Thinking about using PayPal?
Whether you depend on PayPal or simply want to offer an alternative, understanding the best ways to make PayPal work for you is smart. This week, Eric Bryant of Gnosis Media Group brings you some technical advice for making the most of your PayPal connection.
As a nonprofit, there are many reasons to choose PayPal as a payment processor over competitors. PayPal is probably the most well-recognized brand for nonprofits, so it’s widely trusted. More people have a PayPal account than any other mobile wallet. This means that prospective donors can just log in to their PayPal account to donate without having to enter a debit or credit card more so than with any other payment processor. It also means it requires fewer steps to donate with PayPal, increasing your conversion rates.
PayPal also offers one of the cheapest ways to take donations, charging charities a lower rate than most other competitors. This means nonprofits keep more of the donations they receive. Another benefit is that PayPal doesn’t require donors to create an account to donate to your charity.
Creating a PayPal Donate Link
A PayPal donate link is a URL that, when clicked, takes prospective donors directly to your PayPal checkout page. This URL doesn’t require the donor to visit a website or click a donate button. Additionally, PayPal donate links are versatile, as they can be shared on social media channels, in emails, as well as on websites.
There are a few different ways to create a PayPal donate link, so let’s explore each.
Creating a Branded PayPal.me Link
The first way is to create a PayPal.me link. These are personalized links that allow you to put your name in them to make it easy to remember (e.g., PayPal.me/RedCross). Best of all, they’re easy to set up. Simply follow these steps to get your own PayPal.me link:
- Visit this webpage on PayPal’s site.
- Enter a business name or a word or a phrase that your organization identifies with, this will follow the “PayPal.me/” part of the URL. For example, if you choose “GnosisMediaGroup,” your URL will be “PayPal.me/GnosisMediaGroup”.
- Log in or create a PayPal account.
- Customize the web page for your PayPal.me account for customers or donors to see when they click your link. For example, you can add your logo to the header of your PayPal.me page.
- Share your link wherever you’d like. When people click on your link, it takes them directly to your organization’s PayPal donate checkout page.
Creating a PayPal Donate Button
A second way is to take donations with PayPal is to create a donate button. These come in the form of HTML code that you place onto your website’s coding. Creating an embeddable button is also pretty easy. You simply:
- Log in to PayPal
- Click on “Merchant Services”
- Click “Donations”
- Follow the site’s prompts to get your personalized HTML code
- Once you get the HTML code, you paste it into your site where you want the button to display.
- You can also elect to just get the link instead of embedding the HTML code
Embedded buttons offer visual appeal, but they also have some drawbacks. Embedding the button requires a little more technical know-how to implement. You must be familiar with how to embed HTML code using your website’s content management system. You can’t send a button via text message or email, and it can’t be placed on social media. All potential donors must be first referred to your website and then must click the “Donate” button from there.
Creating a PayPal Subscription Link
PayPal also offers subscription opportunities in both button and link form, allowing donors to make recurring, monthly gifts to your organization.
Since we already addressed the increased versatility of the link, we’re going to focus more on how to create that. But you can also create a subscription button to place on your website visitors so that they’ll see a big button and click there to donate. To get a PayPal subscription link, follow these steps:
- Log in to your PayPal account.
- Visit “My Selling Tools” from your profile pane.
- Visit the “Selling Online” section.
- Click “Update Link” on the row that has your PayPal button.
- Click “Create New Button”.
- Specify “subscriptions” for the button type and fill out the rest of the fields.
- Click “Create Button”.
- On the next page, you’ll see the button code. However, if you click the email tab next to it, you’ll get just a link.
- Copy and paste that link and use it wherever you’d like people to be able to subscribe for recurring donations from.
Subscriptions vs. Recurring Donations
One limitation with PayPal is that subscription links are not actually the same as recurring donations. Even though a nonprofit can technically use a subscription link, these links are actually for products and services for for-profit entities. In fact, one of the biggest complaints from nonprofits is that PayPal does not have a mobile-friendly, recurring donation option.
Creating a PayPal Donation Link (The Quick and Dirty Way)
Creating donation links and buttons as outlined above requires more steps. You have to log into PayPal, navigate to the button creator section, fill out all the fields and prices, and then get the link or HTML code.
But there is a faster, easier way to create a PayPal donate link that doesn’t even require you to log into PayPal.
Building the URL
Take a look at this link:
This link is a donate link for one of our recent customers, Fashion Foundation for Our Future. To customize this link for your nonprofit, all you have to do is change the “&business=” and “&item_name=” parameters to your nonprofit’s details.
For example, if your nonprofit’s PayPal email is “email@example.com,” you would simply change the business and item_name parameters to
Be sure you include the “+” signs in the “item_name” value. Plus signs are encoded spaces and if you don’t include them sometimes the link will not work properly. You can customize the “item_name=” value to whatever you like.
That’s it; that’s all you have to do. That link works just like a Donate button or a PayPal.me link! Now, when a donor visits this link, they will see your nonprofit’s PayPal checkout experience:
To conserve character length, you can shrink the link using a URL shortener tool like bit.ly or Tiny.url.
This method works for any PayPal account, as long as you use the email address that is registered to your nonprofit’s PayPal account (usually this is the same email you use to log in).
Now, when a prospective donor clicks “Donate with Paypal” or “Donate with Card,” she enters your checkout and funds go directly into your PayPal account, just as if she clicked a donate button. This method doesn’t require any special scripts. You don’t even need to log into PayPal to set up website button.
UPDATE: PayPal is now offering a mobile recurring donations option.
Eric Bryant is a social entrepreneur who has been building telephony and SMS applications since 2008. He started Gnosis Media Group (GMG) in 2008, a communications consultancy whose first successful product was a text-to-donate application for nonprofits. In 2015, GMG was awarded the distinction of “Tech Company to Watch” by the Connecticut Technology Council. The following year, GMG was accepted into the award-winning ReSET Social Impact Accelerator, a nonprofit business incubator and later received significant funding from Backstage Capital, a Los Angeles venture capital fund. When he’s not coding, Eric enjoys power naps, reading philosophy, playing chess, and bowling.