The Best Free Email Marketing Software Programs

There is a myth making the rounds on the wide world of the internet that email marketing has outlived its usefulness, but that is simply untrue. The data is in, and email marketing campaigns can have a wide variety of positive effects on your business:

Having said that, some of the software providers in the email marketing world charge a crippling price for smaller businesses. Before you hang your heads in defeat, though, take heart. There are a number of free email marketing software apps that might suit your needs without ever costing you a cent. With a free email marketing tool, you’re not going to have access to unlimited emails and templates, and you’ll be restricted to a certain number of email addresses. Marketing automation tools may also be limited or non-existent with a free plan. But if you need to send out a simple email newsletter to your contacts and want basic access to click-through rates and other simple analytics, free email marketing services can be a godsend.

Compiled here for your reading pleasure is Merchant Maverick’s favorites in the free email marketing software world. A quick word about criteria: Each of these apps were evaluated based on their feature set, ease of use, and pros vs cons. With that out of the way, let’s get started!


Serving upwards of 73,000 users around the globe, Benchmark (read our review) has not moved on from its original mission of serving small businesses. With a reputation for great customer service and ease-of-use, this is one of the most widely recommended email marketing apps out there. And, as you might expect since it is on this list, there is a free version!

It should come as no surprise that the free version of Benchmark is less powerful than the versions you actually pay for. With a subscriber cap of 2,000 members and a limitation of 14,000 emails per month, the free version of Benchmark will be best suited to the email campaigns of very small businesses and nonprofits. It is the other features, or, rather, lack of them, that might make the final decision for you. Non-paying users of Benchmark will find that they have access to an email builder and little more. You’ll get the “insanely simple drag-and-drop editor,” a wide library of templates, and an automated signup form, as well as Google analytics, several campaign styles (drip and RSS), and a few other handy items. What you don’t get, however, are unlimited emails, basic features like A/B testing and more advanced tools like cart abandonment automation and other automated behavioral tracking features.

As I mentioned above, Benchmark is generally considered to be extremely easy to use. Most comments in user reviews agree that navigating the app, building emails, and implementing new campaigns are all done with a minimal learning curve. Based on these user reviews, as well as my own test of the product, I have to agree with Benchmark’s marketing claim: “No design experience required.”

Generally speaking, Benchmark has far more pros than cons. Beyond the ease of use I mentioned above, this company also maintain some of the best customer service in the industry, with 24/7 phone, live chat, and email support. As for cons, the major downside for free users will be the limitations placed on free accounts regarding Benchmark’s more advanced features. Some users have also complained that their experience with the app was plagued by bugs, though I should note that those affected seem few and far between.


SendinBlue (read our review) is best known for the accessibility of its software. With a focus on simplicity in both features and pricing, this is an app that aims to get new users in particular up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible. Generally speaking, SendinBlue is a good choice for anyone looking to get great bang for their buck, especially if you are willing to work with a simplified interface. Indeed, as an ESP (email service provider), SendinBlue is clearly not intended for experienced marketers, but rather for single proprietors and small LLC owners. Appropriately, then, the free version of SendinBlue offers an interesting alternative to the other apps we will discuss here.

Unlike Benchmark, SendinBlue does not limit how many subscribers or contacts their free users can have. Likewise, there is no limit in place for monthly emails. Rather, there is a daily limit of 300 emails. From one perspective, this limitation may seem an opportunity to reach significantly more subscribers than would be possible with Benchmark’s plan. From another perspective, it means someone at your (presumably) small company will be spending at least some time every day working on emails; isn’t that why you wanted an email marketing app anyway? Fortunately, SendinBlue does make it easy to design attractive emails with a nice email editor and template library. Free users also get real-time reporting, phone and email support, and customizable sign-up forms. As with Benchmark, you lose access to many features by choosing to use SendinBlue for free, though since SendinBlue is a simpler app in the first place, the limitations seem less important.

The biggest pro for using SendinBlue is the all-around simplicity of this app, as well as the template library, which is varied and diverse. Like Benchmark, SendinBlue tends to impress customers with their support options as well. In terms of cons, there are only a few integrations available, and some users complain of an outdated interface as well. On the whole, SendinBlue is widely liked by those who use it, though it does not inspire the same superlative-laden user reviews of some of its competitors.


best ecommerce apps

MailChimp (read our review) is pretty much synonymous with email marketing. Maybe it is the quirky name, maybe it is the goofy grin on the face of their mascot, but this app just sticks in the mind, making it one of the first examples I think of when discussing email marketing. Fortunately, if your budget does not have space for an ESP among so many other important expenses, you are in luck. There is a free version of MailChimp, widely regarded as one of the best in the business.

To start things off, if you want to use MailChimp for free, you are looking at a subscriber cap of 2,000 users and an email limit of 12,000 per month. Eagle-eyed readers will note that Benchmark allows more emails per month, but where this email marketing platform sets itself apart is in the features free users gain access to. The standard email editor and template library are in place, as expected, but MailChimp also provides an automated email campaigns features that most of their competitors keep locked behind paywalls. These automations allow you to pre-write messages and determine triggers that will prompt the app to automatically send follow-up emails based on the behavior of individual subscribers. Whether it is a welcome message for new contacts, a notification of an abandoned shopping cart, or even a gentle reminder that your business still exists to customers that have been away awhile, if you are trying to build an ecommerce business, these tools can be invaluable to you.

The pros of using MailChimp should be readily apparent. With powerful features, a user-friendly interface, and a minimal learning curve — for the low monthly cost of $0, it may seem that there is no reason to not set up a MailChimp account this very second. However, unlike the other two apps discussed above, MailChimp does not have a spotless customer service record, with some users finding communication slow and unresponsive. Fortunately, there are more satisfied customers than disgruntled ones, but it remains a concern.

Final Thoughts

Basically, what we have here are three email marketing apps that would leave nearly any subscriber satisfied. Having said that, I think there is a definite winner here: MailChimp. Especially if you are working in e-commerce, the automation tools included in this free email marketing software may prove indispensable to growing your business.

Having said that, I can think of a few reasons for using the other software programs I described above. If your needs exceed the 12,000 emails offered by MailChimp, Benchmark might be the better choice for you. If you need an extra-simplified feature set, SendinBlue’s free plan may be more attractive. On top of that, both these alternatives have higher reputations for customer service, certainly more so than Mailchimp.

In the end, the best way to figure out which free email marketing software app is best for you is to give one or all of them a try. Considering they are free, there is really not much to lose. Your email newsletter is just begging to be sent, and this month is as good a time as any! Start generating contacts, write that opt-in email, create some sign-up forms, and get out there!

If you’re looking for a little more bang for your buck, you might consider doing a free trial of another email marketing platform like AWeber, Constant Contact, Mad Mimi, or Active Campaign, or simply using the paid version of any one of the programs above. With a premium service, you’re going to get more templates, unlimited emails and contacts, advanced marketing automations, social media integration, and better all-around email marketing tools. Read our full selection of email marketing software reviews for more information, or check out our ESP comparison chart.

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A Guide To Open Source Project Management Software

When it comes to project management software, there are all sorts of opinions about what is most desirable. I think the majority of people, even those who would describe themselves as technology nerds, most often prefer to use applications that work well enough on their own and do not require deep knowledge of coding to use and understand. We want a kitchen knife that is sharp, comfortable in the hand, and dependable for chopping ingredients. For us, the point is not the knife itself, but the beautiful food we make with it. And the same principle applies to our project management tools.

But not everyone subscribes to this view. In the software world, particularly, there are those who prefer to write their own code and design their own applications. They use self-made computers and run operating systems like Linux. Whenever they can, they use open-source applications so they can dig into the code and make sure it is doing just what they want it to.

As with most kinds of web-based software, the project management world contains a number of open-source options. If you are anything like me, you have probably heard the term “open source” before, and it filled you with a vague apprehension. Do I have to write the code myself? Isn’t this why I paid for someone to design this software in the first place? What if I break the code by accident! This is all too stressful!

Fortunately, I can offer you respite from those fears. There are a number of advantages to using an open-source software for task management, though there are some complications that can arise from that choice. Is it worth your time? Let’s dive into the facts to find an answer to that question, and then take a look at some good open source project management software programs.

What Is Open Source Software?

In general terms, open source software refers a program or application with a source code that is accessible by any user. Now if you are like me, the term “source code” makes your eyes glaze over, your head tip back slightly, and re-runs of “How It’s Made” start playing behind your eyes. But fear not! The term is far less intimidating than it might seem. As you probably know, all software runs on code, and open source software just makes that code available for editing by anyone. As my father is fond of reminding me, “just because you can do something doesn’t mean you have to.” So if you are content with your software just how it is, you do not have to play with it.

Another misconception people have about open source software is this: If anyone can edit the source code, isn’t it easier to hack, sabotage, or otherwise ruin by mischevious antagonists? Effectively, the answer is “no.” When you purchase or download open-source software you are creating your own version of that software, and the only people able to modify the code will be people within your own team. It is no more vulnerable to attack than other software you might consider using.

More specifically, open-source project management software tends to include applications that are designed to meet project management needs (task lists, project portfolios, Gantt charts, Kanban boards, etc), while allowing users to customize their experience both in the mechanics of how the app functions (do you want recurring tasks? Templates? Timesheets?), and the visual interface (want a bright pink background? Company logos?)

Buying or subscribing to open source project management can be like going to the hardware store and buying lumber, nails, and a hammer, rather than simply buying a pre-built table. Alternatively, sometimes it is more like going to IKEA for a flatpack table that just requires a few steps to assemble. So how much of a DIY-er are you? And what are the concrete benefits of that trip to the hardware store or IKEA, rather than just getting something ready-made? Let’s take a closer look.

Benefits To Open Source Software

The most obvious benefit of open-source software of any kind is the higher level of control you will have over your application. This goes deeper than the cosmetic jokes I made above, meaning you can drastically modify the inner workings of the program. You can add entirely new features that were never present in the original, though the quality of these features will sometimes depend on the skill of your in-house software engineers. Some providers, however, have marketplaces that users can browse, shopping for community-designed features that slot into the code perfectly. A great example of this concept is OrangeScrum, hosting a diverse market with all sorts of additions to choose from.

Another big draw of open source software is that these options tend to be available for free! Most open-source creators don’t see the point in charging for a product that their customers are likely going to modify up the wazoo anyway. Access to the source code is usually free or comes with a one-time cost, rather than the monthly subscription model common to other, cloud-based project management software. If you are wondering how companies like the aforementioned OrangeScrum and others (like Taiga or MyCollab) make money, it’s simple: they tend to charge for customer service, though some also offer standardized versions of their software as well.

Downsides To Open Source Software

In some ways, the most prominent advantages to using an open-source project management software — control and customizability — can be the biggest disadvantages as well. You may have noticed above my repeated references to coding and software engineers, both of which will be needed to take full advantage of apps like OrangeScrum and the rest. If your small business lacks an in-house IT or computing division, open-source might be too large an undertaking.

On another note, if you end up with a project management vendor that offers source code for free but customer service for a premium, you might be facing prohibitive costs. Basic customer service plans can go for more than $150 per month, with premium plans costing triple that. Some might consider this money well spent, and they might be right. But I can think of several closed-source, web-based project management apps that you can get much cheaper. If you just want a simple way to manage tasks, you’ll be better off with an SaaS solution like Basecamp that you can use out of the box.

Finally, using open-source software often means wading through poorly designed interfaces. To be fair, several of the ones I have mentioned here have decent designs, especially the folks at Taiga, who have created an interface as nice as the likes of Binfire (read our review) or Streamtime (read our review). However, several of the higher-recommended open-source offerings, like ]project open[, ProjectLibre, and Open Project all feature less-than-inspiring GUI’s. Like it or not, visual design is part of a user’s experience, and good design leads to happier users.

Which Open Source Project Management App Is The Best?

There are so many open source project management apps out there that it would be impossible to cover even a representative sample in a blog post like this. With that in mind, here are my three favorite apps to get you started:


As I have already mentioned, OrangeScrum is one of the most well-known apps in the open-source project management world. This is classic open-source software; the options are almost overwhelmingly endless. You can get the cloud option or the on-premise option. You can use the marketplace to modify the app up the wazoo. You can integrate Slack, Google apps, or Dropbox. You can use it on a computer, your phone, or your tablet. If all those options started to blur together in a whirlwind of customization fatigue, keep in mind that OrangeScrum was designed to be an enterprise-level tool.

When you subscribe to OrangeScrum (there are five subscription levels, each of which increases the file storage and user cap), you gain access to a full range of project management features. This includes time tracking for tasks, projects, task lists and to-do lists, Gantt charts, resource tracking, and more. For those of you looking for a comprehensive project management solution available at a decent price with excellent customization options, this may be the task management tool you are looking for.


In my opinion, Taiga takes the prize for the most stylish open-source project management app. Comparing Taiga to OrangeScrum is like comparing apples to an apple tree. Where OrangeScrum can be almost anything you need it to be, Taiga is extremely focused on Agile methodology. With a scrum board to highlight what jobs and tasks are falling behind schedule and a Kanban view to help dissect what needs to happen on your own project, this is one of the best interpretations of Agile project management I have yet seen.

There is a free version of Taiga, though it is quite limited, with only one project and three team members available. Fortunately, a subscription comes pretty cheaply, at only five dollars per month. Best of all, for you coding geeks out there, the source code is available to you to customize to your heart’s content.


Of the three apps I am covering here, MyCollab is the tool that best fits the open-source archetype, warts and all. The website feels thrown together, with a couple of copy-editing issues even on the front page. MyCollab does offer some paid subscriptions, but the option open-source fiends are going to be most interested in is the free “community” edition. Note that in order to use this completely open-source version of MyCollab, you will need to self-host the app on your own servers.

If you choose to do that, you get access to issue tracking, email reporting, tasks, project and customer management, and anything else you can dream up; you can alter, modify, and otherwise change the code to your heart’s content. I probably don’t need to point this out, but this option is probably not for you if you don’t have dedicated code monkeys on staff to keep everything straight and track your own bugs. If you are looking for project management that works every time you use it without much effort from you, you should probably look elsewhere.

Final Thoughts

When it comes right down to it, I think that open-source software is going to be valued differently by different kinds of teams looking for different things out of a project management tool. Enterprise-level corporations, with in-house computer engineers, will probably find the flexibility and customization of these tools extremely appealing. Likewise, startup tech companies and smaller teams will probably appreciate the opportunity to tailor their apps directly to their own needs, whether they need Gantt charts, advanced task tracking or simple to-do lists. Experienced project managers will also enjoy the fact that they can tailor their tools to Scrum, Agile, or Kanban-based project planning methodologies.

However, if you are in a small or mid-sized business operating outside the tech industry, you will probably get better value and less headache out of a more conventional cloud-based tool.

The post A Guide To Open Source Project Management Software appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


5 Free Project Management Apps

It goes without saying that paying less for something is desirable. But on the hand, choosing the cheaper of two options can put you in dire straits if that lower-priced product is also of cheaper quality. Sometimes, it’s better to pay a higher cost upfront if doing so means you are less likely to have to replace things later on. But does this axiom hold up in the world of project management?

There are a number of free apps or free versions of apps out there designed to help you and your team manage your work efficiently. Is it worth it to go with a free version when paying might get you access to new features, better support, or more file storage? These are the questions we will be answering here and now.

But first, some housekeeping. For each app, I will cover what the free version brings to the table and how it differs from paid versions (when applicable). I’ll also throw in a few other observations about the value of each app based on my experience in testing this kind of software. At the end of the process, I will deliver a verdict about whether each app is worth your time.

Let’s get started!


Redbooth (read our review) is one of our favorite project management apps here at Merchant Maverick. We love it for its slick, modern interface and excellent, easy to use features. But how much of that awesomeness overflows into the Free version? Let’s find out.

At first glance, the free version of Redbooth might come across as a little underwhelming. With a 10-user maximum threshold, you will have to be operating on a small scale indeed for this to meet your needs. Add to that a strict limit of two workspaces, and you may feel that Redbooth’s usefulness does not outweigh the downsides of the free version.

However, if you keep looking, you will find that many of our favorite features are still accessible in the free version. You still get unlimited tasks and subtasks, Gantt charts, basic reporting, conversations, templates, and email support. Wrap it all up in Redbooth’s gorgeous UI and you end up with a pretty picture.

Are there issues with the free plan? Yes. Like I mentioned above, this is a difficult free app to adapt to larger teams, or even to small teams that handle lots of kinds of projects. But if you are a kind of one-trick-wonder company, or if you work on just one or two major projects at a time, Redbooth’s no-cost plan might work out for you.

Verdict: Redbooth’s free version is worth your consideration

Teamwork Projects

Teamwork Projects (read our review) is another longstanding favorite at Merchant Maverick. And we aren’t the only ones who like it. Teamwork Projects has been winning hearts and minds since back in 2007. And happily, there is a free version. Signing up and entering your email address and a password will give you access to this app’s user-friendly interface and good integrations. But how many of its features carry over to the free plan?

As with Redbooth, things don’t start out promising. The free version of Teamwork projects enforces a maximum of five users, making it a bit less useful than even Redbooth’s offer. With so few users available it will be a small team indeed that can make use of Teamwork Projects for free. And where Redbooth allows free users two workspaces, with the potential of several projects in each, Teamwork projects only gives two projects. That is pretty limiting, to say the least.

Honestly, there is just not much good news to be had here. The free version of Teamwork projects is just not enough. You only get 100 MB storage and what the pricing page describes as “limited” task boards and “basic” project management. You do get access to subtasks and “color schemes,” but part of the appeal of Teamwork Projects is that it is an advanced project management app. If all you really need are basic and limited task management, there are far better options. Teamwork Projects truly does deliver robust features and good value with its paid plans, but I’m sorry to say that the free version is not particularly advanced or valuable.

Verdict: The free version of Teamwork is not worth your time


Unlike the first two entries on this list, Clickup (read our review) is not a long-standing project management solution that has been through more than a decade of refinement. No, Clickup is one of the new kids on the block, and it has something to prove. Notably, Clickup was practically designed around its free version. So what do you get here and how does it compare with other free software?

Put simply, you sacrifice very little by sticking to the free version of Clickup. The only major differences between the paid and free subscriptions are that by paying, you unlock unlimited storage (the free version comes with a paltry 100MB), and onboarding training. Though I find it difficult to imagine working with such small amounts of storage, Clickup’s integrations with Google Drive and Dropbox may solve at least part of that problem. On top of that, Clickup is an absolute joy to use. I find that its usability and interface design are on par with Redbooth’s; both of them are excellent.

To be clear, Clickup is by no means perfect. Like many of the free-forever project management apps floating around out there in cyberspace, it lacks more advanced features like reporting, financial documentation, and budgeting. That is an important factor in the decision-making process; if you need reporting, this may not be the app for you. Having said that, you will struggle to find many software examples out there that do have a reporting feature on their free app. The only one I can think of is Redbooth.

Clickup should absolutely be on your shortlist of free project management apps, especially if you don’t need the financial and reporting stuff I mentioned above. This is not just a free version of a normally premium app, this is a naturally grown, gluten, dairy, and GMO-free burger of an app, designed and built to be free from the ground up.

Verdict: Clickup’s free version is worth a look-see


Squidhub (read our Review) is one of the most pleasant discoveries I made last year. A brand-spanking-new project management app, Squidhub is like Clickup in that it was designed to be free. Also like Clickup, Squidhub’s feature set is on the lighter side and focuses primarily on task management, communication, and file storage. Having said that, paid versions of Squidhub are “coming soon” according to the website’s pricing page, so it is worth taking a few moments to determine whether these subscriptions are worth your time.

Basically, Squidhub’s free features center around a task list, chat panel, and document storage interface. This allows for plenty of new features to be layered on top since Squidhub is already such a barebones app. With that in mind, it is actually a little surprising how limited the planned additions are for the upcoming paid subscriptions. For $5/user/month, the only new features you will get are file recovery, calendar sync, and phone support. Go up to $8/user/month, and you will get an “admin panel,” as well as group templates. Honestly, I can see the value of that higher subscription, but in many cases, the free version of Squidhub is going to be all you need.

I really like Squidhub. However, it would be dishonest of me to say that this is a perfect, one-size-fits-all app. It is extremely limited in its capabilities. What it can do, it does with aplomb. But compared to the likes of Redbooth, Squidhub is a little like a two-stroke weed-eater next to a Rolls-Royce Phantom. But you know what? You wouldn’t use a Royce to trim the long grass in your backyard, would you? Use the right tool for the right job.

Verdict: Squidhub is worth your time, but limited in capabilities


I have said this before, but Trello (read our review) is a project management app I can recommend without reservations every day of the week. The fact that there is an excellent free version is a big part of that. Trello popularized the increasingly common “Board View” that is now ubiquitous in the project management world. They also bring a sense of humor into their app, with stickers and silly “power-ups” for users to enjoy.

Trello’s free version is good, but what are you missing out on by not paying for a monthly subscription? To be frank, quite a bit. Paid versions of Trello come with advanced integrations with the likes of Jira and MailChimp, as well as features like Collections that add to team cohesion. Essentially, if you are using Trello on your own, the free version might be okay for you. Working in a group, the paid subscriptions become increasingly useful as you add more users. If you are willing to shell out for the top subscription, you get enhanced security features that include two-factor authentification.

I still love Trello. But my affinity for this program comes with the knowledge that larger teams may find the free version limiting. If you need an app for a few users and no more, the free Trello plan is probably fine. You may even be able to make it work with more team members than that. But there are other options out there, including several on this list, that will serve you better.

Verdict: Trello’s free plan is worth a trial, depending on your team size

Final Thoughts

It is difficult to resist the draw of the “free” label. But when it comes to your business, you want quality as much as you want affordability. Is it worth your time to work with a free project management app subscription, or should you go straight to a paid plan with more robust features? As with most things, the answer comes down to context. Is yours the kind of business or team that just needs task management? Do you need communication tools? Do you need invoicing or other financial capabilities?

If task management is all you need, nearly every option on this list is going to work well for you, depending on how many people you plan to have using the app. If your needs go beyond that, really the only viable option here is Redbooth — and that option will only work if you have a team of fewer than ten people.

When it comes down to it, the two free project management apps I recommend most highly are Redbooth, for its advanced features, and Clickup, for its wide-open usability. But don’t just take my word for it. As always, the final decision is up to you. Go out and give some of these options a try!

If you’re looking for a free app because you run a nonprofit, there are better solutions available. Read The Top 5 Project Management Apps For Nonprofits for a look at your other options. Otherwise, check out our project management software comparison page for more information.

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Best Shipping Software For 2018

It’s 4:30 on a Friday and you’re knee-deep in packing peanuts and cardboard boxes. You’ve got twenty orders to pick, pack, and ship before the post office closes, and you keep misplacing your packing slips.

There must be a better way.

If your storage space is covered in packing materials and you record all your shipping information in spreadsheets and Post-It notes, it might be time to try something else.

In the era in which an app solves everything, it makes sense to turn to software solutions to soothe your shipping woes.

Shipping software solutions integrate with most popular eCommerce software programs and can help simplify your day-to-day operations. They let you calculate accurate shipping rates and print shipping labels and packing slips in bulk. They can even grant you discounted shipping rates.

These programs are typically available as SaaS solutions that range in price from $25/month to $99/month — a small price to pay for the shipping issues they resolve.

It’s clear you should subscribe to a shipping software, but with so many options available, how do you choose?

We’ve tested out a handful of shipping solutions, examining price, ease of use, and customer service. Keep reading to learn more about the best shipping software for 2018.

1. ShippingEasy

With a near-perfect score of 4.5 stars, ShippingEasy (see our review) is our top-rated shipping solution for eCommerce businesses. This software is true to its name: it’s easy to learn and use and customer support representatives are ready to help with any potential hiccups.

Best For…

Businesses of all sizes. It works especially well for eCommerce merchants who run their own online stores.


Pricing for ShippingEasy is simple and affordable; plans range from $29/month for 500 shipments to $99/month for 6,000 shipments. Each step up in pricing includes more monthly shipments and higher level customer support.

ShippingEasy has a free plan available for merchants shipping fewer than 50 shipments/month. For high volume sellers, ShippingEasy also offers enterprise options. Read more about ShippingEasy’s pricing in our full review.


As I mentioned above, we found ShippingEasy to be highly user-friendly. You can easily import orders, create shipments, set shipping parameters, and buy and print postage, shipping labels, and packing slips.

We also like how many features come included with ShippingEasy. And we especially love the fact that ShippingEasy’s partnership with USPS lets you benefit from lower shipping rates. You can save up to 46% on shipping rates when you sign on for one of ShippingEasy’s paid plans.

Other features include:

  • A Free Endicia Account
  • Shipping Status Updates & Real-Time Tracking
  • Individual Or Batch Shipping

If you’re worried that ShippingEasy might not integrate into your eCommerce software, fear no more! ShippingEasy integrates easily with the biggest names in eCommerce, including 3dcart, Magento, BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion, and WooCommerce. View all of ShippingEasy’s integrations.

ShippingEasy also has a good record when it comes to customer service. Their support representatives are knowledgeable and helpful.


With so many positives to ShippingEasy, it’s hard to find any downsides. You should note, however, that ShippingEasy still has room to grow when it comes to simplifying their daily operations. In particular, users would like to see improvement in expediting the data entry process.

Otherwise, ShippingEasy is an excellent option. Take a look at our shipping software reviews to learn more about the software or sign up for a free 30-day trial.

Read our full ShippingEasy review

Visit the ShippingEasy website

2. OrderCup

OrderCup (see our review) is one of our favorite shipping software solutions. OrderCup offers an easy to use interface, multi-carrier shipping options, and discounted shipping rates. And best of all, OrderCup provides users with reliable and responsive customer support, so you can get answers to your pressing questions quickly.

Best For…

Merchants who ship between 500 and 12,000 shipments a month and who only need up to 12 users on the platform. With five tiered pricing plans, OrderCup is accessible to many merchants.


As I mentioned before, OrderCup separates pricing into five tiers. To add a little fun to the pricing, OrderCup has named each tier after a Starbucks drink size. Plans range from Short to Trenta, and each step up in pricing includes more sales channels, more monthly shipments, and more users.

The Short plan begins at $20/month for 500 monthly shipments, and Trenta costs $180/month for 12,000 monthly shipments.

For more information, view OrderCup’s pricing page.


OrderCup’s dashboard is well-organized and quick to learn. During setup, you’ll be able to integrate your hosted shopping cart. Your online store’s orders will be automatically transferred to your OrderCup dashboard.

Then, you’ll be able to connect with your favorite carriers and start processing orders.

OrderCup’s feature list includes everything you’d expect from a multi-carrier shipping software. They have made arrangements with several carriers, including the USPS, DHL, UK Mail, and DX to offer their customers discounted shipping rates. You’ll also be able to integrate with worldwide shipping carriers across Europe, Asia, and Australia.

Here are a few more features you can expect from OrderCup:

  • Automate Your Shipping Process
  • Print Return Labels To Include With Shipments
  • Bulk Import Orders Using CSV Files
  • Schedule Shipment Pickups
  • Integrate With Third-Party Fulfillment

OrderCup integrates with many eCommerce solutions, including Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, and Volusion. Integrated marketplaces include Amazon, eBay, and Etsy. Check the full list for more information.

Out of all these features, OrderCup users seem to be most enthusiastic about OrderCup’s support team. Support representatives are responsive and patient, often spending up to an hour on the phone with users to make sure everything is working properly. Users also praise OrderCup’s Canadian shipping options; it is easy to ship to and from Canada.

There are few negative comments about OrderCup online, though we have seen customers complain about having to pay extra in order to access phone support and get priority attention for their technical issues.


OrderCup is one of our favorite shipping software programs, scoring an excellent 4.5 out of 5 stars. If you think this software might be the right fit for your business, we recommend you try it out. You can sign up for a free 30-day trial in minutes.

But if you’d like a bit more information before you proceed, take a look at our complete review. We include in-depth information about pricing, customer service levels, and more.

Read our full OrderCup review

Visit the OrderCup website

3. Ordoro

Ordoro (see our review) is a shipping and inventory application designed for SMBs. Known for its drop-shipping features, Ordoro is particularly popular among Shopify users.

Best For…

Small to medium-sized businesses. Merchants who are planning to dropship can benefit especially from the software.


With Ordoro, you have two options. You can use Ordoro to handle just your shipping, or you can have Ordoro handle shipping, inventory management, and dropshipping. Ordoro sets up their pricing structure differently, depending on which features you choose.

In my opinion, it’s best to use Ordoro for shipping only. Paid plans for shipping begin at $25/month and go to $129/month. Each step up in pricing includes additional features and monthly shipments. There’s also a free plan available for merchants shipping fewer than 50 orders/month.

Pricing for shipping and inventory management is structured much differently. The lowest plan costs $199/month for 700 orders. This plan includes drop shipping features. Plans can go as high as $499/month for 4,000 orders. For more information, view Ordoro’s pricing page.


Ordoro comes with a minimalistic user interface. You can easily link your shopping cart to your new Ordoro account during setup. Then you’ll be able to sync your inventory and push new orders automatically to Ordoro. You can create shipping labels and packing slips one-by-one or in bulk.

Ordoro’s best feature is without a doubt their dropshipping functionality (available with shipping + inventory plans). You can set select items to ship directly from your supplier, and you can automatically split orders to dropship from multiple suppliers.

Here are a few more features that come with Orodoro:

  • Process Orders From Multiple Sales Channels
  • Integrate With USPS, UPS, FedEx, DHL, Canada Post, & Amazon Seller Fulfilled Prime
  • Best-In-Industry Shipping Rates (Up To 67% With USPS)
  • Tracking Number Automatically Sent To Customers Upon Shipment
  • Inventory Management (If You Choose To Purchase It)

Ordoro integrates with a wide variety of eCommerce solutions, including Shopify, BigCommerce, FBA, 3dcart, Magento, WooCommerce, and more. See if your preferred vendor is on the full list.

Ordoro users have a lot of good things to say about the platform. In particular, they praise Ordoro’s technical support options. Customers report that a real person will be available to answer your support concerns. On the off chance you can’t reach anyone, Ordoro’s knowledge base is detailed and well organized. You might find the information you need there.

I’ve seen a few negative reports of Ordoro. Some customers cite trouble syncing their Ordoro account with other software programs (namely Shopify and FedEx). Other customers complain that while Ordoro’s interface is easy to navigate, that simplicity is due to a lack of features.


In our opinion, Ordoro is best suited to small businesses, especially those that engage in a lot of dropshipping. To learn more about Ordoro, read our full review, or try out the platform yourself by signing up for a free 15-day trial.

Read our full Ordoro review

Visit the Ordoro website

4. ShipStation


ShipStation (see our review) is arguably the best-known shipping solution, partly due to the company’s excellent marketing campaigns and partly due to the numerous integrations they offer with major eCommerce vendors.

Best For…

Small to mid-sized businesses, particularly those which sell online.


Pricing for ShipStation is on par with industry standards. You can choose from six pricing tiers, ranging from $9/month for 50 orders to $145/month for unlimited shipments. ShipStation does not offer a free plan, but they do offer a free 30-day trial of their software.


When it comes to ease of use, ShipStation prioritizes functionality over aesthetics, which is perfectly fine by me!

If you have any trouble learning your way around, ShipStation provides video tutorials to help you figure out the admin. In general, we think that ShipStation is highly usable, though it may take some time to get the hang of the advanced tools.

ShipStation offers the basic collection of features, including the following:

  • Integrations For USPS, UPS, FedEx, & DHL Accounts
  • Discounts On USPS Priority & Express Mail
  • Account Included
  • Batch-Print Hundreds Of Shipping Labels & Packing Slips
  • Print A Return Label To Include In Your Shipments

ShipStation really shines when it comes to integrations. Check out this full list to see which eCommerce platforms, shipping carriers, and payment solutions integrate easily with ShipStation. Happily, it integrates with the most popular eCommerce solutions, including BigCommerce, Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, Volusion, Miva Merchant, and PrestaShop.

ShipStation’s customer service is available by email. They also provide live webinars, a knowledge base, and a community forum.

We see only one potential issue with ShipStation: it’s lacking customer management features. You cannot add identifying characteristics to a customer’s account, and ShipStation does not always recognize a customer when they make a second purchase on a different sales channel. However, for most users, this difficulty is not a deal breaker.


If you’re looking for an efficient, reliable shipping solution, ShipStation may be the way to go. Once you invest some time into learning the system, you’ll be able to reap the rewards of a feature-rich shipping solution.

Learn more about ShipStation in our full review or take it for a spin with a 30-day free trial.

Read our full ShipStation review

Visit the ShipStation website


5. ShipRush

ShipRush (see our review) is an affordable software solution that is designed to make shipping selection efficient. ShipRush displays rates from multiple different carriers on the same page in your admin, allowing you to quickly and easily choose the most cost-effective shipping rates. What’s more, ShipRush offers support for many different types of shipping, including individual package shipping, freight shipping, and LTL shipping. Keep reading to learn more about the merits of ShipRush.

Best For…

Merchants who need to ship freight. I would recommend ShipRush primarily to smaller businesses, as the pricing model is designed for three users (though more can be added on at an additional expense).


ShipRush’s pricing model is simple. It is divided into two options: Web and Desktop.

ShipRush’s web option is based on a monthly payment model and costs $29.95/month for up to three users (additional users can be added on three at a time for an additional $29.95/month).

On the other hand, the ShipRush Desktop version can be purchased annually for $795/year per workstation.


You can test out ShipRush for 60 days by signing up for a free trial. Once you sign up, you’ll be presented with this dashboard.

The dashboard is a bit austere, but we don’t mind much as ShipRush has proved itself to be very functional.

Once I got over the initial learning curve, I was able to calculate shipping rates and print shipping labels and packing slips easily.

Here are a few other features that ShipRush users benefit from:

  • Discounted Shipping Rates (Save Up To 60% On USPS Rates & 21% On FedEx Rates)
  • View Rates From Multiple Carriers On One Screen
  • Send Notifications To Customers When Orders Ship
  • Dropshipping Support
  • Print Scan-Based Return Labels

For the full list, head over to ShipRush’s website.

ShipRush integrates with over 75 eCommerce platforms, payment processors, shipping carriers, and accounting and CRM software apps. These integrations include 3dcart, Ecwid, LemonStand, Big Cartel, Shopify, FedEx, UPS, and USPS.

ShipRush has a lot of positives. Customers especially like the quality customer service and the relative ease of use. One downfall potential users should note is that merchants who maintain a large inventory (thousands of products) may have a hard time with the software. Creating shipping rules for all these different types of products could be more effort than it’s worth.


ShipRush is a great software for many businesses. It’s affordable, functional, and reliable, and you can test it out for yourself using their free 60-day trial.

For more information on ShipRush, take a look at our complete review of the platform. Otherwise, keep reading for more shipping options.

Read our full ShipRush review

Visit the ShipRush website

6. ShipHawk

ShipHawk (see our review) is a bit different than the alternative shipping software we cover above. While those software programs provide easy to use interfaces and hundreds of features, ShipHawk focuses its energy on one thing: an algorithm. ShipHawk is a complex shipping calculator, designed for large businesses and businesses that ship oversized or unique items.

Best For…

Larger businesses. ShipHawk’s cheapest plan is targeted at merchants who spend up to $500K on shipping annually. ShipHawk is also good for merchants who ship uniquely shaped or oversized items.


ShipHawk offers three pricing tiers. With each step up in pricing, you’ll be able to ship more parcels and freight and have access to more advanced features and technical support.

The Starter plan starts at $250/month and is for merchants who spend up to $500K on shipping annually. Then there’s the Pro plan, which begins at $2K/month and is intended for annual shipping expenses up to $2M; finally, there’s the Enterprise plan, for an annual spend of up to $25M. Enterprise begins at $4,500/month.

As you can see, ShipHawk is not a cheap platform. It is designed for high volume shippers who need a high volume platform.


In order to test out ShipHawk, you can sign up for a free demo of the starter plan. I didn’t find ShipHawk to be as intuitive as other shipping software apps I’ve tested. However, given time, I was able to figure out a few features. And as a whole, the dashboard seems well designed.

As I’ve mentioned before, ShipHawk works a bit differently than most shipping software when it comes to features. While ShipHawk does offer some of your typical features, they primarily advertise the calculator behind the software. ShipHawk will help estimate expenses for hard-to-ship items.

Here are a few of the more notable features:

  • Get Quotes From Multiple Carriers
  • Real-Time Tracking Updates
  • API: Integrate With Shipping Carriers & Shopping Cart Software
  • Set Up Automatic Shipping Rules
  • Provide Shipping Options To Customers

ShipHawk advertises that you can integrate with most software solutions through their API. You can expect to find pre-built integrations with a few shipping carriers and shopping carts, including DHL, FedEx, UPS, USPS, Magento, Shopify, and more.

Customer feedback regarding ShpHawk is very limited. However, after some time searching the web, I was able to find a few comments. Customers primarily love ShipHawk’s customer service and robust calculation abilities. I myself was a bit disappointed with ShipHawk’s support material. There did not seem to be enough tutorial information to help me set up the program.


ShipHawk is not the right fit for many of our readers. However, if you ship thousands of products each month and you need access to freight and individual shipments, ShipHawk may be right for you. Test it out with a free demo and read our review for more information.

Read our full ShipHawk review

Visit the ShipHawk website

Get Started!

If you’re tired of losing yourself in packing peanuts and misplaced notes-to-self, try out one of these software options. You’ll find that shipping is much less of a chore when order processing and fulfillment is automated, organized, and synchronized. With many solutions beginning at $25/month, shipping software is a small investment that could do a lot for your business. Click one of the buttons above to get started with a free trial, or search our site for more quality shipping software reviews.

Good luck, and happy shipping!

The post Best Shipping Software For 2018 appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


Top 5 POS Tablet Systems For Restaurants

The restaurant industry is a hectic environment with a ton of moving parts. From taking orders to printing tickets to splitting checks, every function needs to work seamlessly if you’re to maximize your potential — and stay alive. Studies show that nearly 60% of restaurants close after three years, so choosing the right point of sale system can be a crucial component to the ultimate survival of your business.

Happily, if you’re opening up a restaurant right now, you’re in luck. POS systems have never been more helpful or powerful. Chances are, if you’ve done you’re research, you’re looking into at least a few systems that are iPad or tablet-based. A point of sale tablet can be a server or manager’s best friend. The mobility of these devices boosts the efficiency of your waitstaff and can improve interactions with customers; managers, in turn, can keep tabs on reports and sales on the go, from any device with a wireless connection.

Read on for an in-depth look at some of our favorite tablet POS systems.


Best For…

Small to mid-sized retail businesses and smaller restaurant establishments.


$69 per month per first three registers.

Feature Overview

There is little fault to find with ShopKeep’s (read our review) sleek and modern POS for tablet. This company has been on the cutting edge of POS technology for a few years now and continues to improve and expand its services. Though it was previously best suited for retail establishments and smaller food service establishments, ShopKeep now offers open check features and server-less syncing.

It also recently added the ability to create your own modifiers and is working on an update for table layouts.

ShopKeep has always prided itself on being user-friendly, and its restaurant software is exceptionally simple to master, particularly with features like the ability to keep multiple tabs open and split bills in a quick and intuitive manner. Tickets can also be sent immediately from the table to the kitchen, saving precious time in a fast-paced environment.

If ShopKeep is lacking at all on the front end, it more than makes up for it with in-depth reporting, analyzing your restaurant’s busiest times to help you coordinated staffing. Employees can be assigned specific permissions and all reports and sales data can be viewed in real time on any device with the app installed.


Like most of the best POS systems, ShopKeep continues to improve. In particular, ShopKeep is becoming a better and better option for restaurants. Already boasting an excellent interface and strong reporting and employee management, the modifier and check functions of this POS make it worth a look for any new business owner.

Read our complete review or check out ShopKeep’s website for yourself.

Lightspeed Restaurant

Best For…

Almost any size foodservice establishment. There is an enterprise package for larger industries, but Lightspeed is probably better suited for mid-sized restaurants.


Lightspeed offers three plans at $69 a month, $129 a month and $198 a month.

Feature Overview

Lightspeed Restaurant (read our review) offers some unique features that are difficult to find anywhere else. Coupled with a superior design, Lightspeed has very few weaknesses to speak of and may be worth the slightly higher price compared to other similar systems.

Lightspeed thrives in both employee and inventory management. There is a feature which allows managers to change the visibility of employees on the app — quite useful for a business with multiple part-time employees. Permissions are assigned and broken down easily. The Timed Events features, which lets you set up unique promotions and contests for employees, is something I haven’t seen in many other products. You can also select your language of choice to print tickets.

One nice visual element is the ability to upload appetizing pictures of your menu items that can be displayed to customers. Most features, such as table layout and modifiers, are also highly customizable.

On the back end, Lightspeed Restaurant has a wealth of reports to help you analyze your business quickly and intuitively. The raw ingredient tracking mechanism also updates in real time, allowing servers to see when a product is running low. Things like discounts and tax codes can all be added or updated in a matter of seconds and, as an added bonus, Lightspeed’s customer service comes without additional cost and has many positive reviews. Lightspeed Restaurant is still lacking slightly in integrations but, at this point, we’re really picking nits.


Lightspeed Restaurant is designed specifically for the foodservice industry, and it shows. The company does nearly everything right and is particularly strong in both customer and inventory management, all at a reasonably competitive pricing structure that can fit whatever sized business you’re running.

Read our full review here or check out Lightspeed Restaurant’s website.


Best For…

Anything from small food-service establishments (like cafes) to mid-sized, full-service restaurants.


Toast starts at $79 a month and is $50 a month for each additional register.

Feature Overview

Here at Merchant Maverick we’re suckers for products that give you as few headaches as possible. Under that umbrella, Toast (read our review) continues to be one of our favorite point of sale systems. Toast has a simple and affordable pricing structure, a feature-rich and simple-to-use platform, and fantastic customer service that is included in the original price. Even one of the few issues we have with Toast — its inability to work with other credit card processing companies — at least leaves you with one less decision to make when you’re starting your business or shopping for a new POS.

Toast is simple to use. You can be walked through its initial set-up so you’re an expert in a short amount of time. Normal restaurant functions like check splitting, voiding, and the ability to transfer tickets to different tables are intuitive and can be done with just a few taps. Toast has a solid menu creation feature and it’s simple to make quick pricing changes either manually or automatically for things like Happy Hour.

Toast’s reporting functioToast hardwarens are robust and, as you would expect, can be accessed from anywhere with a wireless connection on a tablet or mobile device. You can see things like ticket times and tip reports all in an easily digestible format. Many current systems are delving deep into customer management and Toast is no different. The POS can take and store customer information and track an individual’s order history while tabulating their loyalty rewards, helping you set up ways to entice them to come back. The inventory and employee management functions are also strong, helping a business owner cut down on inefficiency. For an additional cost, you can add on Toast’s loyalty program and its online ordering service, two impressive features.


Everything about Toast is easy, from its pricing to its layout to its quick set-up. If you’re looking for a POS tablet system that won’t give you headaches, it’s tough to see you going wrong here. A strong menu-creation function and simple table management, coupled with some of the best customer service in the industry, make Toast a top contender.

Check out our complete review of Toast or visit their website.


Best For…

Mid-sized to larger foodservice businesses, though it can be adapted to smaller restaurants as well.


Revel has a flexible pricing structure depending on what features you need. The cost of the software is built in to the monthly subscription.

Feature Overview

Revel (read our review) is another impressive system that packs a lot of features into intuitive yet unassuming software. Revel has the ability to handle larger scale restaurants better than some of the other systems mentioned in this post. It can take on multiple locations with ease and has an extremely robust offering of reports that can be managed remotely, along with a varied list of integrations and customizable software.

Revel has a simple interface, without a lot of distractions. It is created with the server in mind, making things like voids, order editing, and check splitting simple. For smaller establishments, Revel has a very nice kiosk function with a customer-facing display. The ability to take reservations and inform customers via a text message or email is also a nice feature.

Going along with current POS trends, Revel allows you to take orders tableside and, with its Kitchen Display System, servers can view the status of an order as it’s being made.

Revel, a Lightspeed POS alternativeThe backend takes a little more time to get the hang of. However, that’s mainly because there’s a lot to offer. Revel has a huge slate of reports that can be viewed and digested quickly. Its employee management feature is also superb, assigning individuals their own PIN number for log-in. Managers can then track performance by sales, productivity, or number of voids, and permissions can be assigned easily. There is a built-in loyalty system within Revel that stores basic customer information. One of the biggest draws for Revel is the sheer number of companies that it integrates with. If the POS doesn’t have a specific function you’re looking for, chances are you can download a program that can help. Revel’s open API also makes it possible to create your own customizable functions.


Revel is a powerhouse of a POS that can handle large-scale restaurant establishments. The system is loaded with reports and an extensive employee management system. Though it comes with a slightly higher learning curve than some systems, Revel’s wealth of integrations gives it a big edge in a very competitive market.

You can find our full review here or check out Revel’s website.


Best For…

Quick-service food establishments and small to mid-sized restaurants.


Clover’s pricing can range from $350 to $800 depending on the retailer and on whether you’re purchasing it alongside other Clover products.

Feature Overview

Clover (read our review) has emerged as a giant in the POS game and for good reason. Although certainly not without its flaws (mostly on the payment processing end of things), Clover is exceptionally easy to use, comes with access to the Clover app market, and can be up and running within minutes out of the box, making it a popular product for small and mid-sized restaurants.

Clover arrives virtually ready to go from the second you turn it on with a preloaded menu. It’s also extremely customizable and will intuitively download a few starter apps for you based on your preferences. Clover has been a popular choice for business owners new to the restaurant game both because of its simplicity and how easy it is to tailor the POS to your specific needs. The product is EMV compliant and accepts virtually any payment type.

On the backend, Clover isn’t quite as robust as some other systems, but small to mid-sized restaurant owners are likely to find just about anything they might need.

The customer management feature stores information, making it easy to peruse an individual’s purchase history. One of Clover’s huge pluses is how easy it is to manage your business, even across multiple locations, from just one device. The POS stores all of its reports and you can see profits and employee activity in real time. Clover’s biggest draw, however, is its impressive app store. If you do find that you’re missing some functionality on the back end, it’s likely that you can find a program in the always-expanding App Market to help you out.


Clover is a tough system to beat in when it comes to sheer convenience. With a very simple and intuitive interface that you can have up and running in minutes, it’s a strong option for new business owners. Simple and extensive customer management and access to Clover’s App Market are also extremely convenient features. Unfortunately, though the software itself is exceptional, you will have to put up with First Data’s less than stellar support on the payment processing end of things, and depending on what kind of reseller you use to buy your Clover device, customer service is hard to navigate. Approach Clover with caution.

You can read more about Clover in our full review or visit their site.

Final Thoughts

These are just a handful of the available point of sale systems for tablets, and each one has its unique strengths. While you certainly aren’t limited to a tablet-based POS, it’s easy to see why they have become so popular. Locally-installed systems have advantages when it comes to security, but it’s tough to compete with the convenience, ease of use and set-up, and sheer affordability a tablet provides. And that’s not even mentioning the powerful reporting and various back-end management tools that can all be accessed in a device smaller than most books on your shelf.

As always, do your research and make sure you don’t settle for a system that doesn’t completely suit your needs. For more information in general, check out our selection of full restaurant point of sale reviews, read about iPad POS vendors, or view our comparison chart of restaurant POS software.

The post Top 5 POS Tablet Systems For Restaurants appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


The 7 Best Equity Crowdfunding Sites For Businesses And Entrepreneurs

So, what is equity crowdfunding, anyway?

Let’s start with the term “crowdfunding.” If you’re only loosely familiar with the concept, you might think of GoFundMe’s brand of medical and charitable crowdfunding. You may also think of rewards-based crowdfunding platforms like Kickstarter and Patreon in which entrepreneurs and artists solicit funds from backers in exchange for a physical product or exclusive creative content.

What if I told you that there existed an entirely different form of crowdfunding — one in which entrepreneurs and startups receive funding from backers in exchange, not for gifts or products, but for an equity stake in the company? A crowdfunding campaign in which the backers are investors?

Equity-based crowdfunding got its start later than rewards crowdfunding because crowdfunding involving investments was, until relatively recently, illegal in the US. Enter the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, better known as the JOBS Act. Passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2012, the JOBS Act amended federal securities regulations to legalize equity crowdfunding. The reasoning was that allowing startups to publicly solicit investment via crowdfunding would help spur the economy in general and startup formation in particular.

The various portions of the Act, however, did not immediately come into force. For instance, the provision that allowed the offering of equity investment to non-accredited investors (more on what this means later) wasn’t actually enacted until 2016. Suffice to say, equity crowdfunding is new. In fact, the reality of equity crowdfunding hasn’t yet lived up to the loftier predictions of those who pushed its creation. Nonetheless, the fact remains that billions of dollars have been raised by startups and companies via equity crowdfunding. For the right kind of business, equity crowdfunding represents a prime opportunity.

If your company is still just getting off the ground, however, you might find that rewards crowdfunding is a better fit for your enterprise, considering that investors tend to be less starry-eyed than the typical crowdfunding project backer. In this case, you might want to read our reviews of Kickstarter, Indiegogo, and Patreon. Bear in mind that in many cases, a successful rewards crowdfunding campaign can set you up for an equity crowdfunding campaign by showing proof of demand to potential investors.

Let’s take a look at the leading equity crowdfunding sites and what they have to offer growing businesses.

But First, A Warning

Let’s pump the brakes for a moment and go over the disclaimer I’ve started putting on my equity crowdfunding reviews:

Bear in mind that equity crowdfunding is a still-evolving field, with the full impact of the JOBS Act still being assessed. Equity crowdfunding is a more complex proposition than, say, rewards-based crowdfunding, as investing is much more substantially regulated. Consult an attorney if you have any legal questions regarding the process, SEC regulations, etc.

In short: Equity crowdfunding is legally complex. Be careful and don’t get into trouble!



Crowdfunder (see our review) was launched in Los Angeles in 2012 with a mission to, in the company’s own words, “empower thousands of entrepreneurs to grow high-impact ventures.” The company provides the following figures regarding equity funding services:

  • $160,000,000 in investment commitments on the platform
  • 12,000 individual & institutional investors
  • 36,000 companies
  • Funded 100+ deals with an average deal size of $1.8M

Let’s take a closer look at the equity crowdfunding platform with the hopelessly generic name. (The company shares its name with an unrelated British rewards crowdfunding site.)

Best For…

Crowdfunder is very explicit regarding its target audience:

Crowdfunder is designed for early-stage startups and more mature businesses raising seed stage, Series-A & Series-B funding. Our offering does not cater to inception stage companies at this time.

The platform accepts businesses that fall into a variety of categories including Tech Startups, Social Enterprises, Small Businesses, and Film & Entertainment.

A look through the companies currently campaigning on Crowdfunder reveals more tech companies than anything else, with financial/investment companies a close second.

Products Offered

Crowdfunder allows companies to raise money via Title II equity crowdfunding. For those who aren’t familiar with what I mean, here’s a brief explainer.

Title II equity crowdfunding essentially means your crowdfunding campaign can solicit investment from accredited investors only. An “accredited investor” is defined someone who either has a net worth of $1,000,000 minus the value of their principal residence OR who made more than $200,000 a year for the past three years. The term simply refers to someone with a certain level of wealth/income — it does not denote any particular investment skill.

Title III equity crowdfunding, or Regulation Crowdfunding, means you can solicit investment from anybody — both from accredited investors and those who are not. Title III crowdfunding was legalized more recently than Title II crowdfunding and is currently less widely used. On its website, Crowdfunder explains why it does not currently allow Title III crowdfunding.

With Crowdfunder, all funds are transferred offline, so Crowdfunder doesn’t take a percentage cut of what you raise. And while it won’t cost you anything to create a (non-public) profile on the platform, you’ll need a monthly subscription in order to launch your equity campaign.

  • Crowdfunder’s Starter package, for $299/month, lets you take your profile public and start raising money.
  • The Premium plan, at $499/month, gives you the above while letting you browse and contact the accredited investors on Crowdfunder’s platform. You also get advanced data/metrics and up to one hour per month of phone support.

I’ll note that in addition to equity-based crowdfunding, Crowdfunder lets you raise money via debt, convertible note, or revenue share offerings. Furthermore, Crowdfunder’s funding campaigns are keep-what-you-raise — you don’t have to hit a specific funding goal to collect funds.


Anyone can set up a profile on Crowdfunder’s website, but in order to launch your campaign, you’ll have to prepare and submit three documents: the Term Sheet, the Executive Summary, and the Investor Pitch Deck. These documents are complex, particularly the Term Sheet. Crowdfunder recommends that you work with an attorney when creating your financial offering.

Of course, you’ll also need to buy a monthly subscription before raising funds.

How To Apply

Anyone can set up a profile on Crowdfunder and submit the documents required for taking your campaign public. However, upon reviewing your documents, it’s up to Crowdfunder’s sole discretion to determine whether your business is “high-impact” enough for their platform.


Startups with boundless growth potential, particularly tech and investment startups, stand to potentially raise significant sums through Crowdfunder’s equity crowdfunding platform. While the monthly fees are high, they’ll be worth it if your campaign is successful, as Crowdfunder doesn’t charge a platform fee.

Read our full Crowdfunder review

Visit the Crowdfunder website


Like Crowdfunder, EquityNet (see our review) is an equity crowdfunding site that doesn’t process transactions itself, but rather facilitates offline transactions between campaigners and investors. Founded in Fayetteville, Arkansas in the pre-crowdfunding days of 2005 as a private investment company, EquityNet started offering equity crowdfunding after the enactment of Title II of the JOBS Act.

Best For…

EquityNet markets itself to a broader range of entrepreneurs and businesses than does Crowdfunder. EquityNet states in its FAQ that they are not just a platform for high-tech and high-growth businesses:

EquityNet is designed with flexibility to accommodate all ranges of private businesses, whether it’s an $100M/yr in revenue international biotech company, a pre-revenue one person software start-up, or a modest one-location coffee shop.

Products Offered

EquityNet offers entrepreneurs and businesses the ability to use its equity crowdfunding platform. EquityNet’s equity campaigns operate under Title II rules, so you’ll be raising funds from accredited investors only. You’ll also get to keep everything you raise regardless of whether you hit your funding goal.

Since all funds are transferred offline, EquityNet doesn’t take a cut of what you raise. Instead, EquityNet operates on a subscription basis. You can actually sign up with EquityNet and publish your business profile for free, but if you want to, say, share your business plan with investors (investors typically like to see a business plan before investing in something!), you’ll need one of EquityNet’s three subscription plans.

  • The Full Access package goes for a one-time fee of $900 and gives you full access to the accredited investors on the site. You’ll also get full access to fundraising documents and EquityNet’s patented business planning tools.
  • The Premium Consulting package goes for $2,500 and gives you all of the above, plus access to one-on-one consultations with an EquityNet team member regarding every aspect of your business plan, funding strategy, pitch, marketing, and more.
  • The EquityNet + plan costs a whopping $25,000 and gives you the ultimate hands-on equity crowdfunding package in which the company tailors everything to your exact needs.

Also note that since all transactions between entrepreneurs and investors occur offline, you can theoretically enter into a debt funding arrangement with an investor or even seek a grant. It’s up to you.


Anyone can freely set up a business profile page on EquityNet. However, EquityNet reserves the right to remove profiles for any reason.

Of course, you’ll need a paid subscription if you want to run an equity funding campaign with any likelihood of success.

How To Apply

Just sign up with EquityNet and set up your profile. EquityNet does not pre-screen businesses before allowing them onto the site.


The folks at EquityNet make a point to try to attract a broad range of businesses to their platform. It’s not just for Silicon Valley tech startups and investment funds. And while the premium services cost a pretty penny, they come with one-time charges, not monthly charges. EquityNet is one of the less elitist equity crowdfunding sites out there, and to that, I’ll tip my cap.

Read our full EquityNet review

Visit the EquityNet website



Founded in 2012 and based in Ohio, Fundable (see our review) is an unusual crowdfunding site in it hosts host both rewards and equity crowdfunding campaigns (though not both simultaneously). Think of it as both a Kickstarter-type platform and an equity crowdfunder. Given the subject of this article, however, I’ll be focusing on the equity side.

Best For…

You can raise funds for just about any type of business endeavor on Fundable. When it comes to choosing a rewards campaign or an equity funding campaign, Fundable states that rewards campaigns “are effective for smaller dollar raises (typically below $50,000)” and goes on to describe the target audience for its equity campaigns:

Equity raises are best for companies looking for larger sums of operating capital to move their business forward. Also, some businesses do not have a developed product or service that they can market through a Rewards raise, so offering equity is their best bet for raising funding.

Products Offered

Fundable is another crowdfunding platform that doesn’t take a percentage of what you raise, but rather charges a flat monthly fee to launch a campaign. Fundable offers two subscription packages:

  • The Standard package costs $179/month and gives you data analytics, email support, a guide for marketing your crowdfunding campaign, and marketing outreach templates.
  • The Premium package is available for a one-time payment of $2499. With this package, Fundable puts you in contact with the accredited investors the company believes will be the most receptive to your pitch. Fundable will also provide a list of relevant media contacts so you can better conduct media outreach for your campaign.

As with the previous two companies discussed, all funds transferred in a Fundable equity campaign are transferred offline. You are therefore free to seek a debt-based funding arrangement (or any other type of funding arrangement).


Once you set up your Company Profile in which you detail your company, your proposed campaign, and your funding goals, you’ll have to wait for Fundable to approve your project before you can continue. If you’re approved, you then choose which type of crowdfunding campaign you’d like to run and a subscription package.

How To Apply

Go to Fundable’s website and get started!


Fundable is a flexible crowdfunding platform in terms of what sort of campaign you can launch through the site, and they provide invaluable assistance with media outreach, marketing, and investor contacts at the highest subscription level. Fundable does pre-screen businesses before allowing them to begin fundraising, however, so make sure you have everything in order before you begin the process.

Read our full Fundable review

Visit the Fundable website


Founded in 2010 in San Francisco, AngelList is one of the leading equity crowdfunding platforms. It’s the only crowdfunding site that doubles as a job board for job-seekers trying to find a position with a startup. AngelList distinguishes itself by being the rare crowdfunding platform that lets entrepreneurs/startups raise money free of charge. All fees are paid by investors. Pretty cool, huh?

Best For…

Anybody can sign up with AngelList and attempt to raise money from the accredited investors on the site. However, AngelList doesn’t quite provide the guidance for those looking to crowdfund that many other crowdfunding platforms give you. Their website is much more spartan than the competition, with relatively little information for startups as to how you launch your campaign. Be prepared to do some research.

Products Offered

AngelList doesn’t offer any subscription packages with special features. You just sign up with AngelList on the website, and once you’ve completed your profile, you can launch your Title II crowdfunding campaign and get in touch with accredited investors.

Companies using AngelList raise money through investment syndicates. It’s an investment arrangement that differs from that of the other crowdfunding sites I’ve detailed today. Essentially, accredited investors give money to “angel” investors who then invest the pooled money into companies on the platform.

Keep in mind that though you won’t have to pay a monthly charge or a cut of what you raise to AngelList, that doesn’t mean there are no costs associated with running an equity campaign. The process of arranging an equity deal with investor syndicates on AngelList will cost you money due to paperwork, legalities, etc.


There are no particular requirements for a company looking to establish a profile on AngelList. Of course, in order to actually raise any money, your plan of action must be formidable enough for AngelList’s syndicates to take an interest in you, so this platform isn’t for just anybody.

How To Apply

Create a startup profile on AngelList’s website and start kissing angel investor butt! (Or use any other technique you find effective)


AngelList is a more freewheeling platform than some of the others discussed here, and the complexities involved in working out deals with investor syndicates may seem daunting to the first-time entrepreneur. However, AngelList has an excellent public reputation and is highly rated by those who have used the platform to conduct equity raises, many of whom have used multiple equity crowdfunding sites.

Visit the AngelList website



WeFunder (see our review) differs fundamentally from the other services I’ve mentioned. Every site I’ve mentioned thus far deals in Title II crowdfunding (accredited investors only) and not Title III (anyone can invest). Wefunder, founded in 2012 and based in Cambridge, MA, is the most successful crowdfunding platform to use Title III equity crowdfunding, or Regulation Crowdfunding. In fact, with over $50 million raised thus far, Wefunder comprises 50% of the market share in the Regulation Crowdfunding industry.

Best For…

Of the 174 companies that have been successfully funded through Wefunder, the company states that “Most are alumni of Y Combinator.” That should tell you something about the sort of company to whom Wefunder is best suited. The rare startup with exponential growth potential stands a decent chance of finding funding through the platform. Other businesses may have a tougher time of it. I’ll note that tech and food companies seem to comprise the majority of funded startups on Wefunder.

Only US corporations and LLCs can use Wefunder for crowdfunding.

Products Offered

Wefunder offers the use of its equity crowdfunding platform through which you can raise anywhere from $20,000 to $1,070,000. You’ll have to pay a $195 fee before you can start crowdfunding, and if you’re successful in reaching your funding goal (Wefunder is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding site), Wefunder will take 7% of what you raised as a platform fee. Take that into account when setting your funding goal.


There are no particular requirements for joining Wefunder. The company prescreens applicants for fraud and to make sure your startup complies with the rules, but that’s about it.

How To Apply

Go to Wefunder’s website, sign up and fill out your business profile, and wait to hear back from the company.


Wefunder is the industry leader in Regulation Crowdfunding and can take the right kind of high-growth startup to funding success. Regulation Crowdfunding hasn’t yet been the boon some hoped it would be, but Wefunder is one of the few companies thus far to truly make it work.

Read our full Wefunder review

Visit the Wefunder website



SeedInvest (see our review) was founded in 2012 just as the JOBS Act was being signed into law. In fact, founders Ryan Feit and James Han were part of the movement to get the Act passed in the first place. Like Wefunder, they offer Regulation Crowdfunding, opening up investing to the masses.

Best For…

By their own estimation, SeedInvest has approved only 1% of the companies who have applied to use their platform. SeedInvest is an exclusive platform and they don’t care who knows it. Tech companies seem to dominate the list of offerings on SeedInvest’s site.

I’ll note that while many crowdfunding sites refuse to have anything to do with cannabis-related companies, SeedInvest appears not to be one of them. “Green” startups, take note!

Products Offered

Wefunder offers up the use of its equity crowdfunding platform to the lucky few who survive the vetting process. Per the FAQ, this is what SeedInvest offers to those who get through:

  • Simplify and speed up your fundraising process
  • Access a network of accredited investors from around the world
  • Host virtual fundraising sessions from your desk
  • Streamline investor pitches, execution of legal documents, and processing of investments

Unfortunately, SeedInvest’s fees are complex and depend on your specific offering type:

  • 7.5% placement fee; charged on the total amount raised on SeedInvest in the round, paid only upon the successful completion of your offering.
  • 5% warrant coverage or equity; based on the total amount raised on SeedInvest in the round.
  • Up to $0 – $10,000 in due diligence, escrow, marketing and legal expense reimbursements.

Though the fees are considerable, one advantage of SeedInvest is that you can raise up to $30 million on the platform.


SeedInvest doesn’t lay out specific criteria for making it onto its site, but remember that only 1% of applicants survive SeedInvest’s extreme vetting process. You’d better have done your homework!

How To Apply

Go to SeedInvest’s website, sign up for an account, fill out your project information, and wait to see if you’ll be accepted into the 1%.


To state the obvious, SeedInvest isn’t for everybody. Only the startups with the highest growth potential need apply. If this is you, SeedInvest may be worth investigating.

Read our full SeedInvest review

Visit the SeedInvest website


microventures review

Founded in 2009 and based in Austin, MicroVentures (see our review) is another example of a Regulation Crowdfunding platform. You should know what that is by now if you’ve been paying attention!

MicroVentures states that “(t)he sweet spot for our platform is companies or startups that need $150,000 to $1,000,000 in capital.” Thus far in their lifetime, MicroVentures has facilitated the raising of over $100 million for high-growth startups. Let’s take a closer look at them.

Best For…

According to MicroVentures, the following industries are its main areas of investment:

  • Internet technology
  • Media and entertainment
  • Software
  • Green technology
  • Mobile
  • Social
  • Gaming

MicroVentures goes on to describe the sort of company that best fits the platform:

MicroVentures looks for businesses that have a unique idea or a new spin on an old technology. We review the team, traction, market size and other factors to determine if the company will be a good fit for our platform. Additionally, we believe in accountability to the business (or concept), which is one reason we seek to identify firms whose founders already have invested their own capital in their business.

Products Offered

MicroVentures offers equity crowdfunding with the following fees:

  • $99 application fee
  • $250 due-diligence fee
  • 5% of what you raise

MicroVentures is an all-or-nothing crowdfunding site. If you raise some money but fail to meet your funding goal by the time your campaign ends, you’ll get nothing and like it.


MicroVentures doesn’t spell out any specific requirements to meet in order to be approved to start crowdfunding, but they do state the following:

We review every company that is submitted but we are only able to respond to the ones that we think will be successful on our platform. This is less than 5% of the companies that submit so please include as much detail as possible for us to evaluate.

So, 5% of applying businesses get through. That’s better than SeedInvest’s 1%, but it’s still a high bar to clear!

How To Apply

Sign up for a MicroVentures account, fill out the application for an offering, and submit it.


MicroVentures has a solid reputation in the industry. They offered investments in Facebook and Twitter before each went public. For the 5% of startups that, in MicroVentures’s estimation, have that kind of growth potential, this equity funding site holds great promise indeed.

Read our full MicroVentures review

Visit the MicroVentures website

Final Thoughts

Equity crowdfunding has only been around for a few years. Suffice to say, it is a work in progress. If you play your cards right, however, it might be just the thing to take your startup to the next level. If you’ve done your due diligence in preparing your offering and you possess the ability to excite investors, professional and amateur, then it’s certainly an avenue worth exploring.

The post The 7 Best Equity Crowdfunding Sites For Businesses And Entrepreneurs appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!)

How To Promote Your Website

So you want to promote your website online…for free, preferably.

By now, you probably know from experience that the “build it and they will come” philosophy is flawed. You can have great content — in fact, you need at least “good” content — but unless you know how to promote it, your site is a ghost town. But you also don’t have the budget to go straight to advertising online.

You don’t need a grab bag of tips and tricks. You don’t need best practices to “go viral”. Instead – what you need is an actual process to follow that you can consistently do – to create a “flywheel effect“.

Here is an exact, step-by-step strategy that I recommend to anyone who wants to promote their website online. The specific details vary, but it’s a pretty tried and true path for anyone who wants to promote their website.

Start with Definitions & Goals

Before you do anything, you’ve got to start with the foundation: what are you trying to achieve?

Aside – “making money” or “getting customers” does not count. The key is to get specific. Quantify your marketing in other words.

This is the part so many people either get stuck on or skip entirely. Usually, website owners just want to dive in and start doing, doing, doing.

While getting your site out there and testing is great, you need a balance. It’s just as important to test with the right methods as it is to collect a ton of data and learn from it

There are three things you need to figure out before you dive in:

  • what you’re promoting
  • who you’re promoting it to
  • how much you can actually spend on promotion

Let’s break them down.

What You’re Promoting (Your Product)

What is it that you’re actually offering/promoting on your website? A product? A service? Valuable content?

Whatever it is, you need to be able to define it and sell the value. What makes you different from the million and one others out there?

Remember, this doesn’t need to be your life’s mission. In fact, it shouldn’t be. You need to define your product in a clear and concise way. Keep it simple and to the point  — and make sure you emphasize why you’re different.

Who You’re Promoting It To (Persona)

A persona is marketing jargon for a profile of your target audience and having one is crucial to your marketing.

Before your start promoting your website, you’ve got to know who you’re actually promoting it to. What do they want? What problems do they have? How do you solve those problems?

Create 2-4 personas for your brand that outline your ideal customers. Be as descriptive as possible by including things like job title, favorite device, payscale, main frustrations and problems, end goals, what they do in their spare time, etc. Use this detailed guide by Moz to guide you through the process.

Remember that your personas don’t have to be the end all be all. The focus here is to define your initial target market that’s small enough you can effectively reach them but large enough to get some sales and feedback to polish what you’re offering (your product/website/brand).

Nearly every business started this way (think about how Facebook started by targeting college students).Here’s a podcast episode explaining this concept[skip to the ~11 minute mark].

How Much You Can Spend on Promotion (Time & Financial Budget)

Thinking there’s no overhead online is lethal. You’ve got to put real numbers behind what you’re doing. Marketing costs money or time… so put real goals in place.

Outline your budget, even if it feels arbitrary. Define your product/services costs, profit margins, and what kind of marketing spend gives you a positive return. Here’s a more extensive post on quant-based marketing.”

Lay the Foundation

Once you have your goals and definitions laid out, it’s time to lay the foundation. While “build it and they will come” is a flawed philosophy, once you start getting them to come, you need to be sure what you’ve created is decent and captures data.

This is divided into three steps:

Website / Destination Set Up

To promote anything online long-term*, you need a decent website. Whether you’re an ecommerce business who needs an online store, a local business with a brick and mortar store, or an educational website that needs a place to publish content, a decent-looking website will put you ahead and allow you to do more with your brand and marketing.

*Aside – when I say long-term – I mean that you don’t want your project compromised by the whims of a platform (I’m looking at you, Facebook Pages and Google My Business). For short-term projects, plenty of people do well with marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy while content publishers do great with a good email marketing platform.

If you don’t have a website yet, I recommend setting your own website up with a common, well known software like WordPress and hosting it on your own hosting account. I have a simple guide to doing that from scratch here. There is some learning curve, but it will provide maximum versatility.

For ecommerce shops, I recommend either using a high-quality hosted ecommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce or set up an ecommerce website with WordPress and WooCommerce.

If you have a website and know it’s a mess, use this guide to help you clean it up.

Create Focused Pages

Depending on what you’re goals are, creating focused pages can be an essential part of conversion.

Focus pages are landing pages that target a very specific need, but they don’t have to be complex. They are simply pages that visitors can land on and take a specific action (buy your product, sign up for your service, etc.)

Why use landing pages? Because nobody cares about or even sees your homepage. Your homepage is for people who already know who you are and are just navigating around to find what they already know exists.

Landing pages, on the other hand, are for new (or returning) visitors to land and convert (AKA take whatever action you want them to take). These pages should target what your audience is searching for on a granular level.

For example, if you’re an ecommerce business, you’d want to create product pages targeting specific product information (i.e. Blue Swimwear) or a specific audience (i.e. Swimwear for Women Distance swimmers).

For service-based businesses, you’d want to create service pages targeting what your customers are searching for (i.e. Atlanta Dentist or Root Canal Services)

For sites that are focused on content creation, think about pages that can organize your posts into broader topics and orient readers who land deeper into your site and encourage them to take additional actions (like reading more or subscribing). Use this guide to using category and tag pages in WordPress to accomplish this.

If you have way too many idea – then think about how to organize your site by topic / keyword.

Set Up Analytics

Before you start promoting your website, you need a way to capture data through an analytics platform. There are tons of options, but Google Analytics is the go-to solution (it’s also free).

If you’re unclear on what Google Analytics actually does, start here.

Depending on what you’re promoting (see above), you’ll want to set up specific goals. For example, if you’re an ecommerce website, you’ll want to make sure you have Ecommerce checkout set up. If you’re a local business, you’ll want to track thinks like clicks to call and contact form completions. Use this guide to set up call tracking in Google Analytics.

You should also link Google Analytics to Google AdWords and set up a retargeting audience with Google Analytics. And lastly, you should set up a Facebook Ads account and place a retargeting (audience pixel) cookie on your website.

Work on Getting Traffic

Now that you have the foundation down, it’s time to get people to your website. This where a lot of people get way too detailed… way too fast. Why?

Because not all marketing channels operate at the same speed. They’re also not all used the same way — they have different strengths and weaknesses. They complement and supplement each other instead of compete, and it’s all about how you use them together.

For example, the US Navy’s main war-going unit is the Aircraft Carrier Group. But it’s not just made up of an aircraft carrier. Instead, it’s a grouping of different types of ships that all do different things at different speeds so that the whole group together is nearly invincible.

A lot of business owners want to start with SEO or with a fully fleshed out social strategy. To keep to the analogy, that’s like sending your battleship and aircraft carrier to scout out for the rest of the group.

Bad idea. Battleships (aka SEO) and Aircraft Carriers (Social) take forever to get going and to turn. Save those until you know where you’re going. You do not want to invest hours and hours and tons of resources and thought into SEO and Social if you have no idea if they will pay off.

Start with channels that can speed up, slow down and change direction at will. That means 3 things: direct outreach, community involvement, and paid traffic, specifically AdWords Search Network.

Testing with Direct Outreach

It’s easy to go down the rabbit hole of promoting something because you think it’s amazing. But here’s the thing — what if no one wants it?

Too often, we make assumptions for our audience. So before you go into a full-blow promotion plan and start running ads, emailing everyone on your list, and working on your SEO tactics, it’s good to get some validation.

Start by soliciting feedback from a small, targeted group. These should be people who are active in your niche, would ideally collaborate with someone like you, would give you some feedback and maybe even promote your website for you.

What we’re really doing here is finding complementary marketing “parents” — think of other bloggers and businesses your target audience also visits. There are infinite ways to do this process. The key piece is to find someone who shares your interests or has a need that you can fill. Here are some examples.

Friends & Family

Ok – friends and family will often be interested by default. They won’t be able to provide useful feedback. But here’s the thing – you are probably friends because you share interests. Additionally, you might share interests with your family.

Those family and friends are a great place to start with your outreach. It doesn’t mean spamming your Facebook page. It does mean not being afraid to show off your work personally to interested friends and family.

Individual Brands / Influencers

I hate the term “influencers” – and I don’t think that you can or should compete with big brands for social media celebrities. Instead, you should use your own advantage as a DIY website owner (rather than social media manager) to find people that you respect and listen to. Figure out what they need / want. Do they need co-promotion? Topic ideas? Reach out and pitch.

Individual Bloggers / Site Owners

A blogger of any size & influence will be deluged with pitches from big companies. Again – use your advantage as an actual site owner to go around the social media managers to reach small and up and coming bloggers. Use your agility to solve problems that agencies cannot quickly solve.


Journalists have an infinite black hole of content that they need to fill. They are always looking for a story (not a product). If you can create a story based on your insider expertise, then you should pitch them. Keep it short, keep it relevant. Start with small sites and use successes to pitch bigger publications.

The good example is a local package delivery service pitching a story about “porch pirates” to news outlets in Philadelphia.

Complementary Business Owners

Your product probably pairs with other companies’ products. Swimwear pairs with beach resorts. Festivals pair with beverage companies. Wood refinishing pairs with historic preservationists. The list is infinite.

Find businesses where you can co-promote.


Your vendors want you to succeed…because your success means more sales for them. Pitch your vendors on co-promotions.

Then, get to emailing and messaging. Send them to your landing pages or content piece to buy, subscribe, or review. Ask for feedback and referrals and keep notes!

Keep in mind that you are emailing people. It’s easy to get into a spammy quantity mindset. But remember that that a single, quality connection is worth way more than you can measure right now. Your goal is to get feedback and access. You cannot and should not make this a primary sales channel. Your goal is feedback to promote more effectively and more broadly.

Check out this case study or this post for even more detail.

Find Like-Minded Communities

To expand your direct promotion efforts means finding groups of individuals. And that means finding communities.

Communities can not only provide a lot more feedback – but you can also find opportunities to get sales.

The issue with a community is that you need to be a part of it. Nobody likes someone who shows up to promote rather than participate.

Even though you might need sales right now – you absolutely must set aside that need and look to the long-term.

Figure out what the community likes & needs. Provide that. Focus on being overly helpful rather than promotional. Here are some examples.

Industry Specific Forums

Whether it’s ProductHunt / HackerNews in tech or Wanelo for trendy shopping – there is an industry specific forum for everything. Find it and get involved.

Facebook Groups

Facebook Groups are super-accessible and cover topics on everything under the Sun. They are a great way to build an organic presence on Facebook now that business newsfeed organic reach does not exist. Use creative Facebook Open Graph searches to find the non-obvious ones.

Website Forums

Yes – website forums still exist. And yes, they can be extraordinarily powerful. Do your research and get in touch with moderators.

Blog Comments

Yes – people still read these. Set up alerts via Google or via RSS feeds and stay involved in relevant discussions on high-traffic blog posts.

Reddit & Crowdsourced Forums

Reddit is the world’s largest general forum – but everything from Kickstarter to Pinterest could technically be considered a forum. Again, find where your target audience hangs out. Focus less on teh actual platform and more on the people using it.

Amazon Comments

Ever noticed the “questions about this product” or the discussion sections on Amazon product? Yep – those have insane engagement…and provide an opportunity to piggyback on Amazon’s traffic. Look for complementary products / services to yours that your target audience is purchasing. Use your expertise to answer questions.

LinkedIn & Business Groups

This angle is similar to crowdsourced forums – but for B2B and vendor relationships. Discussions happen all over the place on the Internet. Everything from Slack to LinkedIn Pulse to IRC are open. They are all tools for people to connect. Think about who your people are and find where & how they talk.

Guest Posting

Do you know of high-traffic blogs that your target audience reads (not simply blogs in your industry)? Find out guest post requirements and go there.

Once you’ve found a channel that you feel comfortable with and “get” – focus on expanding your presence and being as helpful as possible. People will notice and talk.

Using Paid Traffic to Get Data

Jumping right into ads isn’t always the best approach for promoting your website. It can get expensive, especially for the return on investment. However, our goal here is a bit different.

Using some (even on a small budget) search advertising can be a great way to get data faster. Instead of relying solely on direct outreach and a content strategy that takes a few months to grow, we can get lots of data in a short amount of time by doing some advertising.

For a full breakdown of different paid advertising channels, see this guide about how to advertise your website online.

You should be doing a few different things with this data:

  • Looking at what keywords are driving conversions. AdWords gives you this information.
  • Looking at which landing pages (or content pieces) perform best based on your goals. How can you optimize those pages and use those findings to improve the ones that aren’t performing?
  • Determining which ad copy performs best
  • For ecommerce, identifying which types of offers do people find most enticing (i.e. free shipping, 20% off welcome discount, etc.)
  • Setting up retargeting campaigns – not generic “buy, buy, buy” campaigns but interesting retargeting ads that you can afford to do when your traffic is small. If you want to divert some paid budget to Facebook, follow this guide.
  • Once you have retargeting campaigns going, you should be looking at where your audience goes online. We covered this topic on this podcast episode.
  • Improving your ad campaigns in general

Understanding Organic Search

The world of organic traffic sources is wide and takes time. So while I won’t tell you it’s the best channel for immediate satisfaction, there are still some amazing results to be had.

For most, a successful SEO campaign would be a huge win due to the sheer volume of traffic that Google organic search can drive. Google processes over 3.5 billion queries per day and most of the clicks go to an organic result.

You’ll learn pretty quickly that in paid advertising, clicks for commercial keywords can be quite expensive. That’s a cost you don’t have to pay if you rank in the organic search results.

When you’re setting up your website promotion strategy, you’ll just have to know what it takes to get organic traffic and what it will take on your part to get it done.

SEO boils down to 3 components.

The first component is technical SEO.

Technical SEO is all about ensuring that Google/Bing bots can crawl and index your website effectively. It’s about making sure you’re not generating tons of duplicate content. Here’s “Technical SEO for Nontechnical Marketers”

The good news is that you are using WordPress or an HTML-based website builder (aka not Flash or Wix), you have the big barriers taken care of. THe same applies to ecommerce platforms like Shopify, Bigcommerce or a self-hosted store with WordPress + Woocommerce.

If you are already using a different platform, a technical audit might be the one SEO thing worth paying for. Mentioning a “stand-alone technical audit with recommendations” to an SEO expert can be valuable if you’re on a custom built site. Just don’t let them sell you on “ranking #1 tomorrow!”

If you are running WordPress, install WordPress SEO by Yoast and run through my guide for using it effectively.

If you are using Shopify or Bigcommerce, then your technical issues are 90% solved if you have it set up by the book (Shopify’s guide and Bigcommerce’s guide). You should just be sure to use their SEO-related toolset to implement your on-page content, which happens to be the second component of SEO.

The second component of SEO is on-page content and optimization

It is all about “targeting” the right keywords and ensuring that your website is laid out in a coherent way that is understandable by search engines and users browsing your website.

I wrote about the concept of keyword mapping and some basic on-page SEO concepts (like keyword research, title tags and meta descriptions, and using Google Search Console) previously.

Depending on what your goals are, there are a ton of different pieces of content that can bring in visitors. The goal is to bring in new people AND support sales. Don’t create keyword-stuffed content that won’t help customers on your website make a decision. Make the authoritative content that addresses problems, questions, etc of your market.

The great part about creating the absolute best content that you can find about everything your target market cares about related to your product is that it will naturally drive the third component of SEO – off-page factors.

“Off-page factors,” is the third component of SEO

This is SEO-speak for getting links, with the caveat that links are not all considered equal.

Sketchy links, the type that you buy for $5, can harm your website. However, quality links placed on a related or well-known website are the primary factor for getting better visibility in search results.

There are a lot of ways to get links. But the best ways that I’ve found for website promotion are:

  • Creating content that no one else has done well, and then promoting it. I wrote this guide to creating prequalified content. I’m a fan of this guide for the promotion angle as well
  • Hustle PR promotion – Find the blogs they read. Find the news websites they follow. Find the social media feeds they are involved with. Research and stalk every single one until you can craft a manual email pitch (see direct outreach above)
  • Get even more ideas in my guide to Ahrefs

Using Social Media

If SEO is your giant battleship, I think of social as your aircraft carrier. It’s easy to burn a lot of energy flying planes for no reason, but nothing gives you a tactical edge and far reach like your aircraft.

Social media experts make social out to be rocket science. It’s really not. Unless you started a business you know nothing about, you should know where your audience hangs out.

The key is to realize that you don’t have to be 100% present on every single social network. Effective social media is about having direct interactions where you build relationships and learn more about your audience.

So with that said, go ahead and claim your branding across all the various social networks, but focus on one or two that will generate an outsize of impact on your goals.

This is particularly effective for getting feedback on what you’re promoting. Similarly to direct outreach, you can use social media to solicit public feedback through forums like Reddit, Facebook groups, LinkedIn groups, etc. Just remember — it’s not about blasting your message out there for everyone and their mother. It’s about targeting the right audience. Find where they are and go there.

For the other profiles, learn how to automate them so you can have a presence without actually interacting. Set up alerts so you can “listen” even when you aren’t actively participating.

Lastly, remember you can make the process faster by paying to jump ahead. Just as you used AdWords or alternative channels to collect data on what works and what doesn’t for your website promotion goals, you can use social ads to test networks.

Next Steps

That’s the website promotion strategy I would map out for any website. It’s a long post, but it’s a plan you can implement quickly by breaking each section into small, doable steps.

Immediate next steps: start by defining your goals, personas, and revenue/budget. Then, put a plan in place that takes you through each phase of the process outlined above in a methodical manner. Go one section at a time and break each down into smaller steps you can follow without getting overwhelmed.

I’ve also written versions of this post for both local businesses and ecommerce websites.

The post How to Promote Your Website Online (for free!) appeared first on ShivarWeb.


What Is DHL eCommerce?

What is DHL eCommerce?

On this site, we often discuss shipping carriers, but most of the time we focus on UPS, USPS, and FedEx. We don’t frequently mention DHL, an alternative shipping carrier specializing in international shipping. This article is here to remedy that.

DHL offers services for domestic and international shipping, including pickup, delivery, and return. The company was founded in San Francisco in 1969 by three partners: Adrian Dalsey, Larry Hillblom, and Robert Lynn. The name “DHL” is a compilation of the initials of their last names. Since its founding, the company has grown to employ over 350,000 individuals and serve over 220 countries and territories.

DHL is now based in Bonn, Germany with regional offices in US and Singapore. They offer logistics and fulfillment services for some markets in the Americas, Asia Pacific, the Middle East, and Africa.

Along with their regular services, DHL includes a specific set of services for online sellers: DHL eCommerce. Keep reading for a quick breakdown of what DHL eCommerce could offer your business.

Who Can Use DHL eCommerce?

As DHL is a worldwide shipping service, merchants from many different countries can take advantage of the service.

However, it is important to note that DHL eCommerce is intended only for high volume shippers. In order to use DHL eCommerce, you must meet the minimum shipping requirements. These requirements are as follows:

  • 50 Items Per Day For International Shipping Services
  • 100 Items Per Day For Domestic Shipping Services

What Does DHL eCommerce Include?

DHL eCommerce lets you take advantage of a few valuable shipping tools and services. Here’s what you can expect as an online seller:

Affordable International Shipping Options

  • Affordable Cross-Border Shipping With Returns
  • Choose Your Service Level & Features
  • B2C Customs Clearance
  • Start-To-Finish Delivery & Returns
  • Network Of Drop-Off & Pick-Up Locations
  • Global Fulfillment Network
  • B2C & B2B Fulfillment

Delivery Options

  • Connect To Domestic Delivery Networks
  • Cash On Delivery (COD)
  • E-Wallet Payment Options
  • Multiple Delivery Options
  • Six Delivery Days Per Week
  • Green Delivery Options

Integrate With Your Other Services

  • Integrated Tracking From Start To Finish
  • Integration Options
    • APIs, Web Portals, Major Marketplaces, eCommerce Platforms
  • Email & SMS Tracking Updates

For a full breakdown of the services included in DHL eCommerce, take a look at this pdf from DHL.

Shipping Services & Pricing

DHL breaks services into two main categories: International and Domestic. Pricing varies between these two types of shipping. As you might imagine, international shipping typically comes with more fees than domestic shipping.

Beyond that, pricing will vary between each package. As with any other shipping carrier, pricing depends upon a package’s size and weight, as well as the distance over which the package is shipped.

Take a look below at the services that DHL offers within each category.

International Shipping With DHL eCommerce

In order to figure out the cost of shipping for your packages, you’ll need to get a quote from DHL. Take a look at the table below (taken from DHL’s website) to see which international services you should consider:

Then you can contact a DHL eCommerce representative to get a quote for your products.

International DHL ICart Software

International shipping services also include DHL’s ICart Software, which should make processing online shipping expenses a bit easier.

This software integrates with your shopping cart (via APIs) to make shipping calculations simpler. You’ll be able to provide customers with the full cost of delivery in their own currency, including expenses related to taxes, duties, and shipping costs.

For more information about DHL ICart, take a look at this pdf.

Domestic Shipping

DHL partners with local postal services (like the USPS) to offer their domestic shipping services. In the States, USPS handles the final mile and return pickups, and DHL manages the initial pickup and sorting of the packages. Take a look at the tables below to view DHL’s domestic options:

As with DHL’s international shipping options, you’ll need to contact a representative to get a quote for your store’s shipping.

Additional Information & Services

For more information on DHL’s additional fees and surcharges, direct your browsers to this page on DHL’s site. You’ll find information on DHL eCommerce tracking, calculating chargeable weight (and understanding that pesky dimensional weight), fuel surcharges, and information on what DHL will and will not ship.

You can also view information on shipment insurance, which is available through U-PIC Insurance Services. You can insure up to $100 USD per package, and additional coverage is available.

Here are a few more services you can take advantage of:

Web Portal To Manage Your Shipments

DHL customers all gain access to DHL’s customer web portal. You can use this web-based admin to manage and monitor a variety of important aspects of your shipping. Here’s a quick list of available features:

  • View Shipment Data & Reports
  • Print Labels & Create Tracking Numbers
  • Batch Upload Feature
  • Access To Invoice & Shipment Rates
  • Delivery Performance Rates
  • Advanced Warning Reports
  • Package Delay Reports
  • Schedule Pickups & Create Bills Of Lading
  • Create & Track Return Labels

Warehousing & Fulfillment Options

Outsourcing your fulfillment has huge benefits for merchants. First and most notably, by letting someone else store your products and pick, pack, and ship your orders, you free up loads of time in your day.

What’s more, storing products in multiple warehouses across the country will bring your merchandise closer to customers, shortening delivery times.

DHL currently has two warehouses in the states. One is located in the oh-so-central Columbus, OH and the other is in Riverside, CA. In addition, a new warehouse is coming to New Jersey soon. To learn more about DHL’s fulfillment services, take a look at their FAQs.

Final Thoughts

If you often deliver packages internationally and you ship over 50-100 items per day, DHL may be the way to go.

However, as you consider DHL, you should keep in mind that both UPS and FedEx also offer start-to-finish international shipping options. Take a look at our comparison of USPS, UPS, and FedEx to learn more.

No matter what, you’ll want to contact DHL to get a quote for your business’s shipping needs. Having a dollar estimate in mind will help you greatly as you continue to compare shipping carriers.

Best of luck!

The post What Is DHL eCommerce? appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


Top 5 Project Management Apps For Nonprofits

Your business models may differ slightly from those of traditional businesses, but organizations in the nonprofit realm need project management tools just as much as anyone else. The problem? Many nonprofits can’t cough up the cash for a monthly subscription to an app in a field that is already relatively expensive.

Fortunately, there are several ways around this issue!  Several project management software programs offer free or reduced rates to nonprofits. That means that you can stop mucking around with whiteboards and Post-Its and go back to teaching underserved kids. Or researching bio-degradable plastics. Or whatever other noble mission you have set your minds on.

Typically, articles about project and task management apps for nonprofits focus on apps with free versions, ignoring the fact that many top project management developers offer their products at a reduced price to qualifying organizations. For that reason, I have chosen to ignore free apps in this post and focus on those offering discounts.

Here, in no particular order, are Merchant Mavericks’ top five project management apps for nonprofits:


Redbooth (read our review) is one of Merchant Maverick’s favorite project management apps. In fact, it’s the solution we use to manage tasks for our remote team of writers.

The slick UI, handy features (including time tracking and reporting), and overall ease of use all combine to make a powerful tool that can be used in a variety of ways.

Redbooth does offer a free version that works for simple task management. If that is all you need, you need read no further; follow the link above and give it a try. If you are looking for more advanced features, like the time tracking and reporting I mentioned, you will need to pay a bit more. Pricing for Redbooth is figured per-user, meaning that you pay less if you have fewer users. Though I would not call Redbooth “expensive,” the price can add up if you have more than 10 or 20 users. Fortunately, Redbooth offers a 25% discount for nonprofits, providing you can show them your IRS 501c3 status letter.

Read our full Redbooth review

Visit the Redbooth website

Teamwork Projects

When I think about rock-solid project management apps, Teamwork Projects (read our review) is one of the first that comes to mind.

Teamwork Projects is easy to recommend for a wide swath of reasons: powerful features, excellent integrations, and exceptional ease of use. Even better, there is a free version available! While this stripped-down version excludes many of Teamwork Projects’ more advanced features, it does fulfill small-scale task management needs for teams of 5 or less. If your team is larger than five, or if you would benefit from increased task boards, project portfolios, and reporting features, you may want to take a closer look at the paid versions. For most nonprofits, I think the relatively affordable “Pro” plan will suffice; most features from the Enterprise plan are geared toward large businesses rather than smaller, cash-strapped teams.

And speaking of operating on a budget, Teamwork Projects does offer a discount for nonprofits, though you will need to contact the company directly ([email protected]) to find out exactly what kind of deal is available to you.

Read our full Teamwork review

Visit the Teamwork website


Smartsheet review

Smartsheet (read our review) offers a bit more hardcore project management than the previous entries on this list.

Where Redbooth, Teamwork Projects, and some of the other apps I will discuss below make concessions in feature-depth in favor of usability, Smartsheets goes another way. This is a spreadsheet on steroids, and the developers don’t much try and hide that fact. In addition to standard spreadsheet features, Smartsheet also offers Gantt charts, automation, limited communication tools, resource management, and more.

While the interface is far from what I would call inspiring, it manages to keep from being quite as bland as Microsoft Excel or Google Sheets. If your team has spreadsheet experience but wants to supercharge functionality, Smartsheet might be a good choice for you. Unfortunately, there is no free version of Smartsheet at this time, but they do offer reduced rates to qualifying organizations, including nonprofits. The discount amounts to about two months off the yearly plan prices whether you choose the individual, team, or business subscription options.

Read our full Smartsheet review

Visit the Smartsheet website


best ecommerce apps

One of many products that attempt to combine user-friendliness with advanced project management features, Asana (read our review) successfully creates a social-media-like feel while still retaining such capabilities as reporting, task dependencies, and more.

I can’t call it full on, grown-up-pants project management, given its lack of time tracking and Gantt charts, but Asana still provides plenty of bang-for-buck. There is a free version which is limited in both how many people can use it and in what features are available. This app is definitely worth actually paying for, and though the initial cost is relatively low by project management standards, Asana developers have indicated they are willing to cut deals with students groups and nonprofits. To find out exactly what kind of deal you can get, though, you will have to contact their sales team.

Read our full Asana review

Visit the Asana website


Basecamp (read our review) is one of the project management perennials. Everywhere you look in the project management world, you find other companies desperately claiming to be “better than Basecamp!” The fact that so many project management startups compare themselves with this app should speak to its quality all on its own, but Basecamp can also boast over two million signups for their services.

This has always been one of my favorite project management platforms because of its simple interface, excellent communication tools, and automated check-ins. The features I just mentioned make Basecamp one of the best options in the business for remote teams; the app does so much of the work for you, keeping the whole group on the same page.

Happily, Basecamp offers 10% off for qualifying nonprofits with a 501(c)(3) form.

Read our full Basecamp review

Visit the Basecamp website

Final Thoughts

In the end, the best project management app for your nonprofit is going to depend on, well, your nonprofit. The actual work you are doing is the biggest part of what will determine your needs. Got a lot of data to share and analyze? Smartsheet might be the best option for you. Is your team working long distance, possibly on more than one continent? Basecamp and Redbooth will probably be the options you should consider most. Need a solid project and task managing app? Take a closer look at Teamwork projects or Asana.

I recommend checking out the free trials on offer from each of these companies to see which makes the most sense for your organization. From there, rest in the knowledge that each of these apps will be available to your nonprofit at a discounted rate, allowing you to manage your work without breaking your cash-strapped budget.

The post Top 5 Project Management Apps For Nonprofits appeared first on Merchant Maverick.


6 Platforms That Do Crowdfunding For Nonprofits

nonprofit crowdfunding

The crowdfunding industry continues to grow and expand as a means of soliciting donations, product sales, and investment, so it’s only natural that nonprofit organizations are looking to get into the crowdfunding game. In taking advantage of a crowdfunding platform’s fundraising and social media tools, nonprofits can bring their message to a much wider (not to mention younger) swath of the population than would otherwise be possible.

However, it’s not a simple matter of picking from a list of interchangeable platforms and getting started. Not all crowdfunding websites are created equal. Some crowdfunders are purely for creative/business projects and cannot be used for nonprofit fundraising, while other platforms specifically cater to the nonprofit market. Some platforms don’t let you collect the money you raise unless you hit your funding goal amount, while others let you keep whatever you raise regardless. Some platforms charge a percentage of what you raise as a fee (and some charge more if you fall short of your funding goal), while others charge a flat monthly fee to use their services. Some platforms facilitate the giving of rewards to your donors, while others do not.

Point being, your choice of a crowdfunding platform matters. We here at Merchant Maverick want to help you cut through the dizzying array of crowdfunding sites available by highlighting the crowdfunders best suited for nonprofit fundraising.

A Warning Before You Begin

It’s vitally important that you familiarize yourself with the laws regulating nonprofit fundraising in the state or states in which you will be operating. You may well have to register your charitable nonprofit with the state before you begin soliciting donations. If you’re looking to crowdfund for your nonprofit and you’re confronting these questions for the first time, I recommend starting by checking out the information provided by the National Council of Nonprofits and going from there.

It’s easy to find yourself unwittingly running afoul of fundraising laws if you’re unaware of them, so take caution!

1. GoFundMe

GoFundMe (see our review) is best known for hosting campaigns related to personal medical expenses and other tragedies. That’s what has propelled GoFundMe to become the world’s top crowdfunding platform in terms of dollars raised (more than 5 billion and counting). What’s less well known is that GoFundMe hosts nonprofit crowdfunding campaigns as well. On the subject of nonprofit campaigns (referred to as Certified Charity campaigns), GoFundMe states the following:

Certified Charity campaigns can be created by anyone, whether you’re a good samaritan wanting to support your favorite charity or an employee of a non-profit. A ‘Certified Charity‘ badge will appear on the campaign to give your cause an extra layer of verification.

Donations made to Charity campaigns are processed through PayPal Giving Fund, a 501(c)3 public charity (Federal Tax ID: 45-0931286). The Campaign Organizer doesn’t have to touch the money at all, and donors will automatically receive a tax-deductible receipt.

In order to launch a Certified Charity campaign, the outfit you’re fundraising for must be a 501(c)(3) US-based nonprofit organization. It must also be registered in PayPal Giving Fund’s database. If your 501(c)(3) nonprofit isn’t in this database, GoFundMe outlines how you can rectify that here. And if your nonprofit is based outside the US, GoFundMe asks you to contact them to discuss your options.

GoFundMe’s Certified Charity campaigns carry with them a 5% platform fee on the money raised. While GoFundMe eliminated their 5% platform fee for their US-based personal campaigns in late 2017 (and has subsequently expanded that policy to Canada and the UK), the platform fee still applies to nonprofit campaigns. Now, given the current trend in crowdfunding (and with GoFundMe in particular), I wouldn’t be surprised if GoFundMe eliminated the platform fee for its Certified Charity campaigns sometime in the future. For now, however, the 5% platform fee remains.

In addition to the platform fee, a 2.9% + $0.30 processing fee will apply to each donation made. Therefore, a total fee of 7.9% + $0.30 will be taken from each donation.

GoFundMe provides the following primer for those interested in starting a crowdfunding campaign for a nonprofit organization. Check out our full GoFundMe review for more information.

2. YouCaring

YouCaring is another crowdfunding site specializing in personal and charitable fundraising campaigns. Having facilitated over $900 million in donations since its founding in 2011 — and having recently acquired Indiegogo’s charitable crowdfunding spinoff Generosity — YouCaring’s profile is rising as a cause-oriented crowdfunding platform. Thankfully for you, they host nonprofit crowdfunding campaigns as well as campaigns for individuals.

YouCaring has one big advantage going for it vis-à-vis GoFundMe. Unlike their larger competitor, YouCaring charges no platform fees to the crowdfunding campaigns it hosts, including nonprofit campaigns. That’s 5% more funds going to your charity — not too shabby. Just keep in mind that you’ll still be paying 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction to the payment processor. You can use PayPal (see our review) or WePay (see our review) for payment processing, though YouCaring recommends WePay.

One drawback of using YouCaring compared to GoFundMe, however, is the fact that with YouCaring, your donors won’t automatically get tax-deductible receipts. The nonprofit in question will have to do this themselves by collecting their donors’ contact information through YouCaring.

While YouCaring doesn’t have as much nonprofit-specific information on their site as does GoFundMe, they do include this guide for setting up a WePay account under your nonprofit organization.

3. Razoo

Since its founding in 2006, Razoo (see our review) has been something of an all-of-the-above crowdfunder, hosting crowdfunding campaigns for nearly any cause under the sun: business crowdfunding, personal crowdfunding, team crowdfunding, and, yes, nonprofit crowdfunding. Recently, however, they seem to be paying special attention to capturing more of the nonprofit crowdfunding market.

In order for your nonprofit to directly raise funds on Razoo, it needs to be registered as a 501(c)(3) public charity in the US. However, if your organization doesn’t yet have 501(c)(3) status or is based outside the US, you may still be able to use Razoo for fundraising. To do this, you’ll need to find an organization willing to act as your fiscal sponsor. Razoo provides information as to how to do this here.

Razoo charges a standard nonprofit crowdfunding campaign 4% off the top as a fee, with an additional 2.9% + $0.30 per donation going to the payment processor. A standard Razoo nonprofit campaign will be paying slightly less in fees than a GoFundMe campaign. However, Razoo has recently unveiled a new feature exclusively for nonprofits: premium subscription plans that eliminate the 4% Razoo transaction fee and give your nonprofit unique fundraising software through which your organization can run a totally branded crowdfunding campaign.

Here are Razoo’s three nonprofit premium plans and their respective details:


  • $99/month, billed annually
  • No platform fees
  • Unlimited P2P & Team pages
  • Priority support
  • Donor analytics
  • Advanced CRM tools
  • Donor data collection
  • Data Connect integration
  • Branded donation page, donation receipts, and donation widget
  • Volunteer management


  • $249/month, billed annually
  • All of the above, PLUS:
  • Pro CRM tools
  • Advanced donor data collection
  • Email messaging
  • Branded P2P fundraising
  • Advanced white label controls
  • Custom subdomain


  • Contact Razoo for pricing
  • All of the above, PLUS:
  • Domain masking
  • Custom events
  • Dedicated project manager
  • Fundraising coaching

These aren’t cheap packages, so if you’re considering going this route, it’s best if you have some experience with nonprofit fundraising and have a reasonable expectation of funding success. If you do, these premium nonprofit packages offer a pretty compelling deal. Your organization will be able to host its own crowdfunding campaign — one operating under its own brand, not that of Razoo. Plus, you’ll have access to the advanced campaign features listed above.

Donors who contribute to nonprofit campaigns will immediately be emailed a receipt which can be used to claim a deduction on their taxes.

Read our full Razoo review to learn more.

4. FundRazr


Declaring themselves “Canada’s leading crowdfunding platform”, FundRazr (see our review) has facilitated the raising of over $116 million USD in their near-decade of existence. FundRazr hosts crowdfunding campaigns for personal causes, business causes, and, yes, nonprofit organizations. The company also has a great reputation among both campaigners and donors. In fact, FundRazr is one of the few crowdfunding outfits that proudly links to its Trustpilot page. That should tell you something.

FundRazr goes into exactly who can raise money on their site for a nonprofit organization here. Essentially, if you’re not an Authorized Officer of the organization in question, you’ll need to submit a Letter Of Subordination that expressly authorizes you to fundraise on behalf of the organization.

A nonprofit fundraising campaign on FundRazr will have to contend with fees equal to those of GoFundMe. There’s a 5% platform fee and a 2.9% + $0.30 payment processing fee. Sorry!

FundRazr doesn’t give a great deal of guidance for nonprofits looking to use their platform, so if you represent a nonprofit, you’ll want to get in touch with the company to iron out the details. One thing I can tell you, however, is that PayPal and WePay (available in the US, UK, and Canada only) are your options for payment processing.

Read our FundRazr review to get the full story.

5. CrowdRise

For most of its existence, following its founding in 2010, CrowdRise was a crowdfunding platform for both personal causes and charity/nonprofit fundraising. However, in early 2017, CrowdRise was acquired by GoFundMe. CrowdRise now directs all would-be personal campaigners to GoFundMe while focusing solely on crowdfunding for nonprofit organizations.

CrowdRise details the following requirements for using their services:

In order to become a CrowdRise nonprofit, [an organization] must first be a registered 501c3 in good standing with the IRS or a Canadian charity in good standing with the CRA, and have a valid listing on GuideStar (US) or Canada.Ca (Canada).

CrowdRise is somewhat similar to Razoo in that you can set up a crowdfunding campaign for free and pay a transaction fee on what you raise or you can spring for a paid subscription that reduces (or eliminates) the transaction fee and gives you access to special fundraising features. Here are the details on CrowdRise’s offerings:

Starter (the free-to-start no-subscription package)

  • 6% platform fee, 2.9% + $0.30 payment processing fee
  • Essential fundraising tools
  • Two active campaigns
  • Registration integrations
  • Recurring donations
  • Basic campaign theming
  • Email support
  • On-demand training resources


  • Contact CrowdRise for subscription pricing
  • 3% platform fee, 2.9% + $0.30 payment processing fee
  • All of the above, PLUS:
  • Unlimited active campaign pages
  • Custom branded URLs
  • Registration and ticketing
  • Custom transactional emails
  • Configurable donate forms
  • Text-to-donate
  • API access
  • Google Analytics integration
  • Salesforce integration
  • Fundraising minimums
  • Phone support with 24-hour response time
  • Success strategist and annual review
  • Live, web-based setup and training


  • Contact CrowdRise for subscription pricing and fees
  • All of the above, PLUS:
  • Complex campaign structure
  • Parent/child level campaigns
  • Adjustable donor fees
  • Phone support with 4-hour response time
  • Premier account management
  • Live setup, training and success planning
  • Success resources w/ live assistance
  • Quarterly success review

It’s unfortunate that CrowdRise doesn’t just list the pricing for premium plans on the website. Still, you get the idea. Pay a monthly fee, and you’ll get the platform fee reduced and gain access to special features you can employ in the course of your crowdfunding campaign.

At first glance, CrowdRise’s standard nonprofit crowdfunding campaigns don’t look too appealing, what with that 6% platform fee and the payment processing fees. However, when a donor pledges to a campaign on CrowdRise, they’re given the chance to cover these fees themselves — and, according to CrowdRise, most donors do just that. CrowdRise states that on average, 98% of funds donated to causes go to the campaigner due to this policy. If true, this is a very competitive rate indeed!

6. FirstGiving

FirstGiving is a fundraising platform wholly devoted to nonprofit crowdfunding. It’s somewhat similar in structure to CrowdRise in that you can fundraise for a nonprofit freely without a subscription or get a subscription which gives you access to more advanced features.

According to FirstGiving:

All donations made through FirstGiving are processed through our charity partner Global Impact, a 501c3 nonprofit, and are fully tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.

No word on whether donors get sent a tax-deductible receipt or not.

Without a subscription, one can launch a crowdfunding campaign for “any of the 1.5 million nonprofits in the US” A “performance fee” of 5% and a credit card processing fee of 2.5% apply to what you receive; however, as with CrowdRise, donors are given the option of covering these fees when they donate, and FirstGiving estimates that 45% of donors do so.

As for the paid subscription packages, here’s what FirstGiving has to offer. Unfortunately, you’ll have to contact FirstGiving to get pricing estimates.

FirstGiving Pro

  • For small- to medium-sized nonprofits
  • Branded fundraising pages
  • P2P and event registration
  • Event management
  • Corporate gift matching
  • Comprehensive reporting
  • GiftWorks Cloud integration

Artez Enterprise

  • For large nonprofits
  • Fully customized fundraising and event pages
  • Built-in coaching tips
  • Predictive suggested donation amounts
  • Mobile optimized donation forms
  • Monthly giving programs

A Note Regarding Indiegogo

If you’ve cruised the internet looking for crowdfunding platforms that cater to nonprofits, you’ve probably seen Indiegogo (see our review) listed as one such platform. However, this was before Indiegogo sold its charitable crowdfunding division, Generosity, to YouCaring. As of March 2018, you can no longer launch a nonprofit crowdfunding campaign with Indiegogo.

Final Thoughts

Crowdfunding for nonprofits isn’t as straightforward as crowdfunding for a business or for a personal cause. Thankfully, modern crowdfunding platforms make it easier than ever to navigate the legal complexities to help nonprofits raise money, whether you’re an officer of the nonprofit or not. Just be careful and make sure you’re doing everything by the book!

The post 6 Platforms That Do Crowdfunding For Nonprofits appeared first on Merchant Maverick.