WooCommerce is a very popular ecommerce tool used on millions of WordPress websites. It's best known for powering online stores for retail businesses, but it can also be used as a very powerful tool for accepting online donations and fundraising for nonprofits and charities.
What is WooCommerce?
At its core, WooCommerce is a free plugin used to build ecommerce websites in WordPress. It can be used to sell products, downloads, memberships, and more. The basic version includes essentials like product and customer management, store page and shopping cart set up, payment options, email notifications and sending receipts.
In addition to the features of the basic WooCommerce installation, you can customize it to work exactly how you need it by adding extensions, or add-ons. There are dozens of free extensions to customize the settings to suit your organization, including payment options, social media and e-news tools, analytics, and more.
It is here the robustness and extensibility of WooCommerce really shines with the addition of premium extensions that typically cost between $49-$249 per year. You only add what you need, so some websites use one or two premium add-ons, while others may have a dozen or more.
As a nonprofit, this pay-as-you-go model works quite well because you can scale your budget along with your needs. If you're on a tight budget, you can keep costs low and avoid paying for a bunch of expensive features you don't need. However you still have the flexibility to add more features when you do need them. The only downside of a pricing structure like this is that sometimes it may feel like every time you want to add something new, they get ya for another $79.
WooCommerce Integrates with Many Tools You Already Use
One of the reasons WooCommerce is so popular with both retail stores and not-for-profits is that it integrates with hundreds of other 3rd party business and marketing tools. Some of the more popular ones include Quickbooks, Facebook, Instagram, Slack, Mailchimp, Amazon, ebay, Hubspot, and Zapier.
Donors can get nervous when they click a donate button on your website, and find themselves on a PayPal page. Many have a distrust of PayPal checkout when they can't clearly see your branding. Woocommerce helps avoid this by keeping transactions all within the pages of your site.
In addition to customizing WooCommerce with extensions, you can also add integrations over time that help your processes run more smoothly. These might include customizing emails to donors, syncing transactions with your accounting software, connecting your website store with your social media accounts, and sending notifications or reminders. The biggest advantage of both WordPress and WooCommerce is that you can start small and grow your website as your organization's needs expand over time.
12 helpful WooCommerce plugins to enhance online donations and fundraising
If you'd like to use WooCommerce for accepting online donations and fundraising for your nonprofit, here are 12 add-ons extensions that can enhance your website:
- Donation For WooCommerce – This is a full featured extension that allows you to create donation campaigns, accept one-time and recurring (requires Subscriptions add-on) contributions, and manage your donations. If you already have an online store, you can add donation functions to your checkout process, such as rounding up to the nearest dollar or adding a donation to your purchase.
- WooCommerce Subscriptions – Set up recurring donation options with various choices on the amounts and frequency, including end date or ongoing. This could also be used for simple membership fees or ongoing services you provide. We use this tool ourselves so our clients can have their website support plans automatically charged each month.
- Gifting for Subscriptions – This add-on extends WooCommerce Subscriptions by allowing people to gift a subscription to someone else. This could come in handy if you offer contributor benefits, perhaps something like event tickets tied to donations, which someone may wish to gift to a friend.
- Subscription downloads – This is another add-on for WooCommerce Subscriptions. It allows you to attach a downloadable product to a subscription. In the traditional sense, this might be used for something like software downloads. In the nonprofit world you might be more likely to use it for free resource guides, ebooks, and things that may be updated regularly. (Note that you don't need an add-on to have a simple download. This tool is to connect a downloadable product to a subscription)
- Crowdfunding – The Crowdfunding extension is a powerful but simple alternative to using a third-party tool like GoFundMe. Create fundraisers with target goals, track number of donors and progress, set target dates. You can also have multiple goals set up simultaneously. For example, if you were having a fundraiser asking for $6,000 for instruments, $800 for books, $2,000 for scholarships, etc.
- One Page Check Out – Build a custom landing page for donations so donors don't have to go through multiple steps for the payment. You want to do everything you can to make the payment process quick and easy.
- Variable Product – Allows you to have one item with variable options. In a typical online store, the product might be a shirt and the variables are small, medium, and large. For a charity, a “product” might be an event sponsorship, and the variations something like “Bronze Level” “Silver Level” and “Gold Level”. You could also have it set up with a Silver Sponsorship being a product, and variables could be a specific program like “Band Sponsor” or “Choir Sponsor.”
- Name Your Price – This plugin gives donors the opportunity to choose the amount they give. You have control over the minimum and maximum levels, or can leave it open. (Be sure to make note if your payment processor has a minimum or maximum amount.) One way you could use this is if you have levels of sponsorships that have a range, such as “Friend Level” that falls between $10 and $50,” you could allow donors to choose any amount within that range.
- Check Out Field Editor – If you'd like to customize what information your donor or supporter provides to you, this plugin can be used to add, edit, or remove fields from the check out page. Be sure to review the options in WooCommerce's native settings before buying this plugin, because there are quite a few customization options there as well.
- Deposits – This WooCommerce extension allows you to let donors have the option of paying a deposit, setting up a payment plan, or paying the full amount.
- Sales Report Email – Get a daily, weekly, or monthly report automatically emailed to you summarizing your WooCommerce sales.
- Automate Woo – Set up notifications for donors/customers that automatically send when certain criteria are met. Types of emails that can be added include birthdays, abandoned cart, card expiration notifications, personalized discounts, and more. This one can be a bit complicated to set up, so we recommend this for advanced DIYers, or ask your developer to help you out with it.
The WooCommerce Marketplace and beyond
In addition to the hundreds of extensions found on WooCommerce.com, there are thousands of others you can find in the WordPress plugin repository, and on developer websites. Some of them are fantastic, and some leave a lot to be desired. It's not always easy to tell the difference unless you're connoisseur of WordPress plugins. For this list, we stuck with the WooCommerce Marketplace for few reasons:
- It's not always easy for the average user to tell a high quality plugin apart from a garbage plugin. Bad plugins are at best a waste of time or money, and at worst can put your website at risk.
- Woo has a 30 day money back guarantee.
- They have a huge amount of documentation, tutorials, as well as support that is available.
- It's simpler to browse the extensions already vetted by the WooCommerce team, rather than go down a rabbit hole on Google.
- If you buy all your WooCommerce add-ons from their website, you can manage your renewals and payments from one central dashboard, which makes it easier to keep track of.
WooCommerce is not for everyone
WooCommerce is a very powerful tool for both ecommerce and online donations. If your organization wants to set up an online store and accept donations on your website, I would recommend WooCommerce hands down. However, all that amazing potential can also make for a rather complex tool. It takes some patience and expertise to set it up, especially if you don't work with it very often.
If your needs are simple or if you're just starting out, there are easier ways to set up online donations on your WordPress website. Here are some alternatives:
- Donate Button Only – If you just need a single online donation button on your WordPress website, you don't really need a full ecommerce tool. You can get by with a simple Stripe or PayPal donation button. If your needs grow, you can upgrade to something else later on.
- Donate Form Add-ons – Many premium form plugins for WordPress allow you to connect yours form with a payment processor. We are big fans of Gravity Forms, which can connect with Stripe or PayPal. Other high quality form tools like Formidable Forms, WPForms, Contact Form 7, and others may also have this option. Check their website documentation to find out. Extending the capabilities of something you're already using is usually easier than starting from scratch.
- CRMs and Donor Management Software – Separate donor management software such as Little Green Light, DonorPerfect, CiviCRM, Bloomerang, and similar products almost always give you the ability to create a donation form or donate link that can be added to your website. Some of them even have WordPress-specific tools or plugins to make it really easy. The process typically involves taking a block of code from the CRM and adding it to the appropriate place on your website. Unless you also want to further integrate donations with specific content types on your website (like events or products for sale), you more than likely wouldn't need WooCommerce at all.
- GiveWP – If you'd like an all-in-one WordPress donation management platform, we really like GiveWP. It's a premium plugin for WordPress specifically designed to help nonprofits and charities raise money, accept donations, manage donors in a simple CRM. Their free version is a great place to start, and like WooCommerce, they have premium add-ons you can purchase to customize it even further.
Best Practices for Nonprofits Using WooCommerce – blog post on WooCommerce.com
Recommended WordPress plugins for nonprofits – article from nonprofitwp.org (which has lots of great info!)