Choosing the right funding platform for your charity

It’s safe to say that the fundraising landscape has been on a rollercoaster journey over the years and it’s been interesting to see its relationship with technology evolve. Whilst social media and increased social awareness amongst the younger generation has been beneficial in giving charities a louder voice, slim resources and the tough financial climate have closed the doors of many charities, and many remain struggling to keep funds coming in. Because of this, external support and funding have become more vital than ever, causing a surge in digital fundraising platforms.

Online fundraising platforms are integral with a set of digital tools that charities can use to gain extra donations from donors via the internet. Often, these platforms will include features such as donation widgets, bespoke fundraising pages, as well as tools that redirect affiliate marketing spend when users shop online or switch providers. When researched and chosen carefully, they can provide charities with more than an extra revenue stream, opening the doors to a wider pool of donors and bringing charities up to speed with the latest fundraising innovations.

Plethora of platforms

But with the plethora of fundraising platforms that are currently available to charities, it can be tricky and time-consuming to assess and use each one, and to know how it can benefit you in the long run. Here are some key points to consider when reviewing online fundraising platforms and how to ascertain whether they are the most effective fundraising option for you.

CONSIDER THE DISCRETE COSTS AND CHARGES. Many digital fundraising platforms are free for charities to sign up and use but donations made through the platform are subject to additional fees. These fees can be in the form of set-up fees, card transaction costs or Gift Aid charges.

The most common example is referred to by many platforms as a “donation fee” charge which is often in the form of a percentage of the donation. This percentage varies from platform to platform and will affect the actual donation amount that goes to the charity. Thus if a donor makes a £10 donation, the platform can take as much as a 5% fee, meaning 50p will be deducted from the donation. Almost all fundraising platforms will levy this charge on charities, so it’s about finding the balance and the most manageable fee.

Assessing costs carefully

Alongside the donation fees, using some online platforms will also incur additional costs that affect the actual donation amount to charities. Gift Aid charges and card transaction fees, for example, can affect each donation made via the platform, whilst sign-up fees and monthly subscription costs can also be added extras to be aware of. Charities should assess the costs carefully, ensuring that they are clear about any additional costs that affect the actual donation amount and subsequently their revenue.

FINDING ADDITIONAL FEATURES THAT ALIGN WITH YOUR GOALS. How a charity operates and its overall goals as an organisation will have an influence on which online fundraising platform it chooses. If the goal is to reach more donors, then choosing a platform that offers extensive marketing materials might be the best option. Likewise, if a charity wants more transparency in where its donations are coming from, then picking a fundraising platform that offers reporting metrics is a must. Many platforms will offer added features for free so finding out what features would be most beneficial and seeing how they would fit into existing operations are worthwhile.

More autonomous experience

A fundraising platform should not completely disrupt a charity’s operation, rather it should be complementing the other fundraising routes and provide a fresh stream of donations. Smaller, more local charities, that might not be up to speed on more modern fundraising routes would likely benefit most from fundraising platforms with extra resources that provide a more autonomous experience.

TRY BEFORE YOU BUY. How would you know a fundraising platform’s true impact if you’re not familiar with how it works as a user? Convenience and ease are key factors when it comes to any consumer-facing service and this is particularly important in the fundraising industry because it can take some convincing to get people to part with their money. Many platforms are free for users to sign up to and use, thus it’s worth getting familiar with the platform from a user’s perspective and figuring out how it works so that you can gauge whether it’s something your donors would engage with.

It’s also a good idea to check out how users engage with the platform and vice versa. A quick scan of a fundraising platform’s social media pages will tell you a lot about how the platform communicates with its audience and how it promotes its charities.

ASSESS THE REPUTATION. How reputable a fundraising platform is can depend on a number of factors. Firstly, the current number of charities which have signed up to the platform is a good indication of the platform’s reliability. If any major well-known charities are signed up, then you know it can be trusted.

Breadth of suitability

Similarly, assessing which smaller charities are signed up to the fundraising services will give an indication of the breadth of charities which the platform is suitable for. The cheapest options may not have the biggest range of charities for users to raise funds for and therefore may not reach as wide of an audience.

INNOVATION CHECK. The online fundraising industry will continue to evolve as technology advances, so it’s important to regularly audit all your fundraising routes and decide which ones are working, in terms of effort put in and the level of donations you receive.

Furthermore, you want to be sure that the fundraising platform you choose is investing in innovation and developing its proposition so that you know it is sustainable in the long term. Even small developments such as how the user interface adapts across devices can be critical to how a donor interacts with a platform, and therefore impact the total donor reach. A good place to spot a platform’s developments is on its news page or blog.

AVOID FALLING BEHIND. It can be difficult for any industry to keep up with innovations and to maintain its status in the market. For the charity industry, it can be even more of a challenge because of time and resources. There’s a range of technology solutions available – something for everyone – and it pays to take time upfront to do a comprehensive assessment to find the right platform for you.

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