Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Network for Good needs to do better

OK, I fully admit I haven't exhaustively researched this, but Network for Good is trying to get people to use it's API to give to charities. OK, good thing to allow more websites like to spring up and for charities to get a nice little surprise check in the mail.

I read this and kinda wondered:

Q: If my project does not win and I want to purchase the Network for Good API for use beyond June 30th, what do I do?
A: Organizations interested in purchasing a developer license for use beyond June 30, 2008 should email The cost ranges from $6,000 - $9,000 depending on the type of organization, the range of web services being used and the level of customization.
First, their API is not open. Not on the web anywhere. I mean publish the API and limit calls to 10 a month if they are unpaid. Not an insurmountable technical challenge.

But more to the point, if you really want to spread things virally, why would you use such an old school model? I find it kind of amusing that it was founded by AOL and Yahoo and, like the corporations that spawned it, it is having trouble staying in the technological here and now.

Finally a couple of truely radical thoughts. NfG charges a 4.75% fee on transactions. All numbers are assuming ~$40M in annual donations (they did $35M in 2006)

(1) Switch to PayPal. Save $740K. Keep $200-250K and the float to handle the costs on mailing, etc.
(2) Make a deal with Google which offers NPO free processing. Save $1.9M. Keep $500K for expenses and send an additional $1.4M to the sector.

Maybe keep another $100K of the savings and make the API free.

When NfG released the widgets, I thought they probably got web 2.0. With there approach to APIs, however, I need to rethink that conclusion.


Jono Smith, Network for Good said...


Thanks for your feedback. We agree: we can always do better and we are implementing some of your suggestions. First, the API is now freely available for anyone to download at and will be posted to the N2Y3 site shortly.

I also wanted to address your concerns about the pricing. The current version of the API was designed for large scale implementations (i.e. Causes on Facebook,, etc.) While we would love to make the API freely-available, there are significant internal and third-party costs incurred by Network for Good which are well beyond the scope of our 4.75% processing fee. One example of this is our GuideStar integration: the API includes the ability to process donations for any nonprofit in the GuideStar database, which must be sub-licensed. While features like these increase the cost of the API, we think this is also what makes the API superior to what PayPal or Google Checkout offer nonprofits.

Another important differentiator is the fact that Network for Good is a donor advised fund that is legally registered in all 50 states + DC. Currently, over 40 states require nonprofits conducting online fundraising campaigns to register with their state. This includes any other state into which solicitations are directed. All donations processed through Network for Good's API are covered under our state registration, and all donations are sent directly to the nonprofit, as opposed to being held in a PayPal or Google account. We also verify the 501(c)3 status of all beneficiaries, and only accept donations to organizations in good standing with the IRS. In addition, Network for Good's API allows developers to build a true donor experience without being pigeonholed into a shopping cart metaphor. This includes supporting recurring giving, automated donor tax receipting, full donation reporting for the beneficiary organizations, and donation payment by EFT.

I also want to emphasize that this is the 1.0 release of our API, and we are continuing to invest in expanding the breadth of functionality it provides, and looking for way to make it more affordable. And while we don't promise to have all the answers, we do promise to listen to the community to make sure we are really providing something of value. So please keep the feedback coming. We are definitely listening, and we are absolutely evolving!

David Geilhufe said...

The devil is always in the details... thanks for sharing some of them.

Kudos on sharing the API... hopefully it inspires people in ways you haven't anticipated.

Sumit Chachra said...

Where exactly on can I find the API details?

David Geilhufe said...

Looks like they took down that page... you'll have to contact NfG directly.