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Nonprofit Card Processing Discounts Can Mean Big Savings

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Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson

Melissa Johnson has been writing about payment processing and mobile payments since 2014, and has been quoted in articles for Credit Karma and The Next Web, among others. She graduated from The University of Kansas in 2010 with bachelor's degrees in English and journalism.
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65 Comments

Responses are not provided or commissioned by the vendor or bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the vendor or bank advertiser. It is not the vendor or bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

    Jim Mouradick

    We are in the final stages of completing our custom non-profit 501(c)(3) website/company to be able to sell original works of art from Armenia into the US market, wherein 100% all profits are donated back into Armenian charities doing charitable work in Armenia (rebuilding schools, health centers, housing, water treatment, and infrastructure). Our business model allows us to pass along a 60% income tax deduction to art purchasers/collectors. Our individual sales transactions in the first year will be between $500-$2,000 each, with annual first years sales projected to be $50,000 to $100,000. Year three annual sales should be in the $200,000-$250,000 and year five should be in the $400,000-$500,000 range, which is where we think we will level off. During this transition, sales on the low end will continue at $500 and top out at the $5,000 level. All our sales will be via internet and we hope to offer all major CC cards (including AMEX and PayPal). Is there a merchant service provider that would be the perfect fit for us (we currently bank with Chase Bank)?

      Melissa Johnson

      Hi, Jim!

      It sounds like you’re based in the US, which is an advantage. It’ll make processing a lot easier. Off the top of my head, Braintree and Stripe seem like they would be good fits. Braintree will allow you to build in PayPal payments pretty effortlessly. Both are very developer friendly and you can do a lot with automation and reporting. Dharma Merchant Services is also a really great company for nonprofits in general, but they do generally want you to have a monthly volume of $10k.

      Hope this helps!

        Judy Kaufman

        I head up a non-profit organization that takes in annually about $20,000: $4000 annual membership fees, $13,000 event registration fees, $1000 donations, $2000 book sales and miscellany. We currently do no credit card processing except one of our board members just started using her own Square account for selling books at a few events. We have a website and would like to allow people to pre-register on the website for events and charge the reg. fee to credit cards, as well as being able to charge donations and membership fees. (And probably also use the same system for selling books at our events and walk-in registrations.) And we need good reports of all this activity to be generated for our Treasurer. What system would you recommend?

          Emily Hale

          Hi Judy,

          You might want to consider Stripe, as it’s a very flexible solution and offers integrations available (e.g. Event.com) for registering online. In addition, you can apply for special pricing with your nonprofit status. Hope this helps, and best of luck!

            Carla Forrest

            I opened a 501(c)3 kitten rescue nonprofit. The nonprofit will be taking online donations, mail in and over the phone donations and collecting in-store donations during adoption events. I am also opening a Cat Cafe that will be selling merchandise, coffee and cat experiences. Is there an all in one option for both businesses, so I do not have to pay 2 monthly fees. I would hate to start the cafe with a $99 monthly fee.

            Thank you,
            Carla Forrest
            Small Lives Matter Kitten Rescue

              Dakota Fillet

              Hi Carla,

              Square would be the best option for your business. They have no monthly fees, affordable hardware, and do not charge to use the virtual terminal to do phone or mail donations. They do not, however, support ACH and we are not sure how their online tools are since they recently made a few changes, but this is something you may want to contact them to inquire about. Additionally, we would encourage getting a chip reader for purchases to ensure you are protected against potential credit card fraud. Square has many options so it would be best to visit their site to see all of your options before choosing.

              If you begin to clear $10k/month for credit card processing, you may want to consider Dharma Merchant Services which will give you processing discounts and access to some more specialized tools while also supporting all of the retail needs of the cat cafe. Best of luck!

                Pam Krueger

                Thank you for a great article, but there is still so much I don’t understand. I serve on a church committee that plans an annual retreat. We only take credit card payments from retreat attendees during our registration period which is 3 – 4 months long and the average amount charged is $150. We take credit card payments online only. Which companies do you recommend we look into as a non-profit? Thank you for taking the time to reply.
                Sincerely,
                Pam

                  Jessica Dinsmore

                  Hi Pam,

                  I’d suggest looking into Paypal or Square. While Square is an excellent option, Paypal offers an online discount. So I’d definitely check them both out and see what checks more of your boxes. Good luck!

                    Paul

                    Fantastic summary of the available payment processors and merchants for non-profits. Looking for guidance here as we are looking to move our 501c(3) away from from PayPal to another payment merhcant/provider. There are so many today and I am not sure what we focus on.

                    Out situation is quite unique as our non-profit runs an experimental/pilot stock exchange to gather data for the US government to one day pursue regulatory certainty. We have been taking in donations from paypal to our non-profit since 2011/12, with the stock exchange taking donations itself starting in 2014. So we have tremendous history with payment processing and very very few chargebacks over that time.

                    What’s unique about our model though is that while the non-profit take in donations to the experimental exchange, we also make outpayments should the pilot participant wish to take anything out. We have capped donations to $2500 year per pilot participant, so its not crazy amount of money coming in or going out.

                    Which providers would you recommend that would best for this model of taking in donations and sending out payments periodically?

                    Thanks!

                      Jessica Dinsmore

                      Hi Paul,

                      What an interesting question! I’d suggest reaching out to Dharma to see if they will accommodate your unique request (I suspect they will!). Best of luck to you!

                        Zana S Price

                        We are a 53 year nonprofit 501 C3 Art Association. We hold a six week holiday arts and craft show each year since 1967. Last year gross sales was $73,000 for the six weeks. Looking for a POS with lower processing fees than Square. No monthly fees, short term holiday commitment.

                          Jessica Dinsmore

                          Hi Zana!

                          I’d say Dharma or possibly Payline. The big determining factor in whether the pricing is competitive is your average transaction size. The larger the transaction size, the more likely an interchange-plus plan will work best for you.

                            Marlin

                            We are a Youth Group from our church looking into purchasing something that is very feasible for our budget and looking for something that won’t charge fees. Thanks!

                              Jessica Dinsmore

                              Hi Marlin!

                              I definitely think Square or Paypal is the way to go for your youth group. Best wishes!

                                Joyce

                                Hi, if you were looking to get small political campaign donations and needed to gather other information like the name, address, occupation and employer information of the donation while looking for reduced fees – what would you recommend?

                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                  Hi Joyce,

                                  Square would be an excellent option for you. Happy campaigning!

                                    Michelle Stewart Walsh

                                    Hello Melissa – we’re a small local church that regularly runs fund-raisers: Rummage sales, bake sales and the like. We’d like to be able to accept credit and debit cards at these functions, but we only have a few every year, so would like to keep costs down as much as possible.

                                    What would you recommend?

                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                      Hi Michelle,

                                      I’d suggest looking into Paypal or Square. They both work well for smaller non-profits with variable sales volumes. Good luck!

                                        Steph J

                                        Hi there! Thanks so much for all the helpful info in this article… we are small nonprofit history museum with 501 c 3 status –we have a small museum store and regularly process tours and sales by credit card. Our current POS is a bit outdated and we are having issues with it. Wondering if this is a good time to also review our merchant services and make a change both in processing and our whole POS system —to be sure we are making the most of ever penny we earn and spend. Wondering what your suggestions are for us? We recently used PayPal Here for our big yearly fundraiser but we definitely still need a point-of-sale for our daily operations (tours, sales, donations etc.). Thanks so much for any advice!

                                          Melissa Johnson

                                          Hi, Steph!

                                          It certainly sounds like you’re at a good point in time to re-evaluate your payment processing and POS setup!

                                          PayPal Here should work on a daily basis if you don’t need a lot of features. You can add hardware and receipt printers and such. You can also set up donation buttons online for one-time and recurring donations, and you’d be eligible for a discount for those online transactions. As a bonus, PPH is free.

                                          Vend offers a non-profit discount (30% off) for its POS app as well. And it integrates with PayPal as a processor. If you need some more robust functions, that could be worth pursuing. Vend offers a discount if you pay for a whole year in advance, but you can also go month to month.

                                          There’s also ShopKeep, which offers custom pricing for merchants. ShopKeep offers its own payment processor with custom rates (but you can choose to use your own processor if you like). You’ll have to contact them for details, but it’s a powerful platform with month to month agreements.

                                          Another great option to look at would be Dharma Merchant Services. They do offer nonprofit discounts and they give a lot of money toward charitable causes themselves.

                                          I hope this helps!

                                            Ariel

                                            Health Services in an office setting with 501(c)3 status. We are trying to figure out if going with Square or Paypal makes the most sense? We will be taking payments by swiping cards and would love an option for donations on the website or other easy ways. Which would be best? Thanks!

                                              Jessica Dinsmore

                                              Hi Ariel,
                                              I would say Paypal makes the most sense for you, and it’s super easy to set up a donation button. Good luck!

                                                Carmen Davis

                                                Our group, non profit, puts on horse shows one time per year. We would like to accept credit cards with little to no fees. Any suggestions?

                                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                                  Hi Carmen,
                                                  I’d suggest looking into Square or Paypal Here. They are both non-profit friendly and mobile, which seems convenient for horse shows, and neither have monthly fees. Best of luck!

                                                    Kim Carroll

                                                    What would you recommend for a school PTO with 501c3 tax exempt status? It would be used for spirit wear, school event tickets and food & drink sales at functions.
                                                    Any help will be greatly appreciated.

                                                      Melissa Johnson

                                                      Hi, Kim! I would probably look at PayPal in your case. You’ll get all the tools you need with no monthly fees, which is great if you’re doing only a small volume each month.

                                                        Sandra

                                                        Non profit Inc. 501 c 3 New Charitable Assistance program. Building a web page awaiting my bank to setup a donation system in the future. Have a bank account established. Please advise for growth of the foundation to include sales of products. fees and/or percentages and no termination for transfer to another service. security is another area of interest. We are only at projections so little income and need much to grow.

                                                          Melissa Johnson

                                                          Hi, Sandra! I think if you are just starting out with a low volume, PayPal may be the best option for you! You’ll be able to set up single and recurring donations with just a few clicks, plus create an online shop and swipe cards in person at fundraisers, and you’ll be eligible for the nonprofit discount.

                                                            Debbie Burkhart

                                                            We are a 501C3 supporting a music program at a high school and run two big events an a few small ones. GoPayment had been great up until they stopped letting us use older readers forcing us to buy new at about $20 each and we need atleast 15 for the large marching band event. Any ideas who would help on the card reader side?

                                                              Melissa Johnson

                                                              Hi, Debbie!

                                                              I would consider looking at PayPal, though Square may also be willing to work with you on the hardware front! You’ll have to contact sales directly and ask, however. Generally, discounts on hardware aren’t offered by default, even for nonprofits! But you really should consider upgrading to some chip card hardware to reduce your own potential liability.

                                                                Mike Rolf

                                                                Thanks for the info. Pay Pal looks pretty good for our nonprofit but I see they only mention credit cards for processing. We recently had a fundraiser with a big silent auction. We currently use Swipe but we had about 15 upset people when our iPads were not able to process debit cards. We are a small nonprofit that takes in less than $100,000 in Credit/debit donations. Thanks for any suggestions.
                                                                Thank you,
                                                                Mike

                                                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                  Hi Mike,

                                                                  That sounds very frustrating! We don’t know much about Swipe, but Paypal seems to be a good fit for your needs. Paypal Here can process debit cards on the credit networks, just like a credit card, so the customer experience remains the same regardless of their method of payment. I hope that helps!

                                                                    Brenna

                                                                    Thanks so much for this helpful article and for the follow-up questions and responses!

                                                                    I have worked for straight-up non-profits in the past, and we’ve always used Network for Good, ActBlue, and other donation processors of that type. However, my new gig is with an historic mansion that is a non-profit, but also makes money from for-profit activities such as weddings, lectures, concerts, and the like. We’d like to be able to take both donations and payments online, as well as in person. We’re relative small. Would Square be the right way to go to meet this for-profit/non-profit hybrid’s needs?

                                                                    Thanks!

                                                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                      Hi Brenna,

                                                                      Square is a great option for nonprofits, but for your situation, I think PayPal is your best bet. They will offer you a nonprofit discount, plus recurring donation buttons. PayPal’s recurring donation buttons are easy to set up, plus you can send invoices and accept payments in person. Best!

                                                                        Cathy Freeman

                                                                        We just applied for non-profit status. We are a group of patients with a rare incurable cancer and are looking for donations to fund researchers who’ll study our rare disease, help get tumor tissue to researchers to create cell lines and assist patients. We have both a facebook site and a website. In our first year we facilitated $130,000 in fundraising through a researcher’s nonprofit lab (using his Foundation’s status). This year we are going creating our own non-profit so we can fund other researchers as well. I doubt we’ll every get the amount we raised last year again thus it would be a low volume donation site. I first thought Paypal but then realized there would be two fees, Paypal’s fee plus the credit cards fee. I expect most donations to be by credit card. I use Square personally for my husband’s concerts but it has a high percentage per transaction fee. Thus looking for a credit card non-profit that a donate button on our website would link to with the least percentage fee per transaction as well as no monthly fees since we’ll probably go months with no donations. Trying to save lives and often our disease first is seen in teenagers, SDH Deficient (a Kreb’s Cycle inherited mutation) that leads to three different cancers, Gist (what I have), Paraganglioma (what my father died of) and renal cell carcinoma. Thank you.

                                                                          Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                          Hi Cathy,

                                                                          Paypal is actually your best option — there won’t be any fees beyond processing rates, and since you are a non-profit you’ll be able to get a lower rate than you would with Square.
                                                                          Plus you get the option of recurring donations for free! Best of luck to you and your nonprofit!

                                                                            Kim

                                                                            Hi, We’re a small nonprofit providing thherapeutic riding for children and adults with disabilities. We’d like to be able to accept donations via credit card, as well as payments for lessons. Occasionally we might have merchandise, such as t-shirts or cups being sold. Suggestions?

                                                                              Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                              Hi Kim,

                                                                              What a great service you provide! I think Square would handle this well. They work great for most smaller non-profits, for both regular donations, as well as fundraising events, etc. They are also easy to use and have no monthly fee. Good luck to you!

                                                                                Gerry

                                                                                Hi,

                                                                                I’ve read your article and many of your responses to comments. We are a small to medium sized church that has some monthly recurring donations plus a small bookstore that accepts credit card sales. We don’t have a dedicated pad or phone that we can attach a reader to, though there is a computer in the bookstore that can be accessed. You recommend Dharma to several folks who seem to be in situations similar to ours but I read somewhere the Dharma isn’t good for smaller organizations. Is that correct? What would you recommend for us?

                                                                                Thank you!

                                                                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                  Hi Gerry,

                                                                                  I think with your lower sales volume, you’d be best off with Square or Paypal, however you’d really need to invest in an iPad or tablet for either of them. They both accommodate donations quite simply, and offer the flexibility to accept donations on the go. Just be sure to get the EMV reader regardless of your choice. Hope that helps!

                                                                                    Jason

                                                                                    Are there any 3rd party processors that allow you to execute all transactions under your domain, seamlessly? I understand I can do this by working with a company like Authorize.net, but that is a complicated set up. I’m looking for a PayPal or a NetworkforGood type service that can do this.

                                                                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                      Hi Jason,

                                                                                      I’d suggest checking out our eCommerce reviews, and possibly look into Shopify. We aren’t 100% sure if this is the solution to your problem, but at a minimum, they make it pretty seamless to set everything up under one domain. I hope that helps!

                                                                                        Annie H

                                                                                        Hi, we are a non-profit preschool based in California, and we’re looking for a way to accept online tuition payments (around $175-$200/month) for around 75 families. That’s our priority, as our parents have been asking for online payments for awhile now. Also, a mobile on site option would be nice, in case parents want to pay tuition at school, or if they want to purchase tickets to some of our events. Any recommendations?

                                                                                          Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                          Hi Annie,

                                                                                          I think Dharma Merchant Services (see our review) would meet your needs. They are great for non-profits and come highly recommended. I’d also suggest this article: Nonprofit Card Processing Discounts Can Mean Big Savings.

                                                                                            Kathi Williams

                                                                                            We are looking for something other than PayPal Here for vendor events. PayPal Here does not transfer the address of the donor to the main Pay Pal file causing us to have to enter everyone by hand.

                                                                                            Do you know of any POS card companies that have the integration so we can obtain the address of our donor?

                                                                                              Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                              Hi Kathi!

                                                                                              I love the work you’re doing! I think Square Customer Directory would be perfect for what you are looking for. Check it out and please let me know if you have any further questions. Best of luck!

                                                                                                Catherine

                                                                                                Great Article, Im not sure if I have more or less questions. I have heard that PayPal has a cap on how much money you can move out of the account per month? If that is true, is there a better option.

                                                                                                It is a non profit.

                                                                                                  Melissa Johnson

                                                                                                  Hi, Catherine!

                                                                                                  As far as I am aware, and as far as PayPal indicates on its website, caps only apply to unverified non-profits. Once you link your bank account and provide the other information, you should be free to move money around as you need/

                                                                                                  https://www.paypal.com/us/webapps/mpp/brc/nonprofits-and-limitations

                                                                                                  Hope this helps!

                                                                                                    Elaina

                                                                                                    We are a looking to accept credit card transactions at various events such as bake sales, and other fundraisers, etc as well as adding a storefront to our website.

                                                                                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                      Hi Elaina,

                                                                                                      I think Square would be perfect for you. Check them out and see what you think. Good luck with your sales!

                                                                                                        Sherry

                                                                                                        Our camp would like to take online donations where people can use their credit cards. We also have a camp store that we sell out of and have many parents that would like to pay with a credit card. What’s the best option that would allow us to both?

                                                                                                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                          Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                          Hi Sherry,

                                                                                                          Thanks for writing. I would recommend taking a look at Square; they work well for non-profit organizations in our experience. Paypal would also be worth looking into if Square doesn’t check all of your boxes. Best of luck with your camp!

                                                                                                            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                            Reema

                                                                                                            Hi, I am looking for a cheap option for credit card machines for a non-profit organization. We are currently using moneris which is quite costly for us.
                                                                                                            Please advise! Thanks!

                                                                                                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                              Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                              Hi Reema,
                                                                                                              Square is an excellent choice for non-profit organizations and there are no monthly fees or early termination fees.

                                                                                                                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                Kathie Daufel

                                                                                                                We are a non-profit organization. We perform once a year and we would like to offer the option of buying tickets at the door using a CC. Looking for the best option for us to do this. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

                                                                                                                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                  Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                                  Hi Kathie,
                                                                                                                  Square is a great option for non-profits with low/variable sales volumes.

                                                                                                                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                    Lynette

                                                                                                                    Do any of the merchants have a mobile phone app that accepts recurring donations.?

                                                                                                                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                      Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                                      Hi Lynette,

                                                                                                                      Dharma Merchant Services should be able to help with this!

                                                                                                                        This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                        anne

                                                                                                                        Hi, Can non-profits charge the fee BACK to the person making the donation?

                                                                                                                        We were thinking of putting a comment on our website that the processing fee would be covered by the donor. $100 becomes $114.50.

                                                                                                                          This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                          Chloe Bahal

                                                                                                                          Hi Anne,

                                                                                                                          That’s a great questions. The laws regarding charging the customer vary between the different card networks, so it is hard to say. This article and this article will help you get a better idea of what you need to do to comply. I hope this helps and if you have further questions please let me know.

                                                                                                                            This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                            Julie Elangwey

                                                                                                                            Hello Melissa, How to reduce credit card processing costs?

                                                                                                                              This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                              Chloe Bahal

                                                                                                                              Hi Julia,

                                                                                                                              I think you might find this article helpful. If you have further questions please don’t hesitate to let us know.

                                                                                                                                This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                                Florence Allbaugh

                                                                                                                                Thank you for your work. It was helpful for us. We are a non-profit providing medical & dental care in developing countries.

                                                                                                                                  This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                                  Abraham Amoah

                                                                                                                                  Please I’ve set up a non-profit making organization site at http://www.christiansonearth.org and I want to see how you can help me to set up a merchant account for donations. Please visit http://www.christiansonearth.org/hell.html or /rapture.html to understand what I mean.
                                                                                                                                  Thank you.
                                                                                                                                  Abraham Amoah
                                                                                                                                  Ghana

                                                                                                                                    This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

                                                                                                                                    Jessica Dinsmore

                                                                                                                                    Hi Abraham! Thank you for your inquiry. I’d recommend Dharma for your non-profit needs. Best of luck to you!

                                                                                                                                      This comment refers to an earlier version of this post and may be outdated.

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