7 Reasons Why Donation Processing Isn’t Free

In the charity sector, overhead is a contentious issue. Donation processing can contribute to overhead and therefore plays a part in the conversation. Sometimes we hear from charities that they’ve chosen to go in a different direction because another provider has a better rate. Just as the conversation around administrative overhead for charities has evolved, we wanted to provide transparency for why we have donation processing fees and how we can approach the topic with greater nuance.

1. Fees allow us to develop technology solutions for charities

Do you know the story of CanadaHelps? In 1999, a young university student named Aaron Pereira sat in a church pew waiting for the collection plate to make its way toward him. He wanted to support his church, but as he dug into his pockets, he realized he didn’t have any cash. This was at a time when the dot-com boom was in full swing, and e-commerce was being rapidly adopted. He thought to himself: why aren’t charities collecting donations online too?

One reason charities were not collecting their online donations, was because they did not have the infrastructure and technology to do so. Developing a solution to handle donations, maintain servers for donor information, and ensure the security and efficiency of donation processing was beyond the reach of most charities in terms of financial ability and capacity. In fact, this continues to be the case today, with only the largest of foundations being able to institute their own custom solution for donation processing. 

2. Fees allow us to evolve with the changing world of fundraising

The world of fundraising is ever-evolving. While the dot-com boom was the informing factor in 1999, there have been several developments since then including the massive acceleration of online giving during the coronavirus pandemic. Many charities, alongside other businesses, were forced to adapt to online first. In 2020, 1.1 million Canadians donated more than $480 million through CanadaHelps to nearly 30,000 charities, more than double the amount donated in 2019. 

At the same time, we saw huge growth in the popularity of securities and cryptocurrency giving due to a strong stock market and growing interest in cryptocurrency. CanadaHelps allows charities to collect online donations but also provides options for charities and donors looking to donate in non-traditional ways. 

Learn how you can accept securities donations or cryptocurrency donations with CanadaHelps.

3. Fees allow us to do the background work for your charity

Our solutions do the heavy-lifting for your fundraising, including background work such as issuing CRA compliant tax receipts, sending automated thank you messages and ensuring data is handled safely and securely.

One of the greatest benefits is that our system automatically updates and prompts donors for new credit card information when a donor's payment doesn't go through. This helps to ensure steady monthly donation revenue and reduces the amount of work your staff needs to do to followup with lapsed donors. 

4. Fees ensure our customer service is top-notch, easy-to-reach, and bilingual

We know that charity professionals come from many different backgrounds and some find technology challenging to navigate. Our team is always ready to meet charities where they are and provide them with top-notch support. Being able to reach a real person at the other end of a call or an email and get a response quickly can be critical during fundraising campaigns. Charities consistently cite customer service as one of their favourite things about working with CanadaHelps.

We also know that close to 20% of Canada’s charities are bilingual or francophone and serve a Francophone population. As Canada’s leading fundraising solution, we provide support in both English and French.

5. Fees help us develop education and programs for charities

Our mission is to inform, inspire, and connect donors and charities, and to democratize access to effective technology and education in the charitable sector. Apart from providing technology solutions for charities to fundraise more effectively, we also develop white papers, webinars and blogs about fundraising. We have covered topics such as the Google Nonprofit grant, year-end fundraising tips and how to steward your donors. Check out our educational materials under the “Resources” tab and sign up for our newsletter to be informed of future events.

We also create reports on the state of the charitable sector in Canada with The Giving Report, which is currently in its 6th year of publication, attend various charity conferences and have developed the Charity Growth Academy, which is a free digital transformation program to help Canadian charities grow.

6. Fees help us create annual campaigns and opportunities for charities

Have you heard of GivingTuesday, Make It Monthly or the Great Canadian Giving Challenge? These are all annual campaigns that CanadaHelps works on to help charities grow their revenue and become more effective fundraisers year-round. We give charities a helping hand by developing resources such as social media assets, template messaging, and guides on how to participate in these challenges. It can help small charities tap into a bigger movement and gain more coverage for their cause. There’s also often a prize to be won with these challenges!

Since GivingTuesday launched in Canada, it has become a top day of giving in the year and charities that participate raise 256X more on Giving Tuesday than non-participating charities. 

7. Fees allow us to maintain quality and follow best practices

Remember how websites used to look in the 90s? They used to be filled with information and colourful ads. That worked back then but it's clear that the standards for websites have changed. Best practices in the digital landscape are ever-changing but we might not know what they are until they are already upon us. 

We adhere to best practices that we learn about in e-commerce such as a simple customizable design so charities can brand their donation forms as their own, a small number of mandatory fields to reduce friction and options for donation tiers, monthly or one-time. But, we also go a step further. We test every single time we make a significant change to our solutions to ensure that our hypotheses are correct and the impact of the change is as expected. 

How do we stack up compared to other donation processors?

CanadaHelps Fundraising Tools are priced on a percentage basis with no other hidden fees. This means the fee you see includes all services and associated fees including credit card, bank and brokerage costs.

We highlight “no other hidden fees” because some of other providers break down the costs between their own fee and the fees for processing the donation. This often adds up to a higher overall fee once all total fees are considered. 

Many other donation processors also do not make their fees easy to find, requiring charities to go through a tedious sales process before learning about the costs of their services. We know time is precious and do not require charities to provide an email address or book a consultation before letting you know the price.

Lastly, many competitors provide donation processing services such as donation forms or peer-to-peer fundraising, only in addition to their donation management system. We know that small charities, may only need one tool or want to try it before they buy. While we offer an all-in-one fundraising solution, from customizable donation forms to a donor management system, charities can make use of what they want when they want. There is no risk in testing our tools, even if you want to dip your toes in and simply use one customizable donation form for one of your upcoming campaigns.

In addition, we also offer the option for donors to “cover the fees,” which can be toggled on and off when you are building your form. 


Donation processing fees allow us to do the work that we do. Processing donations online requires robust infrastructure and technology systems to handle payments securely and efficiently. Our processing fees allow us to keep giving Canadian charities the qualities they associate with CanadaHelps solutions but also improve, grow and develop sustainably so we can continue to democratize fundraising technology for charities. 

The most important thing charities and donation processing providers should do alike is manage overhead reasonably, provide transparency, and also participate in a nuanced conversation on what is reasonable and what benefits the fee provides. Speak with one of our Charity Engagement Specialists today if you have any questions about the CanadaHelps fundraising tools.

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