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7 Best Online Fundraising Platforms

Online fundraising platforms have exploded in number in the past few years. Today there are more online fundraising and crowdfunding options than ever before.
Online fundraising platforms have exploded in number in the past few years. Today there are more online fundraising and crowdfunding options than ever before.

In this post I'll survey the top sites for fundraising and explain their pros and cons.

The 7 Best Online Fundraising Platforms are -
  1. MemberDrive
  2. Donorbox
  3. GoFundMe
  4. OneCause
  5. GiveSendGo
  6. Bonfire
  7. Fundly
The best fundraising platforms for nonprofits are easy to use, take as small a cut from the donations as possible, and offer good support to you as the organizations.

The top platforms also offer recurring donations, pledges, and allow donors to control their own giving.

If you are short on time, the takeaway for us is: MemberDrive comes out on top as the best online fundraising platform with the lowest fees.

You can get started using MemberDrive for free in just a few steps that take 10 minutes:

  1. Sign up for free
  2. Connect to your Stripe account or create one (Stripe is the top payment processor that handles transactions)
  3. Create a campaign to receive donations
  4. Direct people to your MemberDrive-hosted fundraising page

5 Essential Features in an Online Fundraising Platform


With so many different features offered by fundraising sites, it can be difficult to figure out what features are essential to your success, versus which ones are just nice-to-have or even superfluous.

From many years of experience in fundraising, here's the top 5 features you need:

Feature #1: Price


Yes price is a feature, and in fact it is the most important feature.

Winning the trust of a potential donor and motivating them to donate to your campaign is a big challenge, and once you've done so, you want to maximize how much of that donation goes to you organization.

So when you evaluate each possible online fundraising platform, first look at the 1) platform fee percentage they take, and 2) monthly charge they demand.

If that fee is too high, say, 3% or more, keep looking. Plenty of solid fundraising platforms charge under 3% platform fee and provide a good service.

Also, if a site doesn't tell you what their fees are, or if there fees are confusing or hard to calculate, look elsewhere.

Finally, a few sites take no additional platform fee (beyond the standard 2.9% + $0.30 Stripe fee), but they do so only because they then beg for contributions from your donors to their services. 

So your donors don't just see your campaign and mission; they are distracted by the donation platform's branding, wording, and worst of all, a solicitation to give money to that donation platform.

For an individual raising money for some personal need, not a big deal. But for a professional organization, company, or non-profit, it's simply not a professional look to have. Better to pay a small platform fee and protect your donors from being solicited by a donation platform.

Feature #2: Custodial vs Non-custodial


Custody-what?

Stick with me. These terms are simple once you know what they mean.

A custodial online fundraising platform works like a middle-man: someone donates to you, but it first goes into an account controlled by the fundraising platform. GoFundMe works this way, for instance.

Then, later (hopefully), the fundraising platform sends the money to your account, or you are able to withdraw it to your account.

Normally, that works pretty well. But not always.

In the Canadian Trucker protest, GoFundMe took in millions of dollars in donations intended for those protesters, only to then freeze their funds, then threaten to give the funds to other, unrelated organizations, before finally refunding the money. The truckers thus didn't receive the donations given to them.

But even apart from a big controversial event like that, when you look at reviews of custodial online fundraising platforms, one of the most common complaint you will see is difficulty withdrawing funds from their service.

Feature #3: Recurring Giving


You want an online donation platform the supports recurring gifts, as it has been proven that people then give more money over time in that way.

Ideally, the person can choose between monthly, quarterly, or yearly recurrence.

Most platforms now support recurring giving, so you want one that makes it the default and encourages donors to give in that way.

Feature #4: Customized Donation Pages


The best online fundraising platforms let you customize your donation page(s): your images, your logos, your wording.

Without this capability, your pages don't look unique or tailored to your brand. Instead, you look like an auto-generated page on someone else's site. Not a good look.

If you don't have a dedicated software developer working on your site, it is best to choose a donation platform that has this customization ability out-of-the-box. In other words, with no special software code required.

Feature #5: Member Content Updates


Also called "membership features," you want a platform that lets you update donors with how the campaign that they donated to, and your organization as a whole, is doing.

This turns donors into members, people who feel invested in the success of your mission, and who are thus incentivized to donate more to you over time.

Updating members "closes the loop" with them. They donated, and instead of feeling like they poured money into a black hole, they find out what is being done with their donation, how it is being used, how it is helping.

So a good online fundraising platform lets you post rich content updates to members and notifies them (e.g. email) that there is an update.


Now that you know what to look for, without further ado, here's the top platforms.

The 7 Best Online Fundraising Platforms

1. MemberDrive

MemberDrive is the lowest-cost online fundraising platform and offers the best value for you and your donors. Pay zero start-up fees; pay no monthly fees, and there is no contract. MemberDrive makes it easy for donors to give to you online. 

Key fundraising features

  • Best-in-class pricing (see pricing section below)
  • Allows donors to choose which campaign their donation will support
  • Create membership campaigns
  • Enables donors to manage their own donations and get the receipts
  • Gamification through leaderboards
  • Pledges for increase donations and donor commitment
  • Non-custodial
  • Recurring donations by default
  • Customized donation pages

Best fundraising platform for

  • Nonprofits of all sizes
  • Organizations and companies that want to keep donors updated on progress

Pricing

1% MemberDrive platform fee.
Plus standard payment processing fees of 2.9% (2.2% if nonprofit) + $0.30 for Stripe.


Sign up with MemberDrive for free

2. Donorbox

Donorbox is a solid fundraising platform for online giving. 

It offers many features and integrations, though some cost extra (either higher platform fee or extra monthly charge).

Key fundraising features

  • Customized donation forms
  • Text-to-give
  • Peer-to-peer campaigns (note: higher platform fee taken)
  • Membership campaigns (note: higher platform fee taken)
  • Events and tickets, and accept donations alongside (note: events incur a higher percentage platform fee)

Best fundraising platform for

Nonprofits who plan to spend time using integrations and extra features and are willing to receive a smaller percentage of their donors' donations

Pricing

1.5% Donorbox platform fee.
Plus standard payment processing fees of 2.9% + $0.30 for stripe and PayPal.
Add-on integrations are available for additional monthly charges.


Sign up for DonorBox

3. GoFundMe

GoFundMe is a popular online fundraising site used especially for medical issues and personal needs.

Key fundraising features:

  • Supporters (i.e. friends, family) can set up a page on your behalf
  • They can add a photos/video about you and your need
  • Low-cost for individual fundraising

Best fundraising platform for:

Personal needs like medical problems or individual projects

Pricing

Standard payment processing fees of 2.9% + $0.30.
Your donors are requested to voluntarily "tip" more money to GoFundMe to cover expenses.
For nonprofits, GoFundMe Charity has a Flex plan that adds an additional 3% platform fee, which donors can choose to pay extra to cover if they desire.


Create a GoFundMe fundraiser

Read this comparison guide for an in-depth look at how GoFundMe compares to MemberDrive based on features and pricing.

4. OneCause

OneCause is geared toward helping nonprofits raise money for events through the use of challenges. It includes events/tickets, peer-to-peer features, and auctions.

Key fundraising features

  • Events, tickets, administration like table registrations
  • Silent and live auctions
  • Peer-to-peer features
  • Text-to-give

Best fundraising platform for

Nonprofits that want to raise money for specific events

Pricing

They have three different pricing plans with varying features, but you must request a consultation with them to find out how much it will cost you.


Request a consultation with OneCause

5. GiveSendGo

GiveSendGo is a like a Christian GoFundMe. They explicitly talk about spiritual needs and prayer, in addition to standard fundraising aspects.

Key fundraising features

  • Low cost for individual fundraising
  • A Pray button and a prayer team that calls you personally to tell you they are praying for you

Best fundraising platform for

Individuals who value an explicitly Christian-based fundraising platform

Pricing: 

Standard payment processing fees of 2.9% + $0.30.
Your donors are requested to voluntarily "tip" more money to GiveSendGo to cover expenses.


Sign up with GiveSendGo

6. Bonfire

Bonfire is an online fundraising site that lets you design a t-shirt to raise money for your campaign.

Key fundraising features:

  • Design your own t-shirt with their online tool
  • Bonfire produces then ships your shirt to donors
  • Peer-to-peer features

Best fundraising platform for:

People or organizations that want to use a custom t-shirt as the focus of their fundraising and don't mind the higher cost

Pricing: 

8% processing fee.
Shipping fees ($4.99 and up for domestic, $11.99 and up for international), for 5 or more items shipping is free.


Sign up with Bonfire

7. Fundly

Fundly is geared to help small nonprofits do crowdfunding with a social media sharing focus. Fundly automates social media sharing of campaigns and donations and helps nonprofits keep donors updated with progress.

Key fundraising features:

  • Events
  • Embed donation forms
  • Peer-to-peer features
  • Social media features (Facebook integration)

Best fundraising platform for:

Nonprofits and individuals who think social media and mobile app usage are essential to their fundraising and are willing to have a larger cut taken out of their donations.

Pricing:

4.9% platform fee
Plus the standard fee of 2.9% + $0.30


Start a fundly fundraiser


Which Fundraising Platform Should You Choose?

The two main tradeoffs with these fundraising platforms is cost vs. features.

For cost, the lower the better, with one caveat which we'll discuss shortly.

For features, more is not always better. Consider whether you will use the features and integrations that they are touting. Will those features add up to more donations? If not, then you are paying for something you don't need.

Most nonprofits and organizations raising money succeed or fail not based on gizmos and gimmicks of the fundraising platform, but based on their own merits: the cause they are championing, the size of their network of potential donors, the dedication of their members and true believers.

Cost-wise, the platforms that offer 0% additional platform fee (like GiveSendGo and GoFundMe) are good for individuals, but for nonprofits and organizations, the trade-off is that YOUR donors are being solicited to make another donation to that other company.

Now your potential donor is being given multiple decisions to make: to donate to you or to additional give money to the fundraising platform you are using.

The more decisions you make someone choose, the more likely they simply close the page and make NO donation to you whatsoever.

Further, you want your donors to see YOUR brand only and not be hit by another company's logo and donation solicitation at the key point where a donor is giving money to you.

Asking for another donation to the fundraising company can make the donor feel guilted into giving to them, a bad taste to leave in their mouth when they have just given to your organization.

This is why most platforms and sites charge a platform fee over and above the standard credit card processing fee.

This fee allows them to put your brand and campaign front-and-center and not muddy the waters in your donors' minds.

MemberDrive has the best-in-class fee of 1%, offering the highest value to you of lowest cost yet with all the features you need to achieve your mission.

Sign up here for free with MemberDrive now.

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