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On-site (self-hosted) vs off-site (third party) donation platforms

Keyboard with a donate button below the return key

Having the ability to accept donations online is critical to any fundraising effort, however, there are many platforms to choose from. Whether you already have a website or are just in the planning stages, this article will help you understand your options. Before you begin comparing one to another, it is important to understand the fundamental difference between the two types: on-site (self-hosted) and off-site (third party).

On-site (self-hosted) donation platform

With this option, the donation page is just another page on your website. You can apply the same styling and branding on the new page that exists on the rest of website and the donor remains on your website throughout the transaction, making the look and the experience seamless. One popular on-site (self-hosted) option for WordPress is GiveWP.

Off-site (third party)

The off-site, third party option works differently. In this scenario, the user clicks a link on a page on your website and is taken to a page on a third-party website. The user will know they are on a different site because the page will look different and the URL will change. While the platform may offer customization options, these options can be quite limited.
Examples: Donorbox, Givebutter, Network for Good

Now that you understand the difference between on-site (self-hosted) and off-site (third party) donation platforms, let’s address some pros and cons for each option.


PRO for On-Site: A clean URL
As an example, the URL could be example.org/donate.
CON of Third Party: An ugly URL
Compare that URL to an example URL for an organization using the donation platform NetworkForGood. The URL for would likely be example.networkforgood.com/projects/appeal-title.


PRO for On-Site: You get the traffic
When the user stays on your website to make the donation, you get all the traffic.
CON of Third Party: The third party site gets the traffic
When you send people off-site, the other party gets the page traffic. Additionally, once the visitor has gone to the another site, it can be difficult to get them back to yours.

How Control and Customization Vary on Different Donation Platforms

PRO for On-Site: You have control of the donation form
CON of Third Party: They control both the form and the page

There are still other considerations, ease of use and fees being two. In some cases, third party donation platforms offer a more complete or comprehensive solution, in that donor information ends up in a CRM. GiveWP goes a long way, but it isn’t a CRM.

While we have installed and maintain a large variety of donation platforms, we can’t make the decision as to which one makes the most sense for your organization. We recommend speaking with other organizations you know who accept online donations to see what works for them and why. Then, if you have questions about a specific option, contact us. We’ll try our best to answer those questions for you.

How to choose the right donation platform option

The advent of the internet has brought with it many changes to the way we work and live. The effect it has had on fund-raising has been particularly significant. No longer are donors required to fill out a slip, write a check, place it in an envelope, find and apply a stamp and send it all through the post. Today, donations can be made with as little effort as a couple of taps on a smart phone.

Not only is it easier for the donor, it’s also easier for those managing the fund-raising effort. Donation platforms allow not-for-profits to build stronger relationships with their supporters and use data and insights to improve efficacy to grow their revenue.

For anyone considering accepting online donations, there are many options. Understanding the difference between On-Site (Self-Hosted) and Off-Site (Third-Party) will help you decide which one makes the most sense for your organization. In addition, we recommend reading this article from funraise.com, which outlines a set of questions to ask yourself when choosing a fundraising platform. Still not sure if your organization would benefit from offering online donations, read our related article How Your Organization Can Benefit from Accepting Online Donations.

For help setting up your online donation platform, call us at (518) 392-0846 or email [email protected].

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