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Free Online Fundraising Tools - The Best Donation Software Platform and Website to Use for Free!

Free Online Fundraising Tools - The Best Donation Software Platform and Website to Use for Free!

In the ever evolving nonprofit sector, technologies including online software and platforms are becoming increasingly important to remain competitive and indispensable when looking to grow the reach of your charity. The vast potential of these technologies and resources, now available to all nonprofits, expand your organization’s reach and engagement in a myriad of ways, creating more income potential for your charity's cause and mission.

The only real drawback of all of these tool sets is the best technologies are often also the most expensive ones to use. This comes from the fact platforms and software take thousands of hours to code and the ongoing support of them can be a considerable project. Then there are marketing expenses, employees and a slew of other costs any platform must incur.

Luckily there are some software that offer versions at no cost, or are supported through the donation process themselves. But as with all things, some of these software products are excellent and often a great cost saver, while others sometimes create more work and difficulties than if you didn’t employ the tech at all.

That’s why we’ve taken the time to sift through all of the nonprofit fundraising software and platforms available on the market today so that we can guide you with honest reviews of which ones are excellent for your charity’s needs, and which ones will just stunt your growth. We’ve also gone into detail on what makes a great software and what options should be included to help your organization grow the way it deserves to.

The Evolution of Fundraising Tools

The evolution of fundraising tools from 'old school' methods to newer technically sophisticated digital platforms and software has created a whole new way in which nonprofits engage with their donors and utilize their available resources.

Historically, a charity’s fundraising efforts were largely confined to face-to-face interactions, direct mail campaigns, and event hosting, where personal interaction played a critical role in eliciting support for your fundraiser. While these methods were effective, they were greatly limited in their reach due to geographical boundaries and the extensive time and resources required to coordinate and initiate any type of fundraising campaign or awareness.

And while older technologies like radio and television could overcome a few of these problems, it wasn’t until the advent of the internet that nonprofits big and small were able to begin competing at a global level and at costs much less than in previous years.

Today there are a plethora of digital tools that have helped revolutionize fundraising practices. Online donation platforms like Paybee, social media campaigns, crowdfunding websites, and email marketing have allowed organizations of all sizes access to fundraising on a global scale and with minimal cost.

Not only do these online tools help to expand your organization’s reach, they also magnify the efficiency and effectiveness of fundraising campaigns by providing real-time tracking, analytics, and targeted communication strategies with the advent of CRM software.

Add to the mix mobile technologies and a variety of integratable payment processing capabilities, and you get the capabilities of a massive non-profit organization without many of the drawbacks and costs of a large organization. In fact, harnessing the power of all this high tech, even a minor could run a nonprofit, and probably do it from their kitchen table!

This transition to free fundraising software is a trend with no signs of slowing down due to all of its positives when it comes to running any charitable entity. Using today’s technology you’re able to create deeper connections with your supporters, drive more engagement as well as get your message out in ways that weren’t possible just a short time ago. All of this is fundamentally transforming the way nonprofits fundraise and interact with their supporters.

Top Free Online Fundraising Platforms

Although not every platform listed below is truly no-cost, each does offer its user base certain tools and options at no cost that may be enough to power your organization. The best way to evaluate which is the platform for your nonprofit is to recognize what tools are a must for your organization to run optimally, while also taking into consideration the possibility of future growth over time. This way, you can use the free version to begin with, then as your charity grows, you can begin adding paid tools to your mix as they become necessary and you can afford them.

PayBee: PayBee is a versatile platform that we designed from the ground up to enhance the fundraising experience for both your nonprofit and donors. Our suite of tools were built specifically for nonprofits and include fundraising features like offering a seamless donation process, live streaming for virtual events, and interactive features to engage donors. You're able to manage not only your events through our state of the art backend, but easily communicate with your staff, donors and automate any number of tasks to save huge amounts of time and frustration. We are also proud to offer charities and foundations a free account option that allows you to host silent auctions and take donations through select payment processors, all with no sign-up fees, contracts or hidden fees. We simply charge a flat 2% rate on the donations received.

Give Lively: Give Lively stands out as an entirely free service in our lineup. This company differentiates itself by offering its services without any fees, excluding the third-party payment processing charges imposed by Stripe and PayPal, from which Give Lively does not profit. Operating as a philanthropic entity for other charities, it is supported by alternate donation sources. This unique model enables Give Lively to provide a zero cost solution to over 9,000 users. While the software excels in offering fundamental key features, including peer-to-peer fundraising capabilities, it does have its limitations. Specifically, it lacks advanced functionalities such as auctions and hybrid events, making it less versatile for complex fundraising activities. Nonetheless, for those with limited financial resources, Give Lively's well-implemented, albeit basic, offerings present a solid starting point.

Zeffy (formerly Simplyk): Zeffy is the second online donation platform with a zero-fee fundraising model on our list, relying on donors to make a small contribution to their platform rather than charging your organization for it use. This does mean that even the processing fees are waved, so your organization receives 100% of the donation your donor gives. And while they do offer a solid platform for charitable organizations, the shortcomings are the same as Givebutter’s, the lack of more complex fundraising tools. While they do support simple donation pages, membership portal, peer-based fundraising and ecommerce solutions for charities, there are again no hybrid, live streaming or auction or event solutions making its use a bit limited. But they are trusted by over 10,000 nonprofit’s throughout the USA.

Givebutter: Givebutter is unique in that it is a no-cost platform for nonprofits to use and is supported by something they call ‘optional tips’ that the donor decides to pay or not. Although a little confusing, what this means is that if your donor does give Givebutter a ‘tip’, then there is no charge to your organization. However, if they decide not to, then you are required to pay a percentage of your donation to cover their fees. You can also turn off this option, but then you will need to pay a platform fee for using Givebutter. Regardless of how you use them, they do offer some solid tools for your organization including modern payment processing with social integrations, CRM (customer relationship management), and event management capabilities.

GoFundMe: GoFundMe has become a worldwide peer to peer fundraising website where users can ask for donations or funding for very specific reasons like buying new computers for your mental health charity, to supporting a little league sports team. Pretty much anything goes on this platform. And although not specifically a nonprofit platform, many smaller charities do take advantage of their massive user base to bring in donations to support their cause. It’s also super easy to create your account and have a campaign up and running. Nonprofits might choose GoFundMe to tap into its large network of potential donors and leverage the platform's social sharing tools to spread their message and raise funds quickly for urgent needs or projects. And while it is free to use their platform, they do take 2.9% + $0.30 on each donation you receive whether you’re a registered 501(c) or not.

Facebook Fundraising: When leveraged correctly, Facebook Fundraising is a bit like a free crowdfunding platform in that you have the potential global reach of 3.05 billion people monthly and 2.09 billion daily active users as of 2024. And while you can signup and use their platform for free as a nonprofit, they do still charge processing fees like most other platforms at the rate of 1.99% + $0.49 USD per donation. Once approved, you'll have the ability to ask for donations on Facebook's platform, and you'll get a page and the ability to add donate buttons users can use right inside Facebook. But again, as a social media platform it’s second to none and the potential reach is worthy of your attention, but as an actual charity platform, Facebook drastically falls short. We’d recommend using a great platform that includes social media integration and use Facebook to get the word out on your own fundraising campaigns rather than relying on Facebook to run your campaigns.

PayPal for Nonprofits: While not at all a platform for charitable organizations, PayPal for Nonprofits, does offer ‘discounted transaction rates for confirmed 501(c)(3) charities for most products, with no setup, statement, withdrawal, or cancellation fees.’ As one of the leading online payment processors, setting up a nonprofit PayPal account is a smart way to accept money online at far lower fee rates. Your nonprofit might be drawn to PayPal for its reliability, security, and the ability to accept donations from a global audience, as well as its integration capabilities with other platforms and websites, streamlining the donation process and enhancing donor confidence.

While this isn’t a completely inclusive list, we believe the recommendations and reviews we’ve included are the top choices and anyone looking to start a nonprofit will be able to find a solution based on their organizations needs and finances. Just remember to factor in that someday, if all goes well, your charity should grow and prosper over time. So choose wisely and decide on a platform that allows you to grow rather than needing to jump to a different one down the line and wasting time learning a new one.

How to Choose the Right Fundraising Tool

When deciding on the ideal fundraising platform for your nonprofit, it's important to first understand your organization's specific needs, ambitions, and the resources at your disposal. Without clearly understanding what your charity truly needs to run effectively, you can easily end up spending money on tools or features that are useless, or choosing a software with limited capabilities that will end up stifling your organization’s growth.

This process begins by gaining a clear understanding of your fundraising objectives. Determine what you aim to achieve with your fundraising efforts, such as targeting a specific amount of money within a set period, expanding your donor base, increasing the frequency of donations, or gathering funds for a particular project. The nature of your campaigns—whether they involve peer-to-peer fundraising, events, capital campaigns, or a combination—will significantly influence your choice of platform. Assess whether the online fundraising platform provides the specific functionalities you need to meet your fundraising goals, such as customizable donation pages, event registration capabilities, and reporting and analytics tools.

Next, you’ll need to consider the technical requirements and capabilities necessary to run your organization’s daily business and how complex the software would need to be in order to run efficiently. Ease of use is another aspect to always have in mind. You may be the only person using the fundraising platform now, but if you plan to have volunteers and staff someday, they’ll also need to be able to use the platform, and the simpler it is, the less new people will need to be trained.

Additionally, the ability to integrate your chosen free fundraising platform with other tools and systems you already use, such as your customer relationship management (CRM) system, email marketing software, or accounting tools, can streamline operations and enhance efficiency. Then there are integrations with social media, live streaming capabilities as well as many other bells and whistles these types of platforms often offer. Are they mandatory and will be used, or are they just extras costing you time and money?

Then there’s the matter of customer support for you and your staff. Can the company easily be reached, supporting you twenty four hours seven days a week? Look for platforms that offer comprehensive support through various channels, including phone, email, and live chat, to ensure you can get assistance whenever you need it.

Finally, the financial aspect of adopting a fundraising platform cannot be overlooked. Many online fundraising platforms can have very confusing fee structures and it’s best to find one that lists all their fees as clearly as possible. Also take into account any setup fees, monthly or annual charges, and transaction fees that may be on top of a platform fee.

You’ll need to factor in all of these things to do a cost-benefit analysis for a complete platform overview. Don’t get all excited with what a free online fundraising platform can do if you don’t have a real need for it. Be realistic and now what you can afford and what tools really are necessities and not just a new shiny object. If you’re frugal and get what you need while still being on a platform that you can still grow later, you should be off to a great start.

FAQs on Free Online Fundraising Tools

What is the best free online fundraising software?

While ‘best’ has more to do with what your specific charity needs in order to operate correctly, there are a few we can recommend with Paybee’s free option being our number one choice. The next few we can recommend are Give Lively, Zeffy (formerly Simplyk) and Donorbox.

How can nonprofits benefit from using a free online fundraising website for accepting donations?

The major benefit is definitely financial. By using free online software, nonprofits can save considerable amounts of money if the tools are sufficient for the charity’s needs.

Are there any hidden costs associated with free giving tools?

Oftentimes, yes! You really need to look at their fees closely. Many platforms say they are free, but what they mean is your donor has a chance to pay the fee for you. If they do not, then you absorb the fee. So while an online fundraising software solution like this may seem free, it really isn’t. It’s just who is paying the fees. Then there may be hidden costs, set up costs and a host of other costs not stated on their pages.

How does a free fundraising platform sustain its operations?

There are very few truly free platforms. The few that do exist are sustained by contributions themselves. Whether directly or through your donor's gifts. The only problem with a set up like this is, what happens if the donations stop? Does the company charge you or fold?

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Bill Allen

Bill Allen is an expat that has been travelling the world for the past 25 years. He received his MA in writing in New York too long ago to remember, but has been writing on all sorts of subjects far varied publications ever since. When he isn't writing he enjoys meditating and working on his own website, UpscaleDrinks.com. Feel free to connect with him any time.

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