There are a lot of fundraising websites out there. In the time it took me to type that previous sentence, a new one probably just launched. With so much to choose from, it can be hard to tell where to start.
We’ve looked at some donation platforms in the past, specifically as part of our recommendations for nonprofits looking to keep that steady drumbeat of on-site contributions. And we’re still big fans of those platforms — but for fundraising websites, we wanted to look at those instances where you have a specific niche to fill. In many cases, these complement a more robust CRM strategy.
What type of fundraising website do I need?
We get this question a lot at Whole Whale, and it depends on what you need from your online fundraising tools — you wouldn’t hire a major gifts officer to be your volunteer coordinator. Consider your digital tools for the specific “job description” they need to fill. Are you looking for a new donation platform to handle all incoming donations made via your website? (If you are, check this out.) Or do you need something for a seasonal campaign? Are you launching a new project that needs specific funding, or do you not even need money at this point so much as you need stuff?
Once you’ve determined the specific use for your fundraising website or tool, then you can get to the fun part: a competitive analysis.
Before you go shopping for fundraising websites or platforms, ask yourself: What do I need this to do? #nptech Click To Tweet
What to consider when choosing a fundraising website
Before we get into our picks for fundraising sites, we should note that our recommendations are just that — recommendations. Your mileage may vary with whatever tool you pick, so it’s good to consider your more specific needs beyond the general type of fundraising website. At Whole Whale, some of the criteria we consider include:
- Does the fundraising platform cover donations, crowdfunding, or both?
- How are funds released?
- What is the fee structure?
- Does the platform integrate well with your website’s CMS?
- Can you host the fundraising website’s URL on your own organization domain?
- Can it be tracked through Google Analytics?
- Can we customize the donation page?
Fire up your Excel or Google Sheets and start shopping with these considerations in mind — as well as any other questions that may come up specifically within your team.
7 criteria to consider when evaluating donation and fundraising tools… #nptech Click To Tweet
Our favorite fundraising websites
What follows here are 13 fundraising websites that we recommend, along with the specific use each one has. Check them out and weigh their pros and cons against your own matrix of considerations for you, your organization, and your team. It’s also a great idea to check out their competition to see if there’s one that works even better. And if you have any suggestions, please tweet them to us at @WholeWhale!
1. If you care about design and integration capabilities… Classy
Classy lives up to its name — and has a price tag to go with it. That said, it has a high number of design and integration capabilities, including the ability to seamlessly customize the design to match your branding and hosting its URLs on your own domain. We’re also fans of their blog.
2. If you have a great project idea and your supporters don’t need the write-off… Kickstarter
In less than 10 years, Kickstarter has become so interchangeable with crowdfunding that it’s up there with Band-Aid and Kleenex in terms of brand-name–product synonymousness. While nonprofits are welcome to launch projects on Kickstarter, it does have rules (in addition to the standard all-or-nothing funding principle): Your campaign has to be centered on a project (versus general fundraising for a charity or cause), and there’s no write-off for backers. That said, if you’re a nonprofit or a for-benefit organization with a solid initiative, you would be tapping into a network of committed givers: In 2016, the Opera di Firenze brought in over €322,000 to fund its “Opera for Everybody” project.
3. If you’re a college or university… Funderful
Founded in 2012 to help colleges and universities “break through the noise and engage their communities…in an age of declining email open rates,” Funderful leverages chatbot innovations to tap into preexisting alumni networks on Facebook. They boast 80% open rates for Facebook messenger campaigns and also integrate paid social advertising into the mix. Their international client list includes the Rhodes Trust, London Business School, the American University, Wolfson College at the University of Oxford, and the University of Graz, Austria.
4. If you’re a startup and need white-glove service… Fundable
This fundraising website is for all of our friends working in the social-impact and for-benefit sectors: Fundable is a resource for getting the capital you need to launch your business with a very involved team that will hold your hand from start to finish, with options for both reward and equity-based crowdfunding. Their pricing structure reflects the tailoring of services with a monthly fee instead of a percentage of donations.
5. If you need to raise funds for disaster relief… GoFundMe
For the immediate, boots-on-the-ground approach to raising cash, GoFundMe is one of the most trusted and ubiquitous fundraising websites. GoFundMe campaigns are often seen in the wake of natural and man-made disasters, either to help a larger victims’ fund or to support individuals in need of extra help after a major life event. The Kickstarter-like aspect of their pages allow for easy updates and social sharing, too.
6. If you’re fine on cash but need stuff… Amazon Wish List
In addition to the AmazonSmile program which allows customers to shop on behalf of a cause (0.5% of their eligible purchases go to the cause of their choice), Amazon Wish Lists have risen in popularity to give material goods over monetary contributions. While many nonprofits get better rates on buying items in bulk through other vendors, CNN’s Heather Kelly notes that the uptick in organizations using Wish Lists stems from giving supporters a chance to feel like they’re contributing something concrete, thereby making impact more tangible.
7. If you’re raising funds in the health/science/medicine field… Experiment
Maybe your fundraising needs are specific. Like, “using seaweed to assess nitrogen pollution levels around the coast of northern England and Scotland” specific. Individuals and institutions (including the Universities of Washington and South Carolina, UC Berkeley, and UNC – Chapel Hill) have been using Experiment to fund their scientific research. So far, over $7.7million has been pledged to 768 funded projects by 41,575 backers, with several projects receiving additional grants from Experiment itself. A few recent campaigns ranged from questioning whether music could influence the longevity of human blood cells to early detection of pancreatic cancer.
8. If you’re looking specifically for equity… AngelList
AngelList’s crowdfunding component plays crowdfunding matchmaker for angel investors and startups at an average valuation of $4.1million. They also work with a more traditional platform allowing Venture Capitalists to find specific projects to build out their portfolio. It’s one of the longest-running equity websites, having launched in 2010 to democratize the investment process. They even have a section for job searchers and recruiters.
9. If your supporters want to raise funds on your behalf… CrowdRise
There are plenty of crowdfunding platforms, but one thing we love about CrowdRise is the ability for supporters to crowdfund on behalf of your organization. It can create a chain effect of fundraisers rallying around key giving periods such as awareness months or the holiday season. Corporations can launch campaigns to engage and encourage workplace giving, and it’s also a platform used by celebrities to leverage their fans to support a cause of their choice (you can even offer Kickstarter-style incentives for different levels of giving).
10. If you’re looking to fund ongoing content projects… Patreon
The website of choice for artists looking to receive compensation for their output, Patreon takes its name from the old-school patronage system in the days of the Renaissance. Creatives and creators use the platform to receive regular donations from their fans in exchange for tiered incentives (such as exclusive access to content or a say in what they make next). If you’re looking to fund ongoing podcasts, a theater season, or even TED-Ed videos, you’ll find a home of like-minded creators for good on Patreon.
11. If you want to keep your fee structure low… Flipcause
Flipcause is a donation website designed to work with a range of operating budgets. Their Starter model applies to organizations with revenue of $100,000 or under in the last year and runs $100 per month (paid annually). At the highest end of the spectrum is their Standard package, which applies to total revenue of $2million to $5million and starts at $250 per month (paid annually). Their rates for web payments are the lowest in the industry as well, capped off at 1.5%. If you use Salesforce, this won’t be your top pick for integration, but if you’re pinching every penny and looking for the cheapest-yet-still-reliable option, this is it.
12. If you’re a female-led organization looking for serious dollars… Plum Alley
Because the future is female. Plum Alley connects individuals and institutions looking to invest in private companies that are led by female founders or feature gender diverse teams. This next-level crowdfunding website grew from being essentially the Indiegogo of female entrepreneurship to being a partner to both investors and business owners, as well as managing more significant deals than your average Kickstarter (their average minimum investment is $10,000). Plum Alley makes investments via syndicate and hosts quarterly showcase events to give startups more face-time with their potential investors.
13. If you want Design Whaler Ann’s favorite pick… Donorbox
A simple-yet-elegant solution, this is our own design and CRM guru Ann Nguyen’s favorite fundraising website and software. In 15 minutes you can seamlessly embed Donorbox onto your website (or use their popup widget), accept monthly recurring donations, and accept payments via credit card, Apple Pay, bank transfer, and PayPal. They also play well with a number of integrations, including WordPress, Squarespace, Stripe, MailChimp, and Salesforce.
Whether you're funding an idea, a university, or a cure for cancer, there's a fundraising website for that… #nptech Click To Tweet
BONUS! If you have some amazing experiences to auction off… Charitybuzz + Prizeo
We’re a little biased as we’ve worked with both Charitybuzz and Prizeo in the past, however, these two fundraising websites — hosted under the Charity Network — allow nonprofits to auction off once-in-a-lifetime experiences to benefit their cause.
Charitybuzz is the more traditional auction format, with users bidding on lots including walk-on roles on popular TV shows, concert tickets followed by meet-and-greets with the performers, and weeklong stays at private villas.
Prizeo, on the other hand, operates on a sweepstakes level with automatic entry available at a starting level of $10 — the more money you contribute, the more entries you can buy for experiences like tickets to Hamilton and the chance to play football with Tom Brady.
Now that we’ve given you some ideas, check out our tips on crowdfunding best practices and download our full list of tools below to get started.