Online donations are a big opportunity for any nonprofit. Stepping into ecommerce can be intimidating, but taking donations with WordPress is easier than you think. Let’s explore why and how your nonprofit can start accepting online donations through WordPress
Ecommerce is a growing opportunity. But it’s not just for the dot coms and big players. Ecommerce is a growing source of income for everybody, including nonprofits.
It’s a way to increase your revenue, expand your base and reach more people. It’s where things are moving and you need to be there.
Taking donations with WordPress is an easy way for your nonprofit to jump on this opportunity.
So why should your nonprofit start taking donations with WordPress? Isn’t WordPress just a blogging platform? Nope: these days WordPress is so much more than blogging.
Here’s why you should start taking donations with WordPress:
- It’s powerful: You can do almost anything with WordPress, so it can power your entire website, take your donations and do just about anything you need.
- It’s convenient: No extra sites and login info you need to keep track of. Keep it simple. Your supporters need a one-stop shop and you can have it with WordPress.
- It’s solid: WordPress has been around for 10 years, it’s powering more than 20% of the web, it’s got a huge open source community backing it. All of that means you can trust it. It’s not going anywhere. It’s not going to get bought out or raise the price or go silently into that good night.
We’re big fans of WordPress, and we think your nonprofit should be too.
The Benefits of Donations With WordPress
As you’re working to bring online giving to your nonprofit, you’re probably going to face some opposition. Not everyone will be on board. So you’re going to need some ammo. Here’s why accepting online donations with WordPress is important for you:
- Lowering Barriers: Fundraising is often about minimizing barriers to giving, and online donations are one of the easiest ways to do it.
- Instant: No waiting for checks in the mail, no trip ?to the bank to make deposits. The transaction takes place immediately and processing begins right away.
- Available 24/7: Your supporters can donate whenever they want. No call center hours to worry about.
- No Staffing: There’s no extra staff time to facilitate online donations. Once you set it up it’s automatic.
- Recurring Donations: Instead of simply accepting one-time donations you can encourage supporters to set up recurring donations. They can set up weekly, monthly or annual giving that automatically makes a donation. This can be an easy way to encourage a larger gift—$10 per month is easy on the wallet but adds up over the year.
- Donor List: It’s easy to capture member data? online and build your donor list. Opt-in subscription checkboxes can quickly and easily add donors to your email list.
- More Options: You can give more options, which can encourage more donations. Make it easier for people and let them donate however they want.
But what about those pesky credit card fees?
You know somebody is going to ask about it.
One of our WebDesign.com presenters, Nathan Ingram, shared a story about convincing a nonprofit client to accept online donations. They were worried about existing donors shifting to online giving and credit card fees eating into donations. It’s a valid concern.
Nathan convinced them to move forward by offering to pay for any lost revenue himself. He believed in online giving. In the end, 90% of the online donations were from new donors who had never given before. Total donations increased by 15%.
Needless to say, Nathan didn’t have to open his wallet.
Ecommerce can open the doors to a whole new crop of supporters. Why turn them away?
Let’s Get to It: How to Take Donations With WordPress
OK, enough talk. How do you actually accept online donations with WordPress?
Credit card approvals, processing and all that cash changing hands electronically—and securely—is complicated. Whenever money is involved things get complicated.
But we’re going to keep it simple.
Online donations can be more complex, but we’re going with a simple solution you can get up and running quickly. It’s solid and will serve as a good start for your nonprofit. But let’s be clear that it’s just a start.
If taking donations with WordPress explodes for your nonprofit, you might want to invest in a more robust system with lower fees (based on volume, $3,000 per month is about the threshold where a more complex system could save you money). You can read more about those complex details in our ebook, The Ecommerce Opportunity, which is geared for developers but will give you a thorough overview of the ecommerce process.
Step 1: Shopping Cart
In order to take your site from a standard WordPress site to one that accepts donations, you’re going to need an ecommerce plugin. This creates the shopping cart technology that allows users to make a purchase—or in your case, make a donation.
We’re going with the Exchange ecommerce plugin. The base plugin is free, but you might want some add-ons for extra functionality, specifically Customer Pricing so donors can select their own donation amount and Recurring Payments so donors can set up monthly giving. You might also want MailChimp to add donors to your mailing list. And at that point you might consider the Pro Pack to get access to all the iThemes-built add-ons for one low price.
Step 2: Processor
But a shopping cart isn’t enough. You need somebody to approve and decline credit cards, process the payments and give you the money. We’re going to use a third-party processor. These are companies such as PayPal, Stripe, 2Checkout and Authorize.net — all of which have add-ons to integrate with iThemes Exchange.
This is where we’re simplifying things. If you want a more control over the process and costs—and more complexity—you would go with a payment gateway and merchant account. Again, The Ecommerce Opportunity can spell out the differences from a developer perspective.
Step 3: Build It Out
There are plenty of resources to help you install the Exchange plugin and get things working. Check out these tutorial videos:
- Exchange Quick Setup Wizard
- Exchange General Settings
- Customer Pricing Add-on
- Recurring Payments Add-on
Check out more tutorial videos for other features.
Then you’ll need to set up your third-party processor. You’ll need an account with Stripe, PayPal or 2Checkout. You’ll also need the appropriate add-on for Exchange (Stripe or 2Checkout; PayPal Standard is built-in).
Since all you’re doing is accepting donations and not building an entire store, you’ll want to add a single “product” to make a donation. The product page then becomes your donate page, so the product description will be your donation pitch. Use the Customer Pricing add-on to let your donors choose their donation amount (it’s good practice to give them a few suggested amounts as well).
Grab the link for that donate page and add that to your menu as your donate link.
Make sure all your settings are correct. There’s a lot of stuff you won’t need since you’re just taking donations with WordPress and not selling and shipping products:
- Since it’s not a store, you don’t need a full store. Update the page settings and disable the Store Page.
- Another thing to look at is the customer receipt emails, which you can turn into a thank you email.
- Enable Guest Checkout so registration isn’t required. This will speed up the whole process and increase your donations.
Don’t Forget to Make It Look Pretty
You’ll also want to make sure you’re using an Exchange-friendly theme. You can always work with an existing theme, but you might need to do some custom coding to your CSS to accommodate all the ecommerce goodness of Exchange. If you’re building from the ground up and trying to quickly accept donations with WordPress, an Exchange-friendly theme is the way to go.
Step 4: Test, Test, Test
When you’re trying to take donations with WordPress you need everything to work smoothly. If a donor runs into a hiccup, they’re going to take their money elsewhere.
So you need to test it.
And test it again.
And then test it again.
Use different browsers (Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, etc.) on different computers (Mac, PC) and even different devices (iPad, Android phone, iPhone, etc.). Try every imaginable combination of payment option and make sure everything works.
You’re building long-term credibility with a donor, so it’s important to take the time to get this right. It will be worth it. Nothing sends online donors fleeing like technical glitches.
Step 5: Roll it out
Once you’re ready to start taking online donations with WordPress, you need to roll it out to your audience. This is a big deal, so you need to launch it like a big deal:
- Before you do anything else, make sure that donate button on your website is obvious. It should at least be a main menu item, if not highlighted in some other way. Don’t make donors hunt for it.
- Let your biggest supporters know first. Tell them you’re making it easier than ever to donate.
- Send a physical letter via good ol’ snail mail to let your donors know there’s a new and easier way to donate. Emphasize that online donations can be cheaper to process, but reiterate that your donors can give in whatever way works for them. Some people want to cling to their written checks, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
- Get the message out to your email list. But remember you can’t just shake the tip jar and expect them to give. You need to focus on what their donations accomplish.
- Talk it up on social media. Keep the emphasis on what the money can accomplish and make online donations with WordPress the extra bonus: “Helping homeless families just got easier: Donate online now.”
- Finally, you need to make online donation the new norm. Subtly work online donations into all your communication pieces. Put it in the footer of your email newsletter, work it into your fundraising letters, make sure it’s an option in all print pieces, etc. If online donations are going to be effective, they need to be included with all your other donation options.
Tips for Making the Most of Your Online Donations
Here are some tips for making online donations with WordPress work for your nonprofit:
- Prominent: We can’t say it often enough. Make that donate button prominent.
- Simple: Keep the donate form simple. You don’t want to require too much information. It’s important to grab an email address and add people to your list if you can, but each extra step or field in a form is like a roadblock. This is why we recommend enabling guest registration.
- Answer Questions: Transparency is important for donors, so make sure you’re answering questions and confronting any confusion with online donations. Let people know where donations go, make it clear if the donation is tax deductible and if you send a receipt.
- Trustworthy: Prove donors can trust you. Provide links to financial accountability information, like annual reports or Form 990s.
- Security: Set up an SSL certificate—it adds the ’s’ in https:// in a browser and an added level of security. It’s not always required, but it’s an extra level of protection and will build trust with donors.
- Prove It: People donate to nonprofits when they believe in the mission and see real results. An important way to encourage donations is to prove you’re doing what you say you’re doing. You should have some sort of news or reporting section on your site where you can talk about your accomplishments (and that’s super easy with WordPress). It doesn’t have to be a lot of patting your own back—it could be more of a celebration. But show people their donations are doing good. It’s another way to build trust.
Noticing a theme there? A good way to encourage more donations is to build trust. This should be foundational stuff in the nonprofit world. But it can be easy to forget when you’re adding a new component. Remember that everything you do with online donations should build trust with your donors.
Online Donations Aren’t the Only Way to Make Money
Well, there you go. Now your nonprofit is bringing in donations with WordPress.
But online donations aren’t the only way to make money online. Now that you have an ecommerce system set up, it’s easy to expand into other income-producing areas:
- Events: Online event registration makes it easier to track numbers, limit attendance, and raise or lower prices as needed (early bird deals, last minute discount, late comer price increase, etc.). You can also send tickets via email and not deal with the delay and expense of the mail.
- Membership: Form a tighter bond with donors by creating a membership system. Maybe it’s a simple “donation suggested subscription” for a newsletter or a more formal membership with specific benefits. Using the Membership add-on for Exchange you can easily offer exclusive content to your donating members.
- Selling Stuff: Nonprofits have a tendency to give stuff away for free, but ecommerce is all about selling. With an ecommerce plugin for WordPress you can easily sell just about anything. If you have any kind of content, whether it’s articles or videos, consider bundling it into some sort of a product and make it available for sale. People are often willing to pay for a collection of articles when you call it a book, even if it’s freely available online.
WordPress is flexible. You can take donations with WordPress and then be ready for more.