How to take charity donations online – a guide

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Online donations

Recent research carried out by the Charities Aid Foundation found that a quarter of charities do not have the ability to take online donations – making it harder for them to adapt to a more cash-free landscape following the coronavirus pandemic.

We have produced the below guide to help charities and community groups set up digital donations on their websites. If you have any questions or require more support, you can get in touch with our team here.

Many charities and other non-profit organisations start out with a website that has a ‘Donate’ button that points to their JustGiving or Virgin Money Giving pages.

These are great fundraising platforms and deal with a lot of the complexity of processing payments, but they do have their drawbacks. They are designed primarily as ‘peer-to-peer’ platforms, allowing friends and family to easily sponsor each other e.g. for doing a marathon. As a charity you do not have a lot of control over your brand when using these platforms, nor do you have much access to the data that’s collected from your donors.

Therefore, receiving online donations directly on your website not only gives you more control over your brand, but reduces the payment and processing fees you pay and means you have full control over the data you collect from your supporters.

PCI compliance

When you receive online donations you are effectively processing and storing credit card information, and if you have any dealings with this kind of information you need to be Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant.

This process can be very tough and very costly, but luckily there is a way around it. It’s just the organisation that processes and stores the information that needs to be PCI compliant, which doesn’t necessarily need to be your organisation – which is where payment gateways come in.

What are payment gateways?

PCI compliance is the reason why payment gateway companies are so popular. These companies act as a ‘gateway’ to allow you to take payments online. All you need to do is follow their guidelines.

You can take donations via different channels such as:

  • Direct debits
  • One-off debit/credit card payments
  • Apple Pay & Google Pay
  • PayPal

Each of these different payment methods will be accepted and not accepted by different payment gateways. The rule with payment gateways is one channel = one payment gateway. If you want to accept donations from all these payment methods, you will need to specifically code this into your website (your web developer should be able to do this).

How can a CRM system help with online donations?

Customer (or Constituent) Relationship Management (CRM) has proved to be an extremely useful software tool to help charities and non-profits run their operations smoothly. CRM platforms for charities and voluntary organisations provide valuable and effective retention tools such as, constituent management, marketing automation and social media engagement.

Most importantly, some CRM systems can help with donation management. These CRM systems have integrated payment processing systems to handle donations across the main payment channels.

Some popular CRM systems for donation management include:

Setting up accounts for payment gateways

Whether you are using a CRM system or you employ a web developer to build the donation process directly into your website, you will still need to set up accounts for each payment gateway.

Credit Cards:

The first channel to set up is online card payments as they are the most important and most widely used. Here we have compared two of the most popular payment providers for credit cards:


  • Used by non-profits of all sizes
  • Supports Apple Pay and Google Pay
  • Takes one-off payments and regular payments
  • Charges 1.4% + 20p per transaction
  • No setup, monthly or hidden fees


  • Supports PayPal, Apple Pay & Google Pay
  • Easy for donors to repeat payments
  • Charges 1.9% + 20p per transaction
  • No setup, monthly or hidden fees

Direct debits:

Direct debits are a standard and recognised way of collecting regular payments from donors, they currently account for 31% of all donations to UK charities.

In actual fact, you do not need a payment gateway to process direct debits – you can do them in-house because account numbers and sort codes are less sensitive data than credit card numbers. However, there is a lot of admin in this process so it is much more efficient to set up a payment gateway.

Here we have compared two of the most popular payment providers for direct debits:


  • Simple to set up
  • Donors will be notified by email when a payment is taken
  • Charges 1% + 20p per transaction
  • No setup, monthly or hidden fees


  • Used by many charities and businesses
  • No additional software, hardware or training costs
  • Price can vary


PayPal is an important gateway to add to your payment methods, even if it is slightly different to the others. PayPal are essentially a payment gateway for processing credit cards, but with a recognised brand that donors trust.

  • Recognised brand
  • Charges 1.4% + 20p
  • Accept one-off donations or regular donations
  • PayPal accounts do not expire, but credit cards do

Apple Pay & Google Pay

These are nice to have, but not essential. They are great for donors who prefer to use their mobile when donating, as they can donate in just a few taps, but it’s still fairly new.

Apple Pay & Google Pay are not payment gateways, they are essentially another way to allow payments via credit card. But the difference is that donors do not have to enter their card details.

These payment methods are usually partnered with other payment gateways we have previously mentioned, such as Stripe.

About BHIB Charities Insurance

BHIB Charities Insurance specialise in providing tailored cover for community groups, clubs, societies, voluntary organisations and hobby or special interest groups. We offer more than just insurance and we are passionate about supporting local communities.

To find out how we can help your charity or not-for-profit organisation, email us on or call 0330 013 0036 to speak to our friendly, expert team.

Any views or opinions expressed above are for guidance only and are expressed in generic terms. They are not intended as a substitute for readers taking appropriate professional advice relevant to individual circumstances. We would always encourage readers to seek professional advice.

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