A nonprofit business has an established purpose that furthers a cause and provides a social benefit. These businesses receive a tax-exempt designation from the IRS. Nonprofit organizations, or NPOs, are most commonly categorized as 501(C)(3).
Some examples might include hospitals, nationwide charities or foundations, religious organizations, or even scientific organizations.
A nonprofit merchant account is a credit card processing account extended to this type of organization.
Some nonprofit businesses may opt to use some of the most popular payment processors rather than carefully compare the companies to work with. You may find significant benefits if you choose a payment processor that accommodates the needs of your business.
There are a variety of reasons why a nonprofit business would need to have the ability to accept credit card payments. Among the most common are:
Each business has unique patterns that should be considered when choosing a payment processor.
Not all nonprofit businesses need to have the ability to process credit cards all year round. If your need for card payment processing is seasonal or temporary, consider a card payment processor that does not have a contract or monthly fee.
Some payment processors may offer discounted rates to nonprofits. These discounts may apply to transaction fees or other fees like chargebacks.
The cost of hardware and software should also be factored in when choosing a payment processor. Some companies may have the option to purchase the hardware outright, while others will charge a recurring fee as a lease.
When most people think of payment processing, they often think of having the ability to accept the 4 major credit card types: Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover.
As time goes on, there continue to be more forms of digital payments available. Not all payment processors can accept all forms of payment.
Some forms of payment you may want to accept are:
Consider your customers and how they will likely prefer to pay now and in the future.
Many nonprofits choose to integrate their payment processor with their fundraising databases. Having the ability to store information from donors may be a critical need.
Some payment processors may offer a CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) type of software to help businesses organize this data or have the ability to integrate with an existing program.
Another important factor to consider is security. The Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) has set minimum standards a processor must adhere to called the PCI Data Security Standards. You may want to ask your processor if they are PCI compliant and what measures they take to safeguard both you and your customers’ data.
Another selling point for a credit card processor may be how quickly deposits are available to your account. For some, this may not matter much as they are less dependent on cash flow, but for others, the difference of a day or two in the availability of funds may be a deal-breaker.
There are many payment processors to choose from. Be sure the company you choose has a good track record.
This means you should look for reviews, whether favorable or critical, to see what kind of experience other merchants have had.
Not all payment processors will be accredited with the Better Business Bureau, but they may have a page for their business and it is worth checking. It can give you insight into how long the business has been in existence, provide a history of complaints, and may provide additional information about the business.
If the payment processor does not have a page with the BBB, sometimes the information provided on their website can provide insight into how long the business has been operating and who some of their past or current customers have been.
Customer service may not be high on the list for many when choosing a payment processor, however, it may become critical if your processing isn’t going smoothly.
Look for a company that is accessible in multiple ways. This might include an email, phone number, and an online customer help desk. Providing customers multiple ways to access assistance is always a good sign.
Then, you may need to consider when help is available. Some companies offer assistance 24/7 but this may not be essential to your nonprofit. At a minimum, you want the ability to get live assistance during normal business hours.
It may seem overrated, but having a company that provides excellent customer service and values your business as a customer can make a world of difference.
Nonprofits may not have as much time as other businesses to train staff on new programs or hardware. Implementing a system that will not require a lot of investment time from the company is critical for most nonprofits.
If you are new to the world of payment processing, you may not be aware of all the options available to nonprofit businesses. Depending on how your business operates, you may need a processor that can provide you with multiple ways to process payments.
POS Systems, or point of sale systems, are pieces of equipment that allow you to conduct transactions with customers. Typically a business needs both the POS hardware and software but may only need software if entirely online.
POS hardware can come in many forms and each brand has different advantages.
Some hardware you may want to consider:
POS systems with sophisticated software can help you manage your business beyond just collecting transaction information.
Some features that may be available with your POS software:
It may be difficult to predict what features you will need or benefit from the most but having more options available is preferred. If you go with a payment processor that has limited capabilities, you may need to change your processor down the road.
Credit card payments can also be processed using a virtual terminal. This is where a user inputs a customer’s credit card information into a computer and the computer functions as the terminal using the software. This can be especially useful if taking card payments over the phone.
Many nonprofit organizations offer opportunities for donors to give online. If that is something your organization would like to provide, you will most likely want to incorporate a payment gateway.
A payment gateway integrates with your nonprofit’s website seamlessly. Donors can sign up for recurring donations or give one-time gifts.
Some nonprofits may be reluctant to accept donations via credit card as they are worried the fees will cut into the revenue they see from the contributions. One option is to allow your donors to opt-in to cover their fees.
For the donor, this would be a nominal amount in addition to their contribution and they may be willing to cover the fees. Since this is an optional add-on, your donor will not be forced into paying your fees.
Imagine you have built a fantastic database of donors, but then need to close your payment processing account. An important factor to consider is whether or not you will be able to take that database with you to your new processor.
Be sure there is an easy way to export your database if for whatever reason you need to cut ties with your payment processor. You do not want to lose the data you have accumulated while using that account.
Being that nonprofit organizations are a bit of a unique situation, you will want to work with a payment processor who has had experience working with nonprofits.
There are several tools available to make fundraising bookkeeping easier and you will want a team that can guide you through assessing what your company might want.
Security is also of great concern when involving a donation platform. Talk to your payment processor to see what kind of expertise they have working in this area.
Nonprofit businesses can benefit from accepting credit card payments and working with a payment processor. Harnessing the power of technology can allow businesses to manage their donors as well as accept a variety of payments on the move or in a physical storefront.
With so many options to choose from, it is important to be informed about payment processing to be able to make a sound decision when choosing a company to work with.
Nonprofits will want to look for payment processors that:
Take your time to consider all of your options and always ask questions to be sure there are no surprises after you open an account. It is wiser to spend some time weighing all the options than to make a hasty decision and have to change payment processors later for a reason that could have been avoided.
Be sure to check out our top picks for nonprofit payment processors: