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In the past, I’ve written about how small businesses and nonprofits can build simple websites that look great and provide only the most necessary information. For many people, a clean site with great content is enough. For others, a website can be a great way to support their business or their mission. This blog post will introduce a great way to do the latter by enabling you to collect donations or recurring payments on your site through a WordPress plugin called Gravity Forms.
Select the Right Services to Accept Donations on Your Site
Like many things related to WordPress, there are several different tiers of Gravity Forms with varying features and prices. You’re going to need the Gravity Forms “Developer” package in order to properly set up your WordPress site to accept donations. It’s $200 per year and it comes with unlimited forms, unlimited entries, customer support, and, most importantly, the ability to add advanced add-ons to your forms such as PayPal.
Speaking of the PayPal add-on, you’ll want to use the Gravity Forms “PayPal Payments Pro” add-on to build the forms you need to accept donations. Apart from being a great tongue twister, this add-on allows you to accept money directly on your site without having to reroute your donors to PayPal’s payment website. This creates a more seamless experience for your donors and helps your site seem that much more professional (i.e. cooler).
In order to use the PayPal Payments Pro add-on you will need to make sure your site is using a security technology known as SSL.
Briefly, an SSL certificate is a digital signature that encrypts data sent from your website to your users. Think of encryption like a mathematically more complex version of those old school decoder rings that used to come in your cereal box. A website owner must purchase an SSL certificate from a Certificate Authority (CA) and install it on their website in order to hide the information their website passes through the internet. Just like you used to pass notes in class using a code known only to you and your BFF, the site will be hidden from anyone who may be trying to spy on the internet connection.
There are a number of different ways to get an SSL certificate for your site. Some hosts provide them, others give you the instructions to go buy your own. Because the process varies so much from host to host, I won’t break it down in-depth here. I will however mention that Evermore provides SSL security for all of our customers.
Finally, if you decide not to set up an SSL for whatever reason (cost, complication, etc) you can still accept payments. However, you will have to set up a form which redirects donors to PayPal’s website to complete their transaction. For this type of form, you will only need the PayPal Payments (not Pro) add-on from Gravity Forms. You will still need the “Developer” Gravity Forms license.
Note, there are lots of other good reasons to install an SSL. Google, for example gives better search rankings to sites that use them over sites that don’t. So even though it may seem too complicated to add SSL for one task such as taking payments, there are other ways you and your site can benefit.
How to Connect Gravity Forms to Your WordPress Site
As I discussed in a previous post, WordPress is one of the best ways to manage a website for small businesses and nonprofits because it can be extended with many different add-ons (called plugins). Gravity Forms is one of these and its value is found in its performance, security and flexibility.
Begin by adding the Gravity Forms plugin to your WordPress site. Like other WordPress plugins, this is achieved by downloading a .zip file from Gravity Forms, unpacking it, and uploading the files to WordPress via FTP. From here, you need to add the Gravity Forms add-ons that enable you to accept payments.
Note the Plugins button where you will go to reach the page to upload Gravity Forms
The easiest method is to use the WordPress Add-On browser.
- Log into your WordPress admin dashboard
- Hover over the Forms button and click add-ons
- Select the Gravity Forms PayPal Payments Pro add-on and WordPress will handle the installation
Now we’ll look at a payment provider. Note that you can use other payment systems such as Stripe. We find that most people are already familiar with PayPal so we’ll start there.
How to Connect Gravity Forms to PayPal
First, follow all the instructions to setting up a PayPal account. You’ll need to verify a bank account in order to get money out of PayPal. It can take a few business days for this to complete. It’s not necessary to have completed this step to configure PayPal, but you may want to plan ahead if you need to make use of the money right away.
This form will be designed not to redirect donors to PayPal to complete their transaction. If you have not set up SSL, this will not work on your site.
How to Build a Gravity Form to Accept Recurring Payments
Note the Forms option (relative to the Plugins button you clicked earlier) now available in the admin panel. This will only appear if you have successfully installed Gravity Forms and is necessary for the next steps.
We’re ready to build the recurring donation or payment form itself.
- Start by creating a New Form in Gravity Forms
- Title it and describe it as needed and begin adding the fields you want to have filled in (name, email address, etc)
- Under the Pricing field add a Product Field and set it to User-Defined Price. This setting allows your site visitors to donate as little or as much as they want
4. Save the Form and move over to the PayPal add-on (Forms > PayPal)
5. Create a New Feed in the PayPal add-on and make sure you are using the appropriate PayPal email address for the account you want payments to go do
6. Set the Transaction Type based on the type of donation you want to take. A recurring donation should be marked as a Subscription and a one-time donation should be marked as a Donation.
7. Select the Form from the dropdown menu that corresponds to the Form you made in steps 1-4.
8. Save the Feed and you’re ready to accept donations
Simple sites are great for many businesses and nonprofits. For those ready to turn their site into a revenue generating machine, it’s easy to accept recurring payments with Gravity Forms. It’s important to make sure your site is secure so you will need to obtain an SSL or accept that you will need to build a form that redirects users to PayPal rather than process transactions directly on your site.
From there, download and install Gravity Forms to your WordPress host and connect your Gravity Forms account with your favorite payment account.
Creating a form is as easy as selecting the options you need, giving customers the opportunity to name their own price, and applying it to the appropriate page.
From here, all you need to do is wait for your fans to give you their payment info, and, as always, have fun.