I am setting up an EE website for a non-profit start-up, but the budget is extremely limited. Donations would include one-time payment, recurring payments, and purchasing bracelets, etc.

I would like the process of donations to be as painless as possible and ideally all on my site (without having to be redirected back and forth), but I am not a fan of PayPal. I have heard/seen that Stripe seems to be a good service with fair rates, but without spending hundreds of dollars, I don't see many options for using something other than PayPal.

I am a developer myself and would be willing to get into the weeds to customize the simple commerce module, but wouldn't even know where to start since this is my first EE site.

Is there a way for me to achieve using a different payment gateway for the simple commerce and a custom donation form without spending much, ideally any, money?


I'd say this should be a case of thinking about what's good for your client, rather than what services you don't like. But also, you may need to know more about the client's online donations. Do they get lots of online donations with a mix of big and small options? Do they get little online donations but of larger values? Do they just get a small amount of donations at small amounts? Are they actually processing no online donations but want to improve their transaction rates?

There are a number of services, and you don't need to process things through Simple Commerce. You could start with the easy services like Network for Good, JustGive, Razoo. These are services built for accepting nonprofit donations. You'd just need to create a landing page in ExpressionEngine that takes the user to the selected service.

Amazon Simple Pay Donations and Google Checkout will also process donations.

Simple Commerce only needs to be part of the process, if you are trying to store transactional history with ExpressionEngine. There are other methods for doing that as well, for example if create an email account for transaction confirmation emails. You can set-up EE to bring those emails into EE for creating a log as well.

Generally speaking, if the nonprofit just wants to accept donations online, doesn't a get a lot of donations (historically), and doesn't get frequent large donation amounts (say over $5,000), then going with a donation service like Network for Good, JustGive, Razoo, etc. isn't a bad option. Obviously, you'd want to tell the user about the 3rd-party site, but many donors are familiar with the three listed.

PayPal, Amazon, and Google Checkout work well for mixed transactions. Donations, bracelet sales, etc. The transaction rates for nonprofits (after qualified) are low. PayPal is simple and easy to use, and typically not problematic for thousands and thousands of nonprofits. If the nonprofit occasionally processes very large donations online (single transaction of $5k, $10k or more), then that needs to be consider, but it provides the least friction for the potential donor.

Amazon services is also good, just like PayPal tons of folks on the internet have Amazon accounts, and using their service to process donations can work. I'm not certain if they allow reoccurring donations (you'd need to check). Personally not a fan of Google Checkout/Wallet mix, but it's viable, not as frequently used, so could halt some donations in their track. You're always looking for that mix of viable, low transaction fees, donor doesn't hesitate to use with nonprofits.

Simple Commerce is the easiest option for tracking both the sales and the donations (I believe you can do like Store for donation, set an item for $1, then use the quantity field to set donation amount 50 items = $50 donation). If the nonprofit really wants more payment gateway options, then I'd look at Store by Exp:resso. They'd have to pay for it, but it pays for itself pretty quickly, if they're handling regular transactions or if you design donation pages that increase their transactions.

  • One thing to note if you are looking for more of a full service cart/donation system that it never hurts to email the developer/company with the nonprofit details. From my experience the community has been very gracious in the past with donating license for worthwhile non-profits. Mar 20 '13 at 11:42
  • +1 on looking into how much/many donations they are receiving. If you are willing to write your own code to use different gateways, but not willing to purchase a full e-commerce module, the question has to be asked how many hours they are paying you for this development :) If your client is small, just go with a PayPal button, you can do it in 5 minutes using their wizard. Mar 20 '13 at 12:51
  • I appreciate the detailed explanation of alternative gateways, and as @AdrianMacneil pointed out, the amount is definitely a consideration, but my original questions are not answered. To reiterate: this is a start-up so they do not know how much to expect, and they do not have a pocketbook deep enough to pay for a $300 e-commerce package. I am just wondering if there is a way to swap out the payment gateway that is used by default (instead of PayPal), and create a custom donation form. I am doing all of this for free and am more willing to spend time instead of money.
    – Benny
    Mar 20 '13 at 14:55
  • The primary portion of my reply does deal with that. The components about the alternative donation systems that don't need to be used with Simple Commerce. If the nonprofit has no financial history you can use Network for Good or other services. You can bring transactional data back in via email or captured some data before sending to the service. I mean unless there's some reason you need Simple Commerce for some other reason. Mar 20 '13 at 16:13
  • Also, remember there's no need to even use Simple Commerce. PayPal (and some other gateways) let you create donation buttons which you can add to your site using raw HTML, and that is more than enough for a startup with no knowledge of what sort of donations they will receive. Mar 22 '13 at 9:14

@Benny - as the client is on a tight budget, you're working for free, and they don't yet know how much in donations they are likely to receive, I'd suggest looking at the direct payment methods offers by nonprofit_tech (Paypal, Amazon, Google).

These are easy to set up and can get your client up and running quickly. Let it run for a while and monitor the clients income, ,if to see if there are finances (or your time) available at a later date, you can look at enhancing things.

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