A donation engine is software that allows organizations to post a donation link on their Web site. The software collects and processes credit card information. Generally the Application Service Provider (ASP) receives the funds, which are then transmitted to the nonprofit. While it appears that the transaction is occurring on the Web site, it is actually being processed on the ASP's server.
There are numerous ASPs, ranging from free and simple to expensive and sophisticated. Most charge an initial fee and small percentage of each gift. In choosing one of the 40 plus donation engines out there, consider more than just transactions costs. Find out if there is a set up fee, monthly fee, maximum transaction fee, credit card processing fee and if a private merchant account is required.
Your organization may already have the capability to process credit card transactions. If not, you will need to establish a private merchant account before you begin online fundraising. This capability is important for donors who prefer to charge their donation over the phone, in person or through the mail. By being able to process credit card transactions, members can give in monthly payments. One resource that offers merchant account information is http://www.merchantaccountforum.com/.
An ASP should provide a customized giving page with a secure server, have the capability of generating an email acknowledgement, and be able to transfer money to your organization regularly or deposit funds directly into a merchant account. The organization should also be able to access and view all current donation information on the Web.
When considering online donation processing options consider:
- Can the design of the donation page be similar to the site so that donors don't feel they are leaving the site?
- Is the donation process simple?
- Does the donation page offer an opt-in option to be part of a distribution list, email announcements and newsletters?
- How much content control does the organization have on the giving page, acknowledgement screen and email?
- How are funds transferred to the organization and how often?
- Can you choose suggested donation amounts?
- Can you update or change your page?
- What does the donor's credit card statement read?
- Is it possible to import the donor information into your donor database? If so, is it easy to do?
- Will the system automatically send the organization a notice when a donation has been made?
- Are unwanted links on the giving page?
- Does system have memorial, honorary and monthly gift options?
- Can an organization create additional giving pages, and if so, can it do this or does the ASP create them for the organization?
- Is the vendor reputable? Is the vendor charging enough money to stay in business?
Provide a “Donate Now” button for visitors to donate online. Or for those that prefer to call in their donation, provide a contact telephone number on the Web site. Others may be more comfortable mailing in their gift, so it is important to provide a donation form that can be downloaded, printed and mailed with their donations to the address indicated at the bottom of the form.
Many Web site visitors have limited experience in donating online - so it is important to build their confidence in online giving. After receiving a donation, respond immediately with an automated confirmation email, thanking them for their donation and listing the amount of their gift that was received. The confirmation should include everything needed for the donor's tax records. A timely response is critical to building trust in online donors and inspiring additional acts of giving in the future. Follow up with some form of a personal thank you and update donors about how their money is being spent.