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How to Accept Donations Online Using the PayPal Donate Button

One question that I am increasingly starting to get is how can you accept donations online using the PayPal button?

The number of times I am asked this question has significantly increased ever since I started discussing how I make money online with niche websites. I often provide examples of my niche sites when talking about the subject, and almost all my niche websites have a PayPal donate button either on one of the sidebars or all the way on the bottom of each page (included in the footer).

In addition, many of my readers have  been approached by advertisers of sorts, some of who have committed to donating money through PayPal in exchange for a guest post (a paid post essentially). Collectively, these events explain the increasing number of questions I get about how to accept donations online.

Because PayPal is the most recognized, easiest and cheapest (free) way to accept donations online, I will focus this article on PayPal. However, I am all ears (eyes) to your thoughts in the comments below if you feel there are other better or more effective ways to accept donations online.

Why Accept Donations Online?

Many website owners never consider accepting donations online because they haven’t thought of it, or are simply not aware of a means through which to do it. Others who know how to are often in two minds whether to accept donations online.

You will hear many arguments from all angles why one should or shouldn’t solicit donations online. Personally, I feel that if your gut tells you to do it, then you do it. This is not an irreversible “transaction”. If it doesn’t work for whatever reason, simply stop doing so (oh the beauty of turn-key solutions online).

I have personally donated to several authors and developers after benefiting from the information they provided on their blogs, websites and through programs and plugins they invested so much time creating.  If I feel that I am delivering high quality information for free, then I don’t see why I can’t solicit donations in a very subtle and respectful manner.

Note: Respectful means no glaring pop ups screaming you are desperately seeking money.  Oh yeah I’ve seen it happen half a minute into browsing a website.  I’m sorry but that is just classless and simply speaking piss poor.

Is Accepting Donations Online Effective?

Relative to what? A $5 donation is $5 in your pocket.  Yes, it is very effective if you ask me. Some sites obviously rake in more than others, and therefore one relatively more effective to the other, but all are effective nonetheless. I don’t think I have a website that accepts donations online with a PayPal donate button that has not received a donation to date.

In fact, I have two websites that are consistently getting well over $200 each month in donations alone. Let’s just say the subjects (topics of the website) are out there and those that appeal to “happy people” 🙂

The point of that last comment is that the amount of donations you get are fully dependent on the type of information you provide, the quality of the information you provide, as well as the type of audience your website reaches.

What is the PayPal Donate Button?

This article is not about the PayPal program itself. If you want to learn more about what PayPal is, I recommend you read their websitebefore moving forward with this one.

The PayPal donate button is a mechanism through which you can collect payments online. Many e-commerce merchants use PayPal buttons to collect money from their customers.  The donate button is essentially the same button with the word “Donate” added to it.  It is a button you can put on your website through which your readers can donate money.

Funds are deposited directly into your PayPal account, which you can sink to your credit card and bank account if you choose to (you don’t have to).  There are no fees involved in donating so you get the entire sum that a donor donates.

Tip: When you use PayPal to send or receive money to another PayPal account (or a USA based person or entity), assuming you too are in the US, you can transact for free if you select the “Personal” “Payment owed” option.  This feature is not available for US to overseas or overseas to overseas transactions yet.  This is what the options look like in PayPal:

PayPal - Send Money, Personal, Funds Owed Option

There maybe other options that are free as well, but this is the one I always use.  Click the “Send Money” tab on the header menu, then select the “Personal Tab” and finally the “Payment owed” option.

Installing the PayPal Donate Button

This is where the rubber meets the road.  To accept donations online, you first need to create a PayPal account for free.  Once you have an active account, login and select the  “Products & Services” tab on the header menu.

PayPal Products and Services Option

Scroll down and select the “Accept Credit Cards on a Website with a Donate Button” option shown here:

PayPal Accept Donations Option

Once you select the option, you can then select from setting up the ability to collect one-time donations, or recurring donations (subscription). Have a look at your options on the next scree:

PayPal - One Time and Recurring Donations

For the purposes of this article, and just as I do it, we will select the one time option. This will take you to the menu where you can start creating and customizing your donate button.

Creating a PayPal Donate Button

PayPal Donate Button Settings

Notice the options I have highlighted.  You can get pretty technical and fancy with the customization options, but I like to KISS.  I choose to display Credit Card buttons as I think they look sexy.  English is my language, USD currency, and I let the donor specify the amount they want to donate.  I don’t want to force an amount on them as that just turns people off IMO.  I use the relevant email address, leave options 2 and 3 alone (although you can play with these if you choose to) and click the “Create Button” orange icon.

When you do this, the next screen provides you with a snippet of code which is your own, customized PayPal donate button. All donations made through this button will go directly into your PayPal account.  Here is what the next screen looks like:

PayPal Donate Button Code Snippet

Once you have this snippet of code, paste it where you’d like your donate button to appear.  For example, if inserting in a post or page on a WordPress blog, simply select the HTML tab and paste the code just like this:

WordPress HTML Tab

Then move over to the “Visual” tab and you will see the neat donate button shine its skin just like this:

WordPress Visual Tab

Tip: Include the donate button in a sidebar or in your footer so that it appears on every page.  Right around it, include a blurb educating your readers why you are soliciting donations.  I have found that even a little bit of transparency goes a long way. Taking a little time to educate your readers that running a website is not free, let alone the time effort it takes.

Using PayPal’s Search Function

There is a good possibility that the PayPal donate button won’t be exactly where it is today at a later date.  Websites change all the time, sometimes in their look and feel, sometimes in how the back-end (sections) is arranged and sometimes in both ways.

The good news is that PayPal has a search bar you can use to find what you are looking for.  For example, this is what you see if you type in a search for “PayPal donate button” today:

PayPal - Search for Donate Button

Any of the highlighted options above will take you to the page where you can create a donate button.  When you click any of these links, the site will take you to the same wizard discussed above.  I don’t see why you can’t use the search function every time to cut the chase and get right to where you want to go.  This is what that screen looks like:

Create a PayPal Donate Button

On a final note, while adding the donate button to accept donations online has worked very well for me, it is not for everyone.  I am not advocating its use one way or another. You are the best judge of the type of content you provide, the quality of content you provide as well as the type of reader your website reaches. Therefore, deciding to accept donations online is a personal decision.

You can always try it and then remove it if you don’t feel it enhances both your and your readers’ experience.  If you do use it, I recommend adding some color around the cost of running your website.

As stated above, I have found that a simple paragraph explaining why you are soliciting donations raises awareness which may compel a reader to donate in exchange for the free quality information they receive from your website.  This is especially effective if you are not displaying ads or selling anything on your site. You can view an example of how choose to do this here.

Readers: How do you feel about incorporating a PayPal donate button on your website so that you can accept donations online?  How well do you think it would resonate with your readers? Are you expecting backlash? Should you care?

See an example of how I accept donations online using the PayPal donate button (Make sure to scroll all the way to the bottom).

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19 Responses to “How to Accept Donations Online Using the PayPal Donate Button”

  1. An excellent step by step guide for setting up the donate button. I am considering it.

  2. I will try to integrate this feature on my website once started getting good traffic. Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  3. Geoff says:

    Hey Sunil, I love the concept, but I had a poor results (no donations at all) when I tried it out for a few months on my car site. I’m sure success varies on a site by site basis.

    Have you ever tried any variations to the donate button like “buy a me a beer” or “buy me a coffee” and seen any different results with those options?

  4. Sandip says:

    Hey Sunil,

    Great step by step instructions for installing a PayPal button.

    I think those that create something of value have every right to ask for donations. I’ve donated to great resources on occasions as I appreciate that the work most likely took a significant amount of effort. Creators of great content deserve something in return.

    I like the other alternatives that are also out there. For example, as Geoff mentioned, the buy me a coffee feature. I’ve also seen websites point readers to an Amazon wish list which seems like a neat idea (although I’d rather donate a specific amount of cash).

    A recent trend that I’ve seen on my website Go Get Funding are webmasters actually tapping into their audience and fundraising for a specific cause. For example, we recently hosted a fundraiser to cover forum costs. The webmasters asked users of the forum to donate however much they could and he reached his fundraising target in just a few weeks!

    All in all, I think asking for donations is perfectly acceptable if you offer great value!

    • Sunil says:

      very creative alternatives indeed. I feel the same way, and more importantly, if the reader does too, then you should have a mechanism in place to make it easy for them to donate. good to hear from you Sandip

  5. Sunny says:

    Hi Sunil,

    Very informative post. I blog anonymously. From what I saw online, while clicking a donation PayPal button, its seem like the account holder name appears. Is there a way to ensure our real name doesn’t show on the donation page?

    • Sunil says:

      hi Sunny, when you click on the donate button the account owner’s email ID appears. where about do you see the full name? one way to circumvent is to register the account under your DBA / LLC or similar.

    • Sandip says:

      Hi Sunny,

      I’m aware of some people having this issue and the only way I know around it is to upgrade to a business account. PayPal then uses the business name you define.

      Hope that helps.

      • Sunil says:

        definitely. I also know some who use their first name and then just the last initial. also works, though not sure if pursuing such route is the best choice given increased regulatory compliance. paypal is on its way to becoming a full fledge bank 🙂 – seems like at least

  6. Sid says:

    Hi Sunil,

    I always eagerly await your posts, as they are informative and useful. The present post on installing a PayPal donate button is not an exception. As you’ve rightly said, the quality of the content and the profile of your visitors are among the elements that help decide to install a donate button.

  7. D’oh!!!! so obvious when someone points this out for you.

    My site – is the next challenge beyond being debt free – but pleas to write a info product about how we did it keep on flooding in . I feel bad asking people in debt to pay – but could supply them for free if others are willing to donate – a win all round.

  8. Nimet says:

    Wow such a comprehensive tutorial that I have forwarded to some local charities so they can implement on their websites… I think a lot more charities should be using this approach as it really is simple yet effective!!

    • Sunil says:

      I am so glad you mentioned this Nimet – I totally ignored this aspect of it. I have implemented this on two charities/spiritual organizations that I contribute time to and it has worked amazingly well. I am a big believer in the micro deposit model. it adds up quick in aggregate

  9. Great post! I have often wondered about whether or not to add a donate button. Obviously I haven’t yet…but now with my Pagerank a big fat goose egg I may reconsider.

    • Sunil says:

      what happened to your PR Amanda? it’s a good idea, it can’t hurt to try. given you blog in the frugality/personal finance niche though I can see donations coming in a bit challenging (the type of reader you attract). but, you only know after you try. let me know if I can be of any help.

      always a pleasure to see you back. how is business doing overall? would love to hear from you via email

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