How to take payments through your charity website

Take payments online

Taking payments online is now a core requirement for most organisations and there are lots of options out there to choose from to fulfil your needs.

In this post we describe the requirements of different payment types including donations, event bookings, membership subscriptions and shops and we offer specific guidance on how to get setup with minimal fuss.

Payment gateways

If you wish to handle people’s card details you need to have appropriate security measures in place. Most small and medium sized organisations will outsource this job to a payment gateway because doing it yourself is a large undertaking. The payment gateway will look after the tricky security stuff on your behalf for a small monthly fee or a percentage fee on each transaction.

There are lots of gateways to choose from and all have their pros and cons. WorldPay offers a fully integrated system which is great if you need point-of-sale systems in physical shops as well. PayPal makes it easy to add buy buttons to lots of different website pages by simply including a snippet of code on that page. Stripe is a modern payment system aimed at developers for enabling seamless payments on your website.

Important considerations

When choosing a gateway consider the following.

  • How easy is it to use? Insist on a demo before you choose and make sure you have the tech expertise to maintain your account properly.
  • Do they handle PCI compliance? Make sure they do as you don’t want to have to worry about this yourself.
  • Can I take onsite payments? Most gateways will offer some form of onsite payment but you will want to check it meets your expectations with regards to user experience.
  • How do the costs stack up? Model the fees based on your expected growth. A pay-as-you-go option might feel good to start with but if you grow as you hope to it may become expensive.
  • Does it work with all of your other software and systems? There are lots of software systems that integrate with a payment gateway such as donation platforms like Donorfy, membership management systems like Chargify, accounting systems like Xero, e-commerce systems like Shopify, etc. Sometimes running multiple payment gateways is unavoidable but if there is one that works with all of your software systems that’s a bonus. 

For more detailed information about SSL security check out our post on how to secure your charity website.

Examples of different ways to take payments on a non-profit website

There’s more to taking payments than just a payment gateway. But there are loads of great resources out there to help you set things up quickly and easily. In this section we’ll guide you through some common scenarios.

Setting up an online shop

There are lots of ways to setup an online shop, from using eBay to building your own. But presenting your products and offering a checkout process is just half the work. To run a successful online shop you need to consider how you are going to fulfil your orders.

For most small organisations and charities looking to sell a handful of items we recommend using a separate e-commerce platform that can easily integrate with your existing website. As opposed to building something yourself, this allows you to enable more features as your needs grow at very little extra cost. We think Shopify is a good system for this and it’s easy to embed products on your website. For guidance on how to setup a shopify account check out our post on how to sell items with Shopify on your charity website.

Online donations

For lots of charities, taking donations is one of the primary goals for their website. One really important thing to consider before getting distracted by the checkout process is how well you guide people to the start of the process. Our guide to content strategy talks a lot about the concept of user journeys and how to guide people to where you want them to go. You can point people offsite to a simple payment gateway such as PayPal or you can use a dedicate donation platform such as Just Giving. A donation platform will make it easier for you to maintain the right ‘feel’ through the transaction and it may offer you better access to the data you’re interested in. It will also handle gift aid on your behalf which is a significant additional benefit.

In our dedicated guide we review all the mainstream donation platforms and give you our recommendations for which we think are the best value for money.

Selling services

Many charities provide services as a means of raising funds. You may need to be able to take payments for one off, or recurring services or manage available places on a course. As far as we’re aware there aren’t many mainstream online apps dedicated to managing the selling of services as such but that is largely because the types of services vary so much. Often one of the other systems mentioned in this post can be tweaked to serve the purpose. But if you know of any more dedicated systems that other people may benefit from let us know!

Membership subscriptions

Recurring payments can be one of the hardest types to manage online. Extra factors are in play such as renewal dates, trial periods, updating card details, cancellation periods etc. Often a more nuanced system is required for this and it can be harder to integrate with your website. Systems like Chargify make it a lot easier to manage regular payments. In this post about How to build a charity membership organisation website on a shoestring budget we talk about lots of different ways to accept new memberships and manage existing memberships online.

Event bookings

Selling tickets for events can be a great fundraising strategy but managing the finances and ticketing isn’t always straightforward. A dedicated events platform such as Eventbrite will make it easy for you to set the number of tickets that are available and even offer different types of tickets.

Managing your data

Whether you’re selling products or taking donations your data is important to you. Being able to analyse your data is the key to knowing how to market to your existing user base. 

Ultimately you will want to get all your data into a CRM system where you can manage your constituents and run reports to help inform your marketing. Donorfy is a relatively new CRM tool focussed on donations so if you’re a fundraising organisation not looking to sell products it might be worth checking out.

Our recommendations

At White Fuse we work with small and medium sized charities and nonprofits to help them build the best charity websites. Most of our clients require a combination of services from third parties to fulfil their needs. Here are a few suggested solutions for different types of organisation. All of these solutions work really well with our website platform.

Start up charity

You need a simple website with just a few pages and way to take donations.
White Fuse + JustGiving

Flexible fundraising

You need to create lots of content in the form of blogs and resources, to promote events, sell tickets and take donations.
White Fuse + Eventbrite

Simple online shop

You need to start selling one or two products without a full ecommerce system.
White Fuse + PayPal

Campaigning and advocacy 

You need to quickly set up time-bound campaigns, raise funds for specific purposes and demonstrate the impact of your work.
White Fuse + Donorfy

Service provision

You need to manage and promote specific services to beneficiaries and their sponsors. You need to take fees for services in a variety of contexts.
White Fuse + WorldPay

Membership organisations

You need to express the benefits of membership, offer a registration process and take a payment. You also need to manage recurring payments.

White Fuse + Chargify

Our charity website design services work well with many of these services. We can help configure them to work well with your website and create a beautiful and intuitive user experience that focuses on taking action and making transactions.

27 February 2017
Owen Roseblade