Online giving: which fundraising websites are best?

Two more websites were set to enter the increasingly crowded online fundraising market. Hannah Jordan compares the sites and asks whether they are doing enough for charities

Online giving
Online giving

The world of online fundraising is getting crowded. Two years ago charities had few options, but today they can shop around. And last month the competition was expected to get even tougher with the launch of two new sites: MyGift and Virgin Money Giving.

The sites are mostly used as a collection point by people seeking sponsorship for fundraising activities, and charities can take pages to pitch their events. The sites take a percentage of donations, and some take a fee.

Such sites have had a hugely positive effect on fundraising income, says Hannah Jewkes, digital fundraising projects manager at Macmillan Cancer Support. But there are problems.

"They aren't really providing charities with everything they need in terms of branding and functionality," she says. "It can be difficult to get all the information about events, fundraisers and their supporters from the sites onto our own database. There needs to be an easier way to do that."

Clare Hall, head of personal fundraising at animal charity the Brooke, agrees. She says too many of the sites focus on the people seeking sponsorship rather than the charities. In response, the Brooke has set up its own system to allow supporters to create fundraising pages on its website. "This means we have a seamless process between someone entering their details on to the website and it being directly transferred onto their record on our database," says Hall.

She accepts that supporters will continue to use other sites but hopes to encourage them to switch from using external fundraising sites to using the Brooke's own website.

But Nick Burne, a senior consultant at Think Consulting, says charities should be happy to let supporters choose. "Integrated sites are more effective for supporters who already use a charity's site, whereas sites like Justgiving are a brand targeted at fundraisers, not charities," he says. "We should focus more on creating a better experience for supporters, and if they have accounts with other sites they know, you shouldn't stop them from using them."

Another of Hall's criticisms is that she feels Justgiving's branding overshadows that of the Brooke on its page on the donations website. Her desire for brand control is shared by children's charity Barnardo's, which has also gone down the integrated site route.

Pamela Shorney, fundraising marketing manager at Barnardo's, says: "We still use the other sites, but with the integrated model we raise brand awareness because fundraisers direct their sponsors to us and we are in control of all the messaging that goes out to them."

But with competition increasing, the online fundraising business might be about to change, according to Quinn McKew, a consultant at the Management Centre. She says only the sites with the leanest cost structures and best customer service will survive.

There will also be pressure on the sites to differentiate themselves and cater for particular niches, she says. "If there are a lot of sites competing for their share of the giving, the current models may not be the most efficient to maximise online giving in the long term."


Launched 2001
Appeals to date 1.3m
Amount raised More than £500m
How it works Fundraisers create individual pages with text, photos and videos, which they can publicise via email or the site's Facebook application. Supporters can make one-off donations or create direct debits
Charges £15 monthly subscription; 15 per cent VAT on donations; 5 per cent of donations; 1.45 per cent credit card fee or 1.6 per cent on PayPal or debit card fees
Additional services Gift Aid processing; PayPal accepted; free webinars and online tutorial videos; reports on donations and supporters; access to its US service, First Giving

Launched March 2001
Appeals to date More than 60,000
Amount raised £25m
How it works Charities get a customised website where visitors can fundraise, sponsor, make
one-off donations or set up regular payments. Charities can upload videos, photos and interactive elements on to the site, which also allows them to sell tickets for events
Charges Two packages are available. The pay-as-you-go package involves a £150 set-up fee and a 5.85 per cent charge on donations. The contract package, for charities that raise more than £50,000 a month, involves a £250 set-up fee, a £50 monthly subscription and a 5.07 per cent charge on donations
Additional services Gift Aid processing; PayPal accepted; free advertising and donor recruitment tools; consulting services; customised reports on donations and supporters

My Charity Page
Launched March 2008
Appeals to date Unable to provide information; 2,567 charities are registered with the site
Amount raised £1.18m
How it works Charities can promote events on their pages. Fundraisers enter events and set up individual fundraising pages. Charities and fundraisers can blog, join friends groups, send messages and upload photos and videos to
their pages
Charges 2.75 per cent of donations
Additional services Gift Aid processing; charities can build customised websites.

Global Giving UK
Launched September 2008
Appeals to date 400 in the UK, 650 in the US
Amount raised £180,000 on the UK site, £12m on the US site
How it works Individuals give a minimum of £5 directly to vetted grassroots charity projects in more than 70 countries, mainly in the developing world. Projects receive payments when donations reach £250 or more. Donors get regular progress reports from the field by email
Charges 10 per cent of donations
Additional services Gift Aid processing; corporate partnerships encourage employee fundraising on the site; gift vouchers; supporters can create fundraising pages and giving
groups with friends; online and offline social networking tools for charities to communicate with each other

The Big Give
Donations facility launched November 2008
Appeals to date 5,300
Amount raised Almost £3.4m
How it works The site is for major donors who choose from projects uploaded by UK charities and donate online or directly to the charity. Major donors can create match funds so online donors can double the value of their gifts
Charges 4 per cent of online donations
Additional services Gift Aid processing; charity gift vouchers

Due to launch August 2009
Appeals to date n/a
Amount raised n/a
How it works Fundraisers set up individual pages on the site to promote their activities and receive donations. Site visitors can make donations directly to the charity. Charities can design their own pages with external links and create news and fundraising updates
Charges 5 per cent of donations
Additional services Gift Aid processing; donor reports; free banner advertising; site users can also access services run by the Charity Service, the charity that runs MyGift and distributes payroll giving and Gift Aid funds to other charities.

Virgin Money Giving
Launched August 2009
Appeals to date n/a
Amount raised n/a
How it works Charities can customise their own web pages and include links to events or information. Fundraisers can set up individual pages with text, fundraising history, photos, information on activities and a countdown calculator to each event; they can also create fundraising teams or groups
Charges £115 set-up fee and 2 per cent of donations
Additional services Gift Aid reclaimed; Facebook application; event registration fees collected; reporting of donations
and supporters


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