One of the biggest questions I get from charities converting to digital marketing is who they should choose for an e-commerce vendor for online donations. Although every platform has its strengths and weaknesses, over the past year I’ve become quite fond of CanadaHelps, an organization you may think you know, but that has made huge strides over the past four years. CanadaHelps offers one of the lowest rates on the market, its donation tools can be easily integrated into your website, and you get access to your donor information.
Most organizations don’t realize the major changes CanadaHelps has implemented, so I decided to conduct a short telephone interview with Paul Nazareth, VP of Community Engagement at CanadaHelps. After learning the answers to some of the most burning questions charities have, I decided to release this interview to the public because I was shocked at some of the answers. This may sound like a sponsored blog, but it’s not. CanadaHelps did not request this interview and is not compensating my company in any way (money, services or referrals).
At the end of the day, we love to work with vendors that work hard for our customers, and are easy to integrate. Here’s a transcription of my top six questions for Paul:
What’s your bottom line transaction rate and how does that compare with your competitors? I’ve heard that you charge 6% on transactions, but I’ve never seen that in writing. Is this a true?!?
It’s 3.5%. Period.
And you’ve nailed the most painful myth out there! Unlike most online fundraising platform in this space, we’re not a for-profit company. We are a charity whose purpose is to develop and offer the technology needed to raise money online for all of Canada’s registered charities with a focus on small to medium size organizations. Being a charity too, we’re committed to transparency and we openly publish all our fees so our charities and donors can be informed and aware. Our fees have been below 4% since the charity was founded in the year 2000.
How are you guys on mobile? Is it super-duper easy for people to give while on a phone?
We’re completely optimized for mobile. For several years in the early 2000’s, CanadaHelps held conferences for small charities where we emphasized the future of online giving and the potential for mobile optimization. In 2013, the board of our charity doubled down and hired our CEO, Marina Glogovac, who came from the world of e-commerce to advance the mobile strategy. She then revitalized the team leadership to bring on Shannon Craig, Chief Marketing and Product Officer, who is an expert in marketing and who came from the telecom industry. They relaunched the entire site in 2014, optimized for mobile. Since then, we have made a number of improvements and continue to work on our mobile offerings for charities. Today, we offer customizable donation pages that can be embedded on charities’ websites, all mobile optimized.
Coming from several roles in faith-based institutions myself, I am proud to watch our charity partners that are churches raise funds right from the pews on Sunday afternoons as people read the church bulletin and give online from their phones following the service! We are the digital form of traditional collection baskets today. Same goes for special events. No more index cards on tables at galas and golf tournaments. It’s all about the phone.
I heard that you guys don’t release donor information to charities, which hinders remarketing and follow up. Is this true?
Another painful myth. We know how important donor stewardship is. Daily, we call up charities that are receiving healthy donations through CanadaHelps and we encourage them to ensure that it’s not just the finance department personnel who is using their CanadaHelps account, but that the fundraisers are downloading donor data as well. We encourage charities to make sure they are registered so they can get that data 24/7.
As a career-long fundraiser myself for the past 17 years, I can tell you it’s astounding that today we’re processing donations for small charities in the major gift range of four and five figures but some are still not calling the donors to thank them. We’re a neutral partner and don’t contact charities’ donors about fundraising—we exist to drive deeper connections between charities and donors. It’s why last year we changed our tax receipts to reflect the branding of the charity the donor is giving to when they donate through our customized donation forms that are embedded in the charity’s website.
Do charities need to push all website traffic to CanadaHelps, or can you integrate giving in their websites?
Today, our donation forms can be seamlessly embedded in the charity’s site. No driving traffic to CanadaHelps. Your team at Candybox is making some beautiful sites for the charities we work with and that I myself donate to—we want this beautiful experience to be complete and we have several versions of our donation form that can be embedded in the charity’s site to offer an immersive experience.
If a charity has a donor management system, how do they reconcile your transactions with their existing database?
We recognize that data management has advanced so much since we first started processing donations for small charities in 2000. Today, we’re processing over $140M a year and that’s a lot of donor data to manually input! And so we have integrated with many of the donor management software systems across Canada to help our charities reconcile transactions and continue to drive deeper engagement with their donors.
What is the advantage of using CanadaHelps instead of choosing a donor management platform that has e-commerce built in?
Most e-commerce platforms offer forms to ‘collect’ donations but they aren’t necessarily built on marketing and fundraising best practices. We don’t just want donors to give, we want them to complete the donation and in being informed, hopefully, give more! Many of these platforms are American and don’t have Canadian payment vehicles (being Canadian we’re one of the rare vendors that offer bilingual support, right down to our buttons) but we accept all credit cards, including PayPal and Visa Debit.
Most importantly, we have evolved past just annual giving to forms optimized for monthly giving and in Canada we are the largest processor of online securities donations! No one out there has a “donate securities” option for a charity’s website and we do all the work to accept, receipt and cash that donation of stocks or mutual funds.
There are some great integrated and mobile platforms out there and we collaborate with many of them, but for small charities in Canada, we don’t just provide a donation collection service, we’re a charity whose mission is to help them raise more. So we have an educational mandate and resources to help charities grow their giving and still keep it simple.
“Giving Made Simple”; since day one, that’s what CanadaHelps has been about. Most people assume it’s about making donating simple for the thousands of Canadians who give through us each year, but it’s also about making giving simple for the charities who accept those donations.
Darrell, thank you for this opportunity. As a charity we don’t have substantial marketing budgets to get information like this out there. Thank you too for the work you and Candybox do for the charities we are partnered with, and as I mentioned, several I personally donate to. You’re doing great work!