DonorsChoose uses Stripe to increase card acceptance rates by 17% and get more donations flowing to classrooms

DonorsChoose makes it easy for anyone to help teachers provide students a great education. Using the platform, educators from across the country request resources, and then donations bring those projects to life. The non-profit has raised nearly $1.2 billion in support of over 2 million classroom projects. As it continued to scale, however, its existing payments platform wasn’t providing the innovation or reliability DonorsChoose needed. But with Stripe, DonorsChoose increased credit card acceptance rates and improved the overall donor experience to get more money flowing to teachers and students.

Products used

    Billing
North America
Startup

Challenge

The team at DonorsChoose rallies the public to put crayons, books, technology, and more into the hands of eager students and teachers. The non-profit’s mission relies on the generous support of donors, and any issues in processing donations can lead to donors leaving the site without giving.

“Our previous payment platform was exhibiting periods of slowness, some partial outages, and some total outages,” recalled Nancy Mond, senior director of engineering at DonorsChoose. “It created a bad donor experience and required manual effort on our end to correct transaction issues.”

In February 2020, DonorsChoose decided that its existing payments platform couldn't keep up with the organisation's growth because it lacked modern capabilities, had limited reports that provided few insights, and required too much technical effort to keep it running smoothly. This led DonorsChoose to move on to a more robust, reliable, and scalable payments platform.

Solution

As it pursued a new payments solution, DonorsChoose had high hopes for more reliable service, faster transactions, increased innovation, and higher credit card acceptance rates. The choice narrowed down to two providers: Stripe and one other vendor. After comparing the pace of innovation of the two solutions and getting glowing references from several Stripe customers, Stripe quickly became the front-runner. DonorsChoose started building a more modern and seamless donation experience on Stripe.

“Once we decided to move to Stripe, everything went very smoothly because its modern architecture allowed us to eliminate a lot of the superfluous front-end code required by the old payment processor, and enabled our Product team to experiment and innovate faster,” added Mond. “Integrations, notifications, subscriptions, credit card validations – everything was more streamlined with Stripe.”

DonorsChoose collaborated with Stripe to quickly prototype a new approach to collecting donations. Stripe Payments’ powerful APIs and software solutions enabled easy implementation of fraud protections for increased authorisation rates. Stripe Billing also made it easy for donors to initiate one-time or recurring gifts, and Smart Retries and automatic card updater helped capture missed donations and retain donors. To further streamline the donor experience, DonorsChoose was able to implement new payment methods, such as Apple Pay, and utilised Stripe’s intuitive notifications and user interface.
DonorsChoose staff was excited for Stripe’s robust reporting and analytics to provide increased visibility, real-time insights, and customisable dashboards. Engineers at DonorsChoose were eager to leverage this newfound visibility to speed troubleshooting and enable better monitoring.

Results

After implementing the new payments experience with Stripe, key metrics improved immediately. DonorsChoose finally had a dependable payments infrastructure to support its scale and growth, and was empowered to create a better donation experience for donors and staff.

Nearly 17% increase in credit card acceptance rates

With Stripe’s simplified donor experience, credit card and postal code validations are handled in real time, including automatic input formatting. Additionally, Stripe’s Smart Retries tool automatically determines the optimal times to retry failed donations. As a result, DonorsChoose quickly saw credit card acceptance rates increase from 82% to 99%.
“After switching to Stripe, our donors got an improved and faster credit card payment experience, which has greatly improved our intake of donations for teachers’ classroom requests,” said Mond.

Significant decrease in payment reconciliation errors

Stripe replaced a slow and unreliable payments processing platform that sometimes required manual processing from DonorsChoose staff, and now keeps the donations flowing.

“With our prior payments provider’s excessively long transaction times, charges would sometimes succeed but be marked as failed in our system. This required our team to issue refunds or contact the donor. With Stripe, our staff has saved significant time because transactions flow more quickly and reliably,” Mond stated.

Flexibility, power, and capabilities for continued platform innovation

Stripe’s pioneering features and easy-to-use integrations enables DonorsChoose to quickly and easily investigate new opportunities, add new functionality, and test new capabilities as the organisation grows to help even more classrooms in need.

“Stripe gives us so many innovative capabilities we didn’t have before. Its robust reporting enables more accurate analysis and projections. Its developer dashboard provides great visibility into payments processing. And its modern architecture streamlines technical maintenance all around,” said Mond.

Stripe strives to innovate and provide a robust, reliable, and scalable payments solution.

Nancy Mond, senior director of engineering at DonorsChoose

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