[Guest Post] As part of the nonprofit sector, you already know how crucial it is to have the right tools in your fundraising arsenal. These days, going online is a prerequisite for successfully engaging members, donors, and volunteers. 

While online engagement is always a significant consideration, social distancing guidelines require your team to come in full-force when connecting with supporters to thrive during COVID-19. After all, the last thing you want is to miss out on long-term support by not sufficiently nurturing your relationships.

Investing time into growing relationships can take supporters’ initial awareness of your cause and turn it into consistent financial support. To tap into that natural flow, you need to create a well-thought-out technology plan, and that all starts with an effective online donation platform.

However, it can be challenging choosing the right donation software to help you run your campaigns and secure revenue—especially if you’re new to the fundraising space. As you start expanding your toolkit or rethinking your current software strategy, be on the lookout for these core features:

  1. Customizable donation forms
  2. Efficient payment processing
  3. Peer-to-peer fundraising tools
  4. Insightful data reporting

No matter what cause you’re working toward, you need donations to fund your work. Let’s dive deeper into these features so that you can kickstart your search. In no time, you’ll start building out your toolkit and raising more support for your mission!

1. Customizable Donation Forms 

In this day and age, organizations of all types can’t survive without some sort of online donation form. That means you’ll need the ability to create one that successfully converts users into donors—whether they’re current members, long-time advocates, or first-time visitors.

To start, your donation page should be easily customizable so that you can capture all essential donor information. Whether you need to redirect donors to a custom thank you page or change the font to match your site, you should be able to accomplish your goals without having to write a single line of code. 

While this is a fantastic start, your requirements shouldn’t stop there. As you narrow down your options, ask these key questions to select an online donation platform that lets you create well-designed forms that drive conversions:

  • Can you embed your forms on your website? Instead of sending your donors to a third-party website, make sure you can embed your donation forms directly into your website. Moreover, ensure this is possible with top site builders like WordPress, Wix, Squarespace, and Weebly. 
  • Can you enable recurring donations? When donors decide to support your cause long-term, they should be able to set up recurring gifts with just a few clicks. Further, donors should be able to manage their recurring donations, taking the administrative load off your staff. That means adjusting the cadence (e.g., weekly, monthly, annually), the amount of these gifts, and their payment and contact details. 
  • Are they mobile responsive? According to 360MatchPro’s fundraising statistics page, mobile-friendly donation pages yield 34% more donations. In other words, your donation forms must be fully responsive, meaning they’ll adjust to fit any screen size. That way, you’ll never have to worry about losing donors due to poor formatting or unreadable content on smaller screens.

Take a look at this example of a church’s succinct, mobile-responsive donation form that embodies the ministry and offers recurring donation options:

online donation platform sample

By prioritizing these features in your search, you’ll create a positive donation experience that’ll expand your donor base and keep your donors coming back time and time again. If you’re still unsure where to start, this article explores several leading donation tools on the market. Be on the lookout for one with donation forms that offer the capabilities listed above.

2. Efficient Donation Processing

To secure donations, you’ll need an effective donation processor. If you’re unfamiliar with this topic, it’s a simple concept to learn. Here’s how Donately’s nonprofit donation processing guide defines this process: 

“Put simply, nonprofit payment processing describes all of the procedures involved in managing an online giving transaction. These procedures span from when a donor’s financial information is first collected to when that information is translated into a donation and deposited into an organization’s merchant account.”

Donation processing is a crucial component in your online giving procedures. Because of this, you’ll need effective and secure processing tools to get the job done. Prioritize these features as you get started:

  • Flexible payment options: To start, your tools should accept debit and credit card transactions as well as ACH payments. Take it a step further by ensuring your donation tools integrate with trusted payment processing systems, like PayPal and Stripe. 
  • Low operational costs: Every donation that you process requires a processing fee, and each payment processor has a different rate. Be mindful of this when selecting your platform. Further, be on the lookout for tools that allow you to pass along these fees to donors by giving them the option to round up their donations. 
  • Secure data handling: Across all of your donation tools, you’ll need to ensure that donors’ sensitive information is protected. Otherwise, visitors may wind up abandoning their donations without a second thought, no matter how much they want to support your cause.

The above features will serve as a solid foundation for your search. An all-in-one platform that offers its own payment processing tools will streamline the giving process and ensure that donors have a positive experience when giving to your cause. 

You’ll be able to accept a wide array of digital payment options and can rest assured that donors’ data is secure. That way, you can focus less on the backend processes and more on engaging your community and cultivating relationships.

3. Peer-to-Peer Fundraising Tools

Peer-to-peer fundraising can be a fantastic opportunity for your organization to spread its mission across constituents’ social networks effectively. In these campaigns, an organization creates its main campaign page. Then, supporters set up their own individual giving pages to solicit gifts from their peers. This type of campaign also allows participants to personalize their fundraising pages on behalf of the organization they want to support.

Not only are these powerful fundraising opportunities, but they also leverage social proof and can help you reach new potential advocates for your cause. Because of the range of benefits that come with these campaigns, you should be on the lookout for an online donation platform that enables peer-to-peer fundraising. This way, you don’t have to spend your hard-earned fundraising dollars on an additional platform. 

Specifically, explore options that offer the following: 

  • Customizability: Your tools should allow you to customize your pages with your branding and compelling imagery. This way, your team can tell its story, and advocates can effectively add their personal connections to your cause. 
  • Easy shareability: Make sure your peer-to-peer participants can easily share their campaign pages with the click of a button, so you can effortlessly expand your network of supporters via social media and email. 
  • Metric tracking: When your fundraiser wraps up, measure how well your campaign performed. You should be able to track KPIs like donor involvement, acquisition, and retention.

See how this example for a mentorship project effectively conveys the cause and drives donations thanks to the capabilities listed above:

online donation platform concept

If you’re looking to spread the word about your cause, peer-to-peer fundraising tools can prove widely beneficial. There are several pieces that fit into a successful campaign, and robust social fundraising tools will ensure you don’t miss a single step, especially when pushing your virtual fundraising efforts forward.

4. Insightful Data Reporting

To measure success across all facets of your organization, you should look for an online donation platform that enables data reporting. Insightful data reporting can quickly give you an idea of where your organization currently stands—whether it’s with a particular fundraising campaign, your email marketing efforts, or some other major area of work. 

Your donation tools should provide complete transaction records for logistical purposes, but taking it a step further with more reporting options and metrics is essential, too. Specifically, you’ll want to choose a platform that tracks the following metrics:

  • Your most active donors
  • Popular donation amounts
  • The highest donation volume day of the week
  • Effectiveness of campaigns

To take it a step further, your online donation platform should be designed to save you time by compiling all of your key metrics in an easy-to-read dashboard. Otherwise, you’ll be forced to dig through all your donation data and manually collect each data point.

Using this information, your team can locate where your efforts are succeeding and where they’re falling short without hassle. By using these insights strategically, you can easily optimize your fundraising strategies and expand your donor base.

As you know, any mission-based organization relies on financial support. If you want to gain traction in the nonprofit space, you need to transition your efforts online. Not only will this help you secure funds for your cause, but it will also help you generate momentum around your work.

Remember, selecting the right online donation platform is the first major step to developing your nonprofit digital strategy. By prioritizing all of these key features in your search, you’ll be well on your way to selecting an effective solution that can take your mission to new heights. Good luck!


Author: Andrew Berry

Andrew is the head of marketing and customer success for Donately. After getting involved with nonprofits at a young age, he discovered a passion for helping the organizations that are making the world a better place. Knowing how vital online fundraising has become, his goal is to help nonprofits raise more money online each year! In his spare time, you will find him cooking up dinner, playing with his dog or cheering on Boston sports teams.

Get your free resource in 30 seconds

find a resource


The Kid-Friendly "No Sell" Way


This back-to-school resource is essential for school groups who want to get new fundraising ideas and their budget back on track.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.