How to take payments through your membership website

by Owen Roseblade in November 17th, 2020

Taking payments online is a core requirement for most organisations and there are lots of options to choose from to fulfil your needs.

In this post, we describe the requirements of different payment types including donations, event bookings, membership subscriptions and shops and we offer specific guidance on how to get set up with minimal fuss.

Payment gateways

If you wish to handle people’s card details you need to have appropriate security measures in place. Most small and medium-sized organisations will outsource this job to a payment gateway because doing it yourself is a large undertaking. The payment gateway will look after the tricky security stuff on your behalf for a small monthly fee or a percentage fee on each transaction.

There are lots of gateways to choose from and all have their pros and cons.

  • WorldPay includes point-of-sale systems in physical shops
  • PayPal makes it easy to add buy buttons to your website
  • Stripe enables a seamless unbranded payments process

Important considerations

When choosing a gateway consider the following.

  • How easy is it to use? Get a demo and ensure you have the right expertise.
  • Do they handle PCI compliance? Make sure they do.
  • Can I take onsite payments? Check it provides smooth user experience.
  • How do the costs stack up? Compare your options over at least 4 years.

Different ways to take payments on a non-profit website

There’s more to taking payments than just a payment gateway. But there are loads of great resources out there to help you set things up quickly and easily. In this section, we’ll guide you through some common scenarios.

Setting up an online shop

There are lots of ways to set up an online shop, from using eBay to building your own. But presenting your products and offering a checkout process is just half the work. To run a successful online shop you need to consider how you are going to fulfil your orders.

For most small organisations and charities looking to sell a handful of items, we recommend using a separate e-commerce platform that can easily integrate with your existing website. As opposed to building something yourself, this allows you to enable more features as your needs grow at very little extra cost. We think Shopify is a good system for this and it’s easy to embed products on your website. For guidance on how to set up a Shopify account check out our post on how to sell items with Shopify on your charity website.

Online donations

For lots of charities, taking donations is one of the primary goals for their website. One really important thing to consider before getting distracted by the checkout process is how well you guide people to the start of the process. Our guide to content strategy talks a lot about the concept of user journeys and how to guide people to where you want them to go. You can point people offsite to a simple payment gateway such as PayPal or you can use a dedicated donation platform such as Just Giving. However, the ideal is to keep people on your website throughout the process and capture their data directly into your charity CRM (contact database). White Fuse provides these tools as a core part of its software. This integrated approach decreases the chance people will drop out half way through because they don't trust the website they have been redirected to.

Another important consideration when taking donations is whether and how the platform handles gift aid. In our dedicated guide, we review all the mainstream donation platforms and give you our recommendations for which we think are the best value for money.

Selling services

Many charities provide services as a means of raising funds. You may need to be able to take payments for one-off, or recurring services or manage available places on a course. As far as we’re aware there aren’t many mainstream online apps dedicated to managing the selling of services as such but that is because the types of services vary so much. Often one of the other systems mentioned in this post can be tweaked to serve the purpose.

Membership subscriptions

Recurring payments can be one of the hardest types to manage online. Extra factors are in play such as renewal dates, trial periods, updating card details, cancellation periods etc. Often a more nuanced system is required for this and it can be harder to integrate with your website. White Fuse was built for membership organisations to tackle exactly this challenge. By combining a powerful website builder with online donation and membership subscription management tools it makes managing regular payments through your website a lot easier. In our post about How to create a membership website we talk about lots of different ways to accept new memberships and manage existing memberships online.

Event bookings

Selling tickets for events can be a great fundraising strategy but managing the finances and ticketing isn’t always straightforward. A dedicated events platform such as Eventbrite will make it easy for you to set the number of tickets that are available and even offer different types of tickets. However, if events is something you do alongside seeking online donations and membership subscriptions then White Fuse is worth a look as this combines all three of these features with a powerful website building tool and contact database.

Managing your data

Whether you’re selling products or taking donations your data is important to you. Being able to analyse your data is the key to knowing how to market to your existing user base. You will want to get all your data into a CRM system where you can manage your constituents and run reports to help inform your marketing.

For more information on CRM read our guide to the top Charity CRMs.

You may be able to save time, money and stress by using a cloud-based software platform to handle most of the above functionality. You benefit from much simpler admin with no need to manage the integration of different software products. Your users also tend to get a better experience as they're not shunted off your website to make a payment.

White Fuse offers donations, event booking, membership management and more - all in one platform. All the information about the people interacting with your website is stored in a central database.

Find out more about White Fuse

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