Understanding Payment Gateways: The Foundation for Your Virtual Tip Jar
Before diving in, it’s important to note that you’ll need to set up a payment gateway first, such as PayPal, Stripe, or Venmo, in order to process transactions.
Payment gateways are merchant services for handling transactions between e-commerce websites, apps, and point of sales terminals. They take instructions from your website and handle banking data of customers, transferring money from the customer’s bank accounts to yours via their own.
You’ll need to set up with a payment gateway first before starting to install one of the tools below. The purpose of this post isn’t to review payment gateways, but a few you may wish to consider are:
- PayPal – general ecommerce
- Stripe – general ecommerce
- Venmo – owned by PayPal and built for easy mobile payments and admin
- Patreon especially built for creatives
- Amazon Smile for charities
- Cash.me – very clean and simple
Payment gateways make their money by taking a cut of transactions, usually just one or two percent. Some also offer more business services like card terminals, invoicing etc, but you won’t need these just to accept tips from fans on your website.
Now, let’s dive into the options for adding a virtual tip jar to your website.
Option 1: AddThis Virtual Tip Jar
AddThis makes fantastic little tools to increase visitor engagement on your website. I’ve always found the process of creating, customising and integrating their widgets very smooth. Sometimes their tools can be a little bulky which may slow down your website, but you can give this one a go and see what happens. It’s totally free and easy to set up.
After creating a free account with AddThis you’ll then be prompted to choose the tool you want to add, so select the Tip Jar to the bottom right. AddThis provides further help on connecting services.
You’ll then be able to add the links to your payment pages on various payment services, adjust the design, position, and the page and device types that you want it to appear on.
As you change things you’ll be able to see a desktop and mobile preview to the right.
After clicking ‘activate tool’ you’ll be taken to instructions on how to add the tool to your website, with specific instructions for plain old HTML websites, AMP pages, WordPress, Magento, Tumblr, Shopify, AngularJS and Cloudflare apps. AddThis have accompanying apps for WordPress, Shopify and Cloudflare.
Option 2: The Lightweight and Clean Stripe Payments Plugin for WordPress
If you use WordPress, we recommend using the Stripe Payments plugin for simple transactions. This plugin is lightweight, clean, and simple. You can use it just to accept donations or build it out into more of an e-commerce tool, creating products with optional variations, downloads, stock control, shipping, and tax.
Compared to more extensive e-commerce solutions like WooCommerce, the setup of the Stripe Payments plugin is much simpler and puts less strain on your web server. Additionally, Stripe is known to be better for virtual transactions than PayPal and slightly cheaper.
While you can create a dedicated page for products, you can also just create a donation link or button that will pop up a simple modal window like this:
Of course, to use it you’ll need to use the Stripe payment gateway, which I’ve found to be better for virtual transactions than PayPal, and slightly cheaper.
To install the plugin in WordPress go to Plugins > Add New and search for Stripe Payments.
After activating the the plugin it will take you through adding a few default pages it needs on your website, currency settings, email settings and more.
To allow the plugin to link to your Stripe account to accept payments you’ll need to add your Stripe API keys. Here’s how to find Stripe API keys in your dashboard.
Then it’s just a matter of creating one product (let’s call it “send me a tip”) and leaving the price blank. That will allow your site visitors to choose how much they’d like to tip you. Don’t forget to publish the product. Then you’ll be able to see a shortcode listed in a box under the publish/update button that you can insert anywhere on your website to prompt visitors to send you a tip.
Other Top WordPress Plugins for Accepting Tips and Donations
- Donorbox – Add a streamlined pop-up for one-time or recurring donations. Suggest the donation amount or let the user decide. 10,000 active installations and a 5-star rating;
- GiveWP – for donations and fundraising. 100,000+ active installations, 4.5 star rating;
- Donations vis PayPal – with 40,000+ active installations, 5 stars;
- Accept Donations with PayPal – similar to the above, with 20,000+ active installations, 4.5 stars;
- Charitable – 10,000+ active installations, 5 stars;
- Patreon WordPress – Also allows you to create content only accessible by your paying supporters. 4,000 active installations, 3.5 stars;
In conclusion, adding a virtual tip jar to your website is an excellent way to monetise your content and interact with your audience. I’ve discussed two main options for setting up a virtual tip jar – the AddThis Virtual Tip Jar and the Stripe Payments plugin for WordPress. Explore these options and find the one that suits your needs best. Don’t forget to also consider the honourable mentions listed above, as they provide alternative solutions for accepting tips and donations on your WordPress website.
I hope this guide helps you successfully add a virtual tip jar to your website. If you have any questions or would like to share your experiences with any of these options, feel free to leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!