Online Donations

Online DonationsWe do a fair amount of non profit website design, and one of the things that comes up for those is how to accept donations. A lot of organizations want to get donations for their charitable work, but don’t know where to start. Most often people come to me and say, “Well, I have PayPal. Will that work?”

Yes. It will. A little. But it’s not the best solution. Here’s what I can say about PayPal, as a long time PayPal user. It’s a good system, but if your donors don’t already use PayPal, they will often abandon the donation process when they see that’s the only payment method. Use PayPal if you want, but don’t make it the only option or else you are really limiting your donation opportunities.

There are a thousand or more ways to accept payments online, but to do e-commerce, you need to have a merchant account and a payment gateway. (Sometimes those are followed into one service.) Basically, you need a place to put the donations and a company to process the credit cards.

Here’s how it works.

You have a form on your website that asks the donor how much money they want to donate, their personal info, and their credit card number. Your website then communicates with the payment gateway to process that credit card transaction and then deposit the money into your account, less the fees they charge for the service. (There’s always a catch.) There are tons of payment gateways. The majority of my clients like Stripe because it integrates with almost everything, they take care of the PCI compliance, and the fees are relatively competitive. Other popular gateways include and 2Checkout.

First step is you need to have a payment gateway and a bank account to put the money in. Once you have those, what’s next? There are actually a lot of ways to take donations on your website.

I have had experience setting up online donations in three different ways, using WooCommerce, Gravity Forms, and GiveWP. Here’s a rundown of how each one works.

Gravity Forms

In my opinion, if you need just a simple donation form, this is a great option. Gravity Forms has a handful of payment gateways including and Stripe. You need an add-on for it, it doesn’t come with the basic form. Once you have it though, it’s pretty simple. You make your form, enter a donation box, then add the credit card box. Connect to your Stripe API and set up the feed, and donations will easily be processed for you. You can see an example (and make a donation if you wish) at a recently competed website for Veterinary Hospice. They collect donations for a variety of charities involving animal rescue.


If you’re looking for a more robust donation option, GiveWP is my go-to. The actual plugin is free (hooray!) but in order to process most types of payments, you’ll need the paid add-ons. You simply install the plugin, configure the settings, connect it to your payment gateway via API (and they have lots of payment gateway options) and pop your form onto the site and you can collect donations. This one has lots of options including MailChimp integration, recurring payments, goal setting, reporting and more. And it looks really nice right out of the box too!


WooCommerce is a great shopping cart/e-commerce platform. The folks at Automattic will tell you that it’s super easy, have no fear, anyone can do it. But I’d disagree. It’s easy for me, but it probably won’t be easy for everyone. There are a lot of moving parts. Out of the box, it’s just a basic shopping cart that you can connect to a variety of payment gateways of choice (and there are lots) but if you want to accept donations, you have to buy some extensions to make it work. If you want to just have one standard donation with a specific amount, or several “virtual” options they can buy and checkout, you can get by with the basic, but if you want people to be able to choose the amount they donation, then you’ll need to add the Name Your Price extension. You might also want the One Page Checkout extension too. I haven’t set up donations using WooCommerce, just regular e-commerce sites, so I don’t have an example to include.

Other options

And there are all kinds of other options for getting donations, that include embeddable forms from other sources. Our friends over at Girls Supporting Girls, a great charity that’s raising money to build schools in developing countries, uses BuildOn for their donations. Another great charity website, Toots for Tufts, is raising money to help cancer patients pay for basic life necessities when receiving treatment, like groceries, rent, etc. They are using FirstGiving for their online donations. There are an infinite number of ways to accept online donations on your site.

I wouldn’t say that setting up online donations is easy for the average WordPress user, but it’s certainly achievable with the right tools. In 2018, I don’t think you can rely on cash and checks to make an impact for your non profit.

Amy Masson

Amy is the co-owner, developer, and website strategist for Sumy Designs. She's been making websites with WordPress since 2006 and is passionate about making sure websites are as functional as they are beautiful.

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