We work with a lot of non-profits and one of the things we are asked most often is how to set up online donations. Here are some of the questions we get asked, along with our completely biased opinions.
Can I use my existing merchant account on my website?
Possibly, but we don’t recommend that. Your merchant card services provider can probably offer you an online solution, but there will be extra fees. And only go down this path if you like PCI Compliance. If you don’t know what PCI Compliance is, then trust us, you won’t like it. It’s easier to choose a solution like Stripe or PayPal which handles all PCI Compliance for you.
PayPal vs. Stripe?
Hands down, Stripe.
The big distinctions…
Both charge 30 cents + 2.9% per transaction (PayPal offers non-profits a 2.2% rate)
PayPal Standard: no monthly fee, but you cannot run transactions on your website. Your customers must jump out to PayPal to pay.
PayPal Pro: $30/month to be able to run transactions on your website. You need an SSL certificate.
Stripe: no monthly fee. Essentially the same as PayPal Pro but without the monthly fee. You need an SSL certificate.
Stripe and PayPal Pro are similar products, except PayPal Pro costs $30/month, where Stripe is free.
I don’t have an SSL certificate
SSL certificates cost $99/year and take a web designer about an hour to set up. Lately, most hosts will give you a free SSL certificate with your account. With an SSL certificate, you can process payments and donations directly on your website. Even if you don’t process transactions on your website, you still should have an SSL certificate. Here’s why.
But PayPal gives us a non-profit rate.
Yes, that’s very clever of them. You use their solution (which makes them money), and they save you 70 cents on a $100 donation. Most non-profits argue that PayPal is better because it’s cheaper. I disagree for a thousand reason. Yes, PayPal offers non-profits a 2.2% per transaction rate vs. 2.9% for regular businesses.
And charges you a monthly fee to run transactions on your site
In order to run donations on your website, you’ll have to upgrade to PayPal Pro, which is $30/month. Stripe has no monthly fee and offers the same solution.
And costs you donations if you don’t upgrade to their Pro solution
Don’t make your customers work to give you money. More donations equal more money. More on this below.
And costs you development time
You pay your web designer an hourly rate, right? Stripe is just faster and easier to work with.
And causes you frustration
Stripe’s dashboard is intuitive and easy to use. I can’t say the same about PayPal’s.
NOTE: since publishing this post, a client of ours emailed Stripe and asked if they offer a non-profit rate, and here was their response
Thanks for reaching out about this, and for your interest in Stripe!
I’m pleased to report that Stripe very proudly supports non-profit organizations, and am happy to explore these options with you. We’re currently testing how we can best support US non-profits, and we’d love to offer you our new beta pricing model:
– 2.2% + $.30 for non-American Express transactions
– 3.5% for all American Express transactions
But PayPal is easier to set up
PayPal gives you the option to paste a “Buy Now” button on any pages. That’s easy, but it’s not pretty and it doesn’t make me want to click it.
Isn’t Stripe just for developers?
No. My teenage daughter is a photographer and manages all her online website payments through Stripe. She can build forms, connect them to Stripe, issue refunds, set up recurring payments, etc. Yes, she’s young and grew up with technology, but she doesn’t listen to a word I say, and she’s managed to work out Stripe, with very little help from me. Plus, she hates math and programming of any kind and hasn’t needed any of those skills to work it out.
How do I connect Stripe to my website?
The GravityForms plugin is your friend. We have a developers license so our clients use it for free. But, even if you had to pay $59/year for it, it’s completely worth it. This is what we use on our website to take online payments.
Stay tuned for our next blog post, along with a video tutorial, on how to set up GravityForms & Stripe.
Why does it matter if someone has to leave my site to donate?
Do not make your donors or customers leave your site to give you money… ever!
When you ask someone to click out to pay, there is a chance they won’t complete the transaction. They might get distracted. They were about to give you money, but now they just clicked out to PayPal’s payment portal, and can’t remember if they even have a PayPal account, which they don’t need, but aren’t sure about that either. And, they’re bored with this already, and no longer interested in figuring this out, and they’re also no longer on your website. They were about to donate $100, and since you have a PayPal non-profit rate, that would’ve cost you 30 cents + 2.2% (or $2.20). That same donation would’ve cost you 30 cents + 2.9% ($2.90) with Stripe. In trying to save 70 cents, you just lost your donor.
You work really hard to get people to your site, so keep them there.
We work with Blackbaud and want to use their donation form
I get that, and in that case, you probably should use their donation form instead. It’s not elegant, and it’s not fun to use, and Blackbaud charges non-profits an un-Godly amount of money for their, in my opinion, not very special solution. If you haven’t signed up with Blackbaud yet, please don’t. I can’t see how it’s worth that much money.
Is there any scenario in which you would recommend PayPal?
Yes. If you are already heavily invested in your PayPal account, are already paying $30/month for PayPal Pro, and you do a lot of volume, it’s a perfectly fine solution. It integrates seamlessly with GravityForms and is a much more robust solution than their free account.
In my completely biased opinion, Stripe and GravityForms offer the cheapest, easiest, most flexible, and elegant solution you could possibly use.