For many people, online shopping is the greatest thing since sliced bread. You can purchase just about anything online these days, and it doesn’t matter where you live or what time of day you shop. For retailers (like this customer that sells display cases) and non-profits (like this customer that helps victims of domestic violence) alike, accepting credit card* payments online can drastically increase revenue. For non-profits, especially, online payment systems can make it easier for donors to give.
Why You Should Accept Credit Cards for Donations
The old-school way of taking donations is to pass the plate or fill out a pledge card. The local public radio/TV station in town still has fundraisers asking people to call in and give money. Many charitable organizations hold bucket shakes at public events and festivals. But what happens when you aren’t actively fundraising with an event of some kind? Online donations give visitors to your website an immediate call to action while they are reading about what you do and the impact you are making in the community. I’ve said before that every charity should have a big red donate button on the top right corner of every page. If that donate button takes a visitor to an online payment area, they will be more likely to give and you’ll get your much-needed donations faster.
While any non-profit can do a lot with a large, one-time donation, the real lifeblood of a charity comes from monthly recurring donations. Many online checkout services can set up a monthly donation with just the check of a box. Online donations work a lot like online payments. The donor’s account is routinely debited each month, and the donor receives a thank-you receipt automatically. Receiving monthly donations this way is reason enough to add credit card donations to your website.
Options to Consider when Accepting Credit Card Payments On Your Website
There are, of course, a thousand options on how to accept credit card payments on your website. Here are a few things you should consider as you shop:
Security of Online Donations
When it comes to online donations, your donors will be entering their credit card number, address, and other billing information. You need to make sure your connection is an HTTPS connection and that the processing company handles the customer information securely. Any of the mainline companies do a good job of security, like Paypal, authorize.net, Square, Stripe, etc. If you go with a company that is less-known, make sure they are secure with your donors’ data.
Branding Your Online Payment System
It may sound strange, but maintaining your brand throughout the donation process is important. If your “Donate Now” button takes your donor away from your website, their trust shields will go up. You want to keep the look and feel of your website, at least, through the whole donation checkout process. Services like Stripe, Authorize.net, and WooCommerce allow donors stay on your website as they check out. You just need to be on secure hosting and have it wired into your website correctly. When you can edit your website yourself, adding various donation events and levels is easy with these kinds of tools.
Fees for Accepting Credit Cards on Your Website
Fees are the hidden side of credit card transactions that may catch donors by surprise. One practice is to simply pass along the transaction fee for online donations, in the interest of transparency. Many donors are happy to pay for that convenience. Most vendors like Paypal and Stripe charge per transaction. Companies like Donorperfect have a monthly fee that covers a number of transactions. The math on the fees depends on how many transactions you’ll have per month, and how big they are. A small charity with an ever-changing donor base might do better with the light and flexible PayPal. A large church with a steady donor-base would do better with a niche-donation service like Tithe.ly.
Other Features and Integrations
This is where the bells and whistles come in, and some of them are really cool – and by cool I mean well worth it! You can make your online donation system work for you in a number of ways that go beyond receiving payments. Some online payment systems work with MailChimp or Constant Contact to automatically add donors to your email newsletter list. You can also start a drip campaign in MailChimp that will email donors periodically to keep them connected. Connected donors are more likely to donate again, so this kind of effort is worth the time you put into it.
Above all, pick a vendor that is easy to use and works well with your website software. A service that is easy to update and maintain is far superior to calling a developer every time you need to make changes.
Compliance and Ease for Visitors and Accountants
Whatever solution you choose, you want it to be as seamless and easy as possible for both the donor and your accounting team. Keep both parties in mind as you set up credit card processing for your non-profit. Sometimes, however, payment processing services aren’t robust enough for some charities’ needs. That’s when you might have to go the custom software route to make sure you are in compliance with laws governing payments. For example, Lieberman Technologies has developed software for collecting tax payments for sheriffs’ departments. Though it isn’t a donation process, this online payment gateway meets a very specific need and works in compliance with state and county laws to make life easier for sheriffs’ departments and taxpayers.
We have numerous web-design clients that do e-commerce and donations using a variety of the above tools. If you are looking to make donations come in easier, contact us and we can talk about how to set up the best online payment system for you.
*Note: Throughout this article, I’m using ‘credit card’ as a general term that also means ‘debit card.’ For the purposes of this article, they work the same way.