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I am building a website for a nonprofit organization which would like to receive donations. They would like to accept one time donations as well as on a regular basis (f.e. monthly, yearly, etc).

I am overwhelmed with so many options between CRM, form builders, cart solutions or e-commerce, building my custom page with API integration, true merchant account providers, some all in one processor like PayPal etc.

I have even thought about building my own payment process, however, what are the security concerns that I should be taking into account if I do that? And what would be the set of criteria that you would recommend to evaluate the so many different services out there? Thanks a lot!

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Based on the limited details you've already given, I feel confident saying that you do not want to make your own payment processor. (Or even host your instance of one.)

Furthermore, unless you've determined that it's worth it to your organization to internalize the security costs and risks, you should avoid any solution in which anyone's credit card details even pass through any computer system under your control.

The good news is that lots of people are offering services well suited for your situation. CJM's answer lists a few targeted options. I also know at least one person who uses donorbox.

I'll go a little further out on a limb and suggest against trying to find an all-in-one service like NationBuilder for your web-host, Content Management System, Customer Relations Manager, and payment processor. Some well experienced people may disagree with me about this (I know people who specifically like NationBuilder, and it does have nice capabilities), but I feel like there's a long-term advantage to having your website management, your payment processing, and you "member" management handled by stand-alone tools.

Specifically the advantage is that at some point you're going to want to overhaul one of those systems, and that will be easier if you're not worrying about breaking the entire business stack when you do it. Also, the time you save upfront with an all-in-one solution doesn't necessarily translate into long-term simplicity; internalizing a little of the inherent complexity of what you're trying to do upfront will mean you have better control in the long run.

Since this is Software Recommendations, I'll go ahead and assume that you're working with a small, volunteer-based, non-profit that mostly just needs to communicate who they are to the public, and get donations from some people. I'd suggest starting with

  • A Jekyll based website managed through Siteleaf, possibly hosted by GitHub or whoever.
  • A private spreadsheet hosted in the cloud someplace for keeping track of members, donors, and mailing lists.
  • A completely external donation system, take your pick.

Those are all small tools but they work, and they're easy to upgrade if you outgrow them.

  • Thanks ShapeOfMatter, I'll give it a go; your post is especially helpful because it includes some reasons on why to go with certain options :) – Sebastian Neferu Jan 30 at 16:17
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Do you just want to receive donations?

Most reputable payment providers offer not only complex APIs for you to use but also fairly simple button mechanisms which are fairly easy to setup. You'll be liable for payment processing fees.

If you need supporting functionality to track your donators, you could use an eCommerce/CRM type system but that seems like overkill.

Instead, consider donation platforms like:

JustGiving, CharityChoice Wonderful GoFundMe, Credibal, NationBuilder, VeryConnect

There are loads of them, though some may be regional and not worldwide. The fees and fee structures vary, but you may some that match or even beat the payment processing fees demanded by the likes of PayPal, so given the extra functionality available, this route may be preferable.

I've donated through several of these but have never tried to receive donations so cannot provide specific recommendations.

  • Thanks CJM, I'll add those to my references :) – Sebastian Neferu Jan 30 at 16:17
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You should build property strategy for your site and try to follow next steps:

  1. Select tools for web design. Determine which tools you are going to use for designing and your website.

  2. Choose your web host. Find a hosting provider who can host all the tools you want to use and offers the features you need.

  3. Choose a payment solution. Weigh your options to find out if your payment processor or gateway is right for you.

  4. Select or create a shopping cart. Your customers will need a way to select products and purchase them, so find a shopping cart solution that meets your needs.

  5. Get strong SSL security. Work with a provider such as GeoTrust to get SSL secure protection for your site.

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