important for some campaigns to maintain consistency of branding.
Tips to avoid paying: Customizing your online fundraising isn’t a bad thing—just be sure to shop around to see what you can get for free (think "all inclusive setup fee") before paying extra for customization options.
Here’s an example of a site that customizes your campaign for you without charging extra.
- GiveZooks: GiveZooks is an online fundraising platform geared towards nonprofit causes, but individual donors working for a nonprofit cause can also use it. Pricing depends on your fundraising goals. Customization of your campaign is included in the monthly fee you select.
Monthly fees are the fees assessed to use the platform from month to month. If monthly fees are present, they may be in lieu of or in addition to setup or per-donation fees. If a monthly fee is assessed, you should be getting extra services. For instance, support with sending out the IRS tax receipts, multiple options for customer service (phone and email support), additional team leaders at no cost, the ability to accept multiple forms of payment, integration with social media and external websites and other similar perks.
Tips to avoid paying: What you really want to avoid here is paying for monthly fees and also paying other fees associated with maintaining your online presence through the fundraising platform. If you’re assessed a monthly fee, check to be sure what’s included—it should be fairly comprehensive, rather than nickel-and-diming you to death with additional fees as well.
Here’s an example of a tool that offers a monthly fee which is all-inclusive of the basic things you’ll need to set up and run your campaign.
- Network for Good: This platform offers a full "turnkey" approach that includes integration with social media and email tools. Pricing is different depending on whether you are a for-profit or nonprofit, and you can choose from several different monthly all-inclusive packages (annual contract required).
Some platforms will charge a "per donation" fee—this can be instead of or in addition to monthly fees or other fees.
Tips to avoid paying: There are advantages to a per-donation fee system—typically, these sites (see examples below) don’t charge any kind of setup fee, and there’s no monthly contract. Just be sure to price out which tools give you the lowest fee for the type of funding you’re doing. For example, Kickstarter, a for-profit fundraising platform, takes a 5% fee if you meet your fundraising goals and no fee if you don’t meet your goals. Plus you’re assessed a credit card processing fee of 3%-5% depending on the card. Compare this against Indiegogo below.
Here are two examples of tools that take their fees as a percentage of donations.
- Paypal: As a fundraising tool, Paypal is as easy as it gets—the platform is strictly for raising funds with no added frills. You pay a fixed percentage per donation (there are different percentages for for-profit and nonprofit donors). For domestic for-profit fundraisers, the fee is 2.9% + $0.30 for each donation. For domestic nonprofit fundraisers, the fee is as low as 2.2% (typically Paypal will evaluate each nonprofit funder individually through their nonprofit application process).
- Indiegogo: Indiegogo is a full online fundraising platform with different donation-fee options depending on two factors: a) whether you are a for-profit or nonprofit fundraiser, and b) whether you set and make your fundraising goal or not. It’s free to set up and run a campaign, and you only pay if you meet your goals, or you don’t meet your goals but want to keep all funds raised. Fees range from 4%-9% depending on where you fall, with an additional 3% fee for processing credit card payments.
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