ONE area that is an increasingly hot topic and competitive market for fundraisers but arguably one of the most important things for charities to consider, is which online fundraising platform to use.
At YMCA Humber, Sleep Easy has been our primary fundraiser since 2011. For all but one of those years we have used ArtezGlobal or Frontstream as it is now known as our main fundraising platform.
In 2012 we used BT MyDonate and in 2013 and 2014 we used Virgin Money Giving for our Community Games fundraisers. Then, in 2015 and 2016, we used JustGiving for our staff members who took part in various endurance challenge fundraisers.
The accompanying presentation grid on pros and cons of each site and the below notes are strictly from our user experience and also those of our fundraisers, gathered in feedback held after each respective event.
This Canadian-based company, with a UK office in Crawley, are not that well known in the wider market of charitable fundraising portals but they were the one presented to us when we first launched our Sleep Easy event in 2011.
At that time, the vast majority of YMCAs that held Sleep Easy events used ArtezGlobal and we were able to develop something of a community through the administration login area of the site that enabled us to share experiences of what was working well with the event and compare how we were all doing in terms of numbers and fundraising.
Over time the use of Artez has splintered across the YMCA federation but we have stuck with the platform almost throughout our Sleep Easy events since 2011.
- Ability to Brand. Artez has lots of flexibility to brand your site to make it look exclusively like YOUR event. This has enabled us to get creative over the years and has drawn praise from fundraisers and other YMCAs alike. This also ensures that your fundraisers know they are raising money for YMCA.
- Interaction with Fundraisers. Artez has a built-in email system that not only sends out the usual emails about fundraising to your fundraisers but also enables the site administrator to send out specific and targeted messages through criteria setting. Two good examples that we have used this for in recent years came on the day of Sleep Easy itself. In 2014 one of our sites in Hull saw its car park flooded, we were able to send out a very quick email to participants at that site to ensure they sought alternative parking close to the venue and give suggestions. In 2015, a newspaper report printed the wrong date for Sleep Easy in Grimsby, we were again able to send a message around to all the participants at that venue to inform them of the correct date and time.
- Reporting Mechanism. There is an extensive reporting tab in Artez that allows for all manner of reports to be spooled off, from the purchasing of merchandise to number of participants to fundraising levels. You can also save custom reports and also compare reports year-on-year to see how your current event is performing.
- Mini-site. The development of the mini-site in 2014 allows for the site administrator to develop web pages that appear on the front fundraising page and can contain all kinds of information on the event and YMCA in general. This has been good for fundraisers as it keeps them on one website, instead of having them flicking between their fundraising portal and our YMCA site.
- Use for other activities. Artez’s portal allows for YMCAs to set-up their own online shop, support for direct donations and also personal appeals.
- Support Service. Artez’s support service has been excellent and the team go that extra step from screen sharing and walk-through guides to taking feedback on board, which has led to the development of the mini-site, the leaderboard that has been popular amongst fundraisers, suggested donation amounts and an early-bird discount set-up, amongst other things.
- The fees for using Artez are very high. In the region of 3% per transaction, which is on top of any fees accrued from using PayPal.
- User experience. There have been a few instances where users have suggested that the Artez set-up is too over complicated for sign-ups, asking too many questions in the registration stage.
- Name value. Some users will ask about setting up JustGiving, Virgin Money pages etc. because Artez, at present, has little if any name value.
- PayPal Merchant Needed. When we first set-up the site, all funds went through to YMCA England and were then divided out from there. As you can imagine, this was a very time consuming process. To receive the funds directly to your account, you need a PayPal Merchant account, which in itself is a time consuming set-up process of six-to-eight weeks and costs £20 per month, although this has its benefits as it allows for your YMCA to be in a position to be able to collect card payments online more readily.
- Doesn’t collect Gift Aid. As of yet, Artez doesn’t collect Gift Aid, which means there is a time consuming process to run off a Gift Aid report and then submit this through the Gift Aid website. It also means that your reporting of fundraising totals can never be truly accurate.
- Set-up time needed. The very neat features that Artez offer mean a heightened set-up time for your site, especially if you are going to take full advantage of those features and get full value from the service.
Virgin Money Giving
Through its partnership with the London Marathon, Virgin Money Giving has become one of the most well-known fundraising sites in the UK.
YMCA Humber used Virgin Money Giving exclusively for its Community Games fundraisers in 2013 and 2014.
- Support Service. Virgin have an excellent telephone support service that rivals Artez, although this isn’t replicated in email and chat support.
- Reporting mechanism. Virgin’s reporting mechanism again rivals Artez and also allows for some comparison work to be done.
- Regular payments. Payments from Virgin are made on a weekly basis meaning it is easy to keep a record internally for the finance department.
- Collects Gift Aid. Virgin collects Gift Aid and processes those payment on a weekly basis, separately from the fundraising payments, which makes it easier for the finance department to keep track of.
- Fundraiser Page Interaction. The individual fundraising pages offer a simpler, more streamlined way to link Twitter accounts and add photos from your event.
- Name value. Virgin has name value with fundraisers, mainly thanks to its involvement with the London Marathon.
- Lack of Branding. Some donors felt that it wasn’t clear which cause they were donating to as the Virgin branding does dominate the page.
- Interaction with fundraisers. There is no built-in system that allows the charity to contact all fundraisers, this has to be done manually via email.
- User experience for the charity. The overall user experience for the charity is a difficult one. Once logged in, the pages and links you need as an administrator are often buried within the Virgin system.
Perhaps the most well-known fundraising site, which passed the £1-billion cumulative funds raised in March 2012.
YMCA Humber used Just Giving for some personal pages for an endurance challenge that some of our staff were taking part in during 2014/2015.
- Well known. Through several high profile campaigns, Just Giving has become a go-to fundraising portal for donors and fundraisers.
- Collects Gift Aid. Just Giving allows the collecting of Gift Aid for charities, which is time saving in the overall process.
- Best mobile interface. Of all the fundraising sites that we have tried out, both donors and fundraisers reported that Just Giving had the best interface on mobile devices.
- Text Giving. Just Giving’s text giving service can be used alongside other fundraising portals or as an accompaniment to a Just Giving site. It is free to set-up, easy to use and comes with free publicity materials, which include posters and a vinyl banner. One free campaign can be set running at a time and this can be changed to suit the charity.
- Monthly Cost. The monthly cost to Just Giving was off-putting to our charity, especially when campaigns only run for part of the year.
- Admin Fees. Admin fees at Just Giving are higher than their many competitors, meaning you don’t get as much of the individual donation.
- Brand in its own right. There was some feedback later in our campaign and on the back of several headline stories in the national press that Just Giving had become too much of a brand in its own right and wasn’t beneficial for our charity.
We used BT MyDonate for an early Sleep Easy campaign and were impressed with its charitable value, namely low fees and free to use, as well as its ability to collect Gift Aid. At the time we did not have a merchant PayPal account and this meant we couldn’t use the payment functions for our own benefit to their maximum potential.
One key flaw we found in the system was when we needed to contact all participants urgently that we were unable to do this and to export data to another system manually to send communications, which was clunky, time consuming and not ideal.
- Cost. BT MyDonate is free to use and its costs are very low compared to its competitors.
- Gift Aid. BT MyDonate collects Gift Aid for you and makes regular payments directly to your bank account.
- User experience. Our donors reported that BT MyDonate was one of the smoothest fundraising portals to use from their perspective.
- Name value. BT is a recognised national and international brand and its presence on the site is not as overpowering as Virgin.
- Reporting mechanism. BT has a solid reporting mechanism for collating stats that rivals those provided by Artez and Virgin.
- Lack of Branding. Not unlike other major brands, BT offers little in the way of branding for charities, although its own branding is not as overbearing.
- Interaction with fundraisers. Found it almost impossible to interact with fundraisers without using a third-party portal.
- No PayPal option. According to the developers this is under review. Our fundraisers and donors said this would cause a major problem for them.
There are three end users to consider when selecting a fundraising portal; donor, fundraiser, charity. Each has differing needs and you are never really going to please everyone with your selection, so you have to marry your choice up to either the organisation’s overall fundraising strategy and/or aims or the specific goals for the event in question.
Before deciding, ask yourself which of the major factors do you want to achieve from your event; raise money, raise public profile, reach out to a new audience, raise awareness of your work, donor development or anything else you or the charity may pursue. Also ask yourself what constraints you have on your delivery; budget, time, staffing etc.
It is always worthwhile being aware of recent coverage surrounding charities and where a donation goes, you want to get the balance between user friendliness and donor value for money right – donors and fundraisers don’t like to think that their contribution is going on unnecessary admin fees.
It is only after all this has been considered that you will be in a position to determine which fundraising portal is right for you and, as stated, you will not be in a position to please everyone! The four portals listed are just the ones we have had experience of at YMCA Humber, there are others out there that you may find suitable, so feel free to explore!
As always, make sure you are in a position to justify your choice to your charity, as well as your audience, if someone queries ‘why don’t you use JustGiving’ for example and you can give a concise but informed reply, pointing out the pros to the charity of using another portal, that person will feel more valued to your cause.
This handy Fundraising Pros and Cons infographic is designed as a snapshot of the pros and cons of different fundraising sites.