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Online Donation Tools for Salesforce

Like most things on the internet, collecting credit card donations online has gone from an emerging and novel idea to a must-have in a very short period of time. If you’re a nonprofit, you need a website, and people should be able to make online contributions. Even if you are still soliciting donors by mail or phone, many will want to actually make their gift online at their convenience, rather than mailing a check. And since your donation form is online, and your database (Salesforce) is online, it seems like it should be pretty simple to get the data from the donation to flow right into Salesforce, rather than having to re-enter it from an email that comes from a separate system. Right?

There are several options for handling online donations, but the decision is perhaps not quite as simple as it may seem. Transaction fees, gateway fees, matching records, and data structures vary, making the landscape a little complicated. One of the challenges is that there can be several levels of charges, and different offerings charge for some but not all of them, as well as directly providing some or all of them. From the donor to your bank account, you’ll need each of the following pieces in order to accept credit and debit card donations online. For a given solution, there may be direct charges for some or all of them, while others are included in the price for some other piece:

  1. Secure web form. This is the form where your donor enters their contact & credit card information and gift amount. You may be able to include this form directly on your website, or embed it on your website in an iframe, if your site has its own SSL certificate. Or the form may be hosted elsewhere, and you’ll have the ability to customize the form to some degree to make it match your web site’s look and feel.
  2. Payment gateway. This is the service that takes the data entered into the form and submits the payment to the donor’s card association and account. For some solutions the gateway will be bundled with the form provider, and for others it will be included with the merchant account. Some form providers support multiple payment gateways (in which case it’s definitely not bundled with the form), while others support only their proprietary gateway.
  3. Merchant account. This service is what allows you to process credit cards and be paid for those charges. It’s separate from the payment gateway in some instances, but not many. It’s possible for an organization to have a merchant account for offline card transactions but not have a payment gateway. But for online transactions, a gateway without a merchant account doesn’t get you very far.

Additionally, to integrate with Salesforce, you need to have the provider of your secure web form communicate not only with the payment gateway, but with Salesforce as well. The form collects the data, passes the transaction to the payment gateway, receives the result of the transaction, and then inserts the data into Salesforce. Here are several providers of online donation forms that integrate with Salesforce:


Actionpages are a basic option from Breakeven, who also publish a more comprehensive Salesforce-based fundraising package. The Actionpages offering itself is free, and works with the Stripe gateway & merchant account system. They have very clear, step-by-step installation instructions that include walking you through creating a Stripe account, setting up your acknowledgement email template, and deploying the components you need to get Actionpages working. Actionpages includes the ability to process credit card donations that come in by mail or phone right inside of Salesforce, through your Stripe account.
Pros: Low cost, including clear & simple pricing from Stripe: $0.60/transaction + 2.9%, without any recurring monthly or other charges, except for chargebacks. They offer an easy and straightforward installation process and well-designed forms with several different templates available. Integrates very well with the Nonprofit Starter Pack (in fact, the Nonprofit Starter Pack is required).
Cons:  No support for recurring donations or pledges, limited customization options – no custom questions, fund designations, or honorary gifts. Contact matching is based only on email address, which can lead to a higher level of duplicates compared to other methods.
In short: This is a great tool if you just want to get a donation page up and running quickly, and you don’t have a need for other payment processing with Salesforce or your website.

Aura & Brickwork (iATS Payments)

Aura & Brickwork work together to provide online donation processing (Aura) and Salesforce integration (Brickwork) for iATS Payments customers. iATS Payments is a payment gateway and merchant account provider that specializes in nonprofits, and Aura & Brickwork are provided for free to their clients. While Aura and Brickwork work well with both of the Nonprofit Starter Pack’s Contact models, and they use the Opportunities object for recording Donations, they use custom objects to represent their payments and recurring donations, separate from the NPSP’s own Payments and Recurring Donations functions. The setup via the AppExchange is fairly straightforward, and Brickwork works with the Auctions for Salesforce package very well.
Pros: Having a single provider of the form processing, gateway and merchant account pieces can be very beneficial when trying to resolve issues. Brickwork & Aura work well with both NPSP and generic Enterprise Salesforce instances. Their cost structure is very competitive: $0.21/transaction + 2.39-3.20% of the transaction, depending on card type. There is also a monthly fee of $20 and an annual PCI compliance fee of $125. More form flexibility than Actionpages.
Cons: Not quite enough flexibility to handle sales or event registrations within the existing products.
In short: This is a great tool if you want to consolidate the providers into one solution and are focused on donations rather than other transaction types, or you use Auctions for Salesforce.

Click and Pledge

Click and Pledge offers a very comprehensive set of online payment tools with a very strong Salesforce integration. From individual payments and recurring donations to event registration and in-person swiped transactions on a mobile device, Click and Pledge has you covered. All their software is provided for free with the payment gateway and merchant accounts that they resell on behalf of a third party. They have an active online community,  self-help support desk with free/ 24 hours email ticket support, and have just announced a paid, premium support offering to help organizations that need it. Their online solutions are very flexible, allowing for a very wide range of uses, and they also provide a free in-Salesforce virtual terminal for running card numbers received by phone or mail.
Pros: Flexibility and responsiveness to customer requests. Their cost structure is also clear and understandable (they have two options for US organizations, one has a higher monthly cost but lower per-transaction fees).
Cons: The flexibility comes at the cost of complexity – installation of the Click and Pledge apps and posting your first form is a significant undertaking. They have received some negative feedback for their free email support, but have now responded to that very appropriately a paid phone support option.
In short: Click and Pledge is great if you have a wide variety of fundraising methods and campaigns, and especially if you run paid events (though the events platform is especially complex for setting up events.)


Linvio’s PaymentConnect is a commercial Salesforce web & credit card payment processing system, for which they make some special offers for nonprofits. It works fairly well with the Nonprofit Starter Pack and manages transactions both online and keyed in through Salesforce. They offer some nice add-ons like a mini-store for e-commerce and a robust event management/ticket sales option as well. Unlike most of these other options, PaymentConnect doesn’t include or sell a payment gateway or merchant account, but rather supports several of the more popular gateways and payment processors, and the customer “brings their own” payment gateway. PaymentConnect supports Authorize.Net, eWay, Google Checkout and WorldPay [edit to add: PayPal as well -tt].
Pros: PaymentConnect is a very robust solution in use by many for-profit businesses, as well as nonprofits. They offer very good support, and Linvio is a very well-respected partner in the Salesforce community.
Cons: Cost – PaymentConnect’s one-time setup fees for nonprofits range from $675-1200, depending on the add-on options selected, and annual subscriptions start at $750 for up to 10 named users for basic payments, and go up, depending on add-ons and additional users. This is in addition to the fees for your payment gateway and merchant account.
In short:  This is a great solution if your organization already has one of the supported merchant accounts, and is doing enough payment volume to spread the PaymentConnect fees out and still realize a good ROI.

Soapbox Engage

Soapbox Engage, from PICnet, a long-time provider of web technology for non-profits, provides online donations as well as several other features in one package. They also have a “lite” package for online donation processing only. Like PaymentConnect, Soapbox Engage doesn’t include a payment gateway in their offering, supporting PayPal Website Payments Pro, Braintree or accounts that customers have or acquire on their own. The full Soapbox Engage platform includes basic event registration, a facility for publishing searchable portions of your Salesforce data on your website, a form-to-Salesforce builder, and a bulk email tool that uses Amazon Web Service’s very low-cost Simple Email Service for delivery.
Pros: Soapbox Engage provides a lot of useful tools in their $99/month package. They have been especially diligent about making their packages work with the Nonprofit Starter Pack – they are the only solution listed that uses the NPSP Payments and Recurring Donations objects (though they don’t have the ability to actually run and record the recurring charges in Salesforce).
Cons: Unlike many of the other tools, Soapbox Engage doesn’t let you charge payments from inside of Salesforce. In addition, they’re a little more expensive than some of the others, and the gateway and merchant account costs would be additional. Also, their form integration with Salesforce is not as flexible as other tools mentioned above.
In short: Soapbox Engage is a good fit if you need the other tools, especially the form and search features, as well as online donations. The search features are something that is not easily found elsewhere. Soapbox Engage Lite is nice if you want to just check the solution out to evaluate it, but it’s hard to recommend it over ActionPages as a stand-alone tool.

Other Options

If you are using (or considering) a content management system for your website like Drupal or Plone that has a well-developed Salesforce integration, you should definitely research whether that can also serve for handling donations and other transactions, especially if many of your users will be logging in to your website, since that can provide nearly flawless Contact matching. You’ll need to provide your own secure certificate and payment gateway, but this option can be very flexible and powerful.

If you have other online form needs that should integrate with Salesforce, such as surveys or interest/newsletter signup forms, FormAssembly is a great choice, and can also be used to manage donations. You’ll need to build your own form from scratch, including the contact matching and donation creation (or hire a consultant to do that), and the payment integration for a Professional account (the least expensive option for Salesforce integration) is with Paypal and requires some fairly technical work on the Salesforce side. But if you want to maximize your FormAssembly subscription rather than using anther service,  this can be a good way to go.

One other full-service online donations processor that looks very promising I didn’t include above, since it’s not fully relevant yet to our primarily North American client base and readership. Payments2Us, from an Australia-based Salesforce consulting firm, provides a very robust and flexible set of tools for managing donations, including recurring gifts; event registrations; subscriptions; and memberships. You can also run charges inside of Salesforce for any of these transaction types. It’s a well-built tool that is fully native to the platform and integrates with the Payment Express payment gateway, whose costs are bundled with the Payments2Us charges. I had a very good demo from them, but all of Payments2Us’ current customers are based in Australia or New Zealand, where Payments2Us and Payment Express have their primary presence. Payments2Us hopes to expand their offering and be able to readily support clients in North America sometime in 2014, and is open to doing so now. Organizations would be put in touch with Elevon, a US Bank subsidiary to establish a merchant account that works with the Payment Express gateway.

What’s Coming?

Several of the vendors I spoke to are working on new releases in the relatively near future, so if you don’t see a feature offered today, like event registration, check and see if it’s on the road map. We’ll continue working with these and other vendors to make sure our clients get the best fit for their online donation processing needs.

One area where we’ve had several discussions with vendors who have recently or are about to release Salesforce integrations is peer-to-peer fundraising (aka social fundraising or “friendraising”). This will fill a big need for many organizations we work with, and we’re excited to see these applications mature, and will definitely be writing about them here on the blog.

*Image Used under Creative Commons license from Flickr user eliazar.