The survival of nonprofits increasingly depends on the web. Of the $229 billion that individuals confer on nonprofits annually, $15 billion is contributed over the Internet. That figure is growing about 40% a year, with web donations leading to bigger and more frequent gifts both online and off. Thing is, nonprofits, especially small ones, don’t have the resources to whip up professional-looking websites. Only 27% of them use the Internet to raise money.
Bellstrike, a new service started by three South Carolina designers, allows nonprofits to launch a slick website in a snap, no coding or design skills needed. Organizations select from a series of templates, each equipped with a donation page, then fill in the blanks and (fingers crossed) watch the money roll in. It’s like Tumblr for the nonprofit sector—"easier than making a sandwich," the designers boast. Bellstrike launched on Aug. 30, and so far about 50 groups have signed up, ranging from a housing and employment service for people with developmental disabilities to a nonprofit that designs PowerPoint presentations for other nonprofits.
There’s one catch, though. While it’s free to sign up for the service, Bellstrike gets a 9.5% cut of all gifts received online. Which seems… steep. Bellstrike’s Dodd Caldwell explains that the figure includes a 3.5% fee that WePay, a company handling donation processing, charges for credit card transactions, so Bellstrike actually keeps only 6%. Still, you’ve got to wonder if that money could be used to hire someone to build a site from scratch.
The answer: probably not. Bellstrike is aimed at small nonprofits—75% of the 1.2 million nonprofits in the United States earn less than $25,000 a year. Assuming all your donations come in online—unlikely—6% of $25,000 is $1,500. Good luck finding talented people willing to design and create an entire site for less than that.
For larger nonprofits, Bellstrike plans to offer either a monthly fee ($30 to $60) or a tiered structure that would reduce the designers’ cut as the donation volume increases, Caldwell says. "Obviously, if a nonprofit can hire a web designer, that’s a great option," he says. "What I’ve found is that most small nonprofits have either no budget or really tight budgets and can’t really afford it. They end up a.) asking for pro bono work from web professionals, who usually can’t take on the work or b.) trying to do it themselves, which means it ends up not working well and/or not looking good. Even with these scenarios, they often have either no CMS or a bad one, so they can’t really update their site. We’d like to be a resource where a nonprofit can get a good-looking, donation-enabled website up and running in one to two minutes."
[Hat tip to Swiss Miss]