The Complete Guide To Square Nonprofit Fundraising & Donation Tools
If you are looking to expand fundraising possibilities for your nonprofit and are considering Square to accept donations, you may have a lot of questions. Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place; this post covers all the information you’ll need to make an educated decision about using Square for nonprofits. We’ll look at the costs, fees, and all of the features that wait for you behind the curtain of Square’s processing.
Square constantly updates what it offers, so there’s a good chance that within the next year, Square will have even more features for nonprofits. That’s not to say that Square isn’t already a viable option for charities to take payments. You’ll find that from setting up a free online shop to engaging your donors throughout the year, Square provides all the tools you need to get going, with options to integrate or add features as you need them. Let’s get started!
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How Do Nonprofits Benefit From Using Square?
One of the biggest reasons I have a sweet spot for Square nonprofit tools is that the company has competitively-priced processing rates, and your organization won’t face any surprise fees or markups on the back end. Along with a straightforward fee structure, Square offers a considerable amount of free software and tools.
Not only that, but Square is also so easy to set up that you can get your account up and running, create a Square donate button, sell merchandise, and even launch an entire fundraising website, all on the same day.
While Square for nonprofits offers a plethora of benefits, it’s not without some potential hiccups. In the world of payment processing, one merchant’s dream is another’s frustration, so let’s take a look at what Square has to offer and discover if this solution is right for you.
The Limitations Of Using Square For Nonprofits
It’s important to understand that Square isn’t a traditional merchant account provider. As a third-party processor, Square offers greater accessibility to a wider amount of businesses, but there’s inherently a bit more risk involved as far as account stability with this model. When a business or charity raises a red flag, sometimes it’s hard to make things right again.
One of the most important ways to avoid issues is to accurately disclose your type of business and ensure that you don’t sell anything on Square’s prohibited goods and services list, which would throw you into the high-risk merchant category.
While representing a very small fraction of all of Square’s accounts, the largest category of complaints against Square involves account freezes and terminations. No matter what processor you go with, you’re going to have this risk, however. That’s why we encourage all of our readers to learn how to reduce their risk of termination or funding freezes.
Beyond this, Square’s nonprofit tools include a lot for a very low price, but it’s certainly not all-encompassing. When it comes to SaaS (Software as a Service) for a charity, you can find other options that cover the basics for next to nothing. There are also more complex solutions that go as high as $15K for mid-sized and large charitable organizations. It depends on what your organization needs in ancillary tools.
Let’s take a look at what to expect with Square and then look at how your charity can make the most of this low-cost option.
Square Fees & Rates For Nonprofits
When it comes to Square fees for nonprofits, what you see is what you get. Square rates are pay-as-you-go for the most part. You won’t have any other additional monthly fees unless you opt into a monthly subscription; there’s no authorization fees, statement fees, refund fees, or PCI compliance fees. You’ll also pay the same fee no matter what type of card your customer uses.
Many organizations (understandably) have the same question: “Is Square free for nonprofits?” Unfortunately, Square does not waive any fees or offer a specific charity discount. However, Square provides all of its standard software free to all users anyway, and requires no long-term commitment. Your actual transaction processing fees depend on which method you use to accept the payment.
Here are Square’s nonprofit rates:
- 2.6% + $0.10 for any tapped, dipped, or swiped transactions for in-person donations
- 3.5% + $0.15 when you enter in a credit card number manually from the Square POS app, take payment in your Square Virtual Terminal, and process card-on-file transactions, including recurring invoices
- 2.9% + $0.30 for contributions made through a Square donate button, invoice, or Square online store.
You can also learn a bit more about Square’s pricing in our article, How Much Does Square Charge?
Note that Square nonprofit rates are the same rates that small businesses pay, and they’re designed for organizations that process less than $250,000 per year. Does your charity have higher projected donations coming in? Square may create a custom pricing package for charities and small businesses that process more than $250,000 per year in sales, but the company considers that on a case-by-case basis rather than offering any sort of standard discount for nonprofits.
Now let’s see what free goodies and other options are available with Square for nonprofits.
Using Square For Nonprofits: 8 Ways To Improve Donations & Fundraising
Square offers so much more than just payment processing. Its tools include everything you need for in-person and online payment processing, donor management, and even event registration. Here’s how you can use Square nonprofit tools to make your donation and fundraising efforts more effective.
1. Accept Donations Online With Square
You have quite a few options to accept donations online with Square. The easiest option is to create a free Square site with ready-made templates that make it easy to build a simple web storefront. You can create a space that explains your mission and lets your donors contribute to the cause, or make a fully functional eCommerce store that allows you to sell things, such as t-shirts and other merchandise to support your organization and mission.
To start accepting donations, simply click Donations from your online dashboard and add the details. In addition to creating Square donate buttons with pre-set amounts, you can also allow custom amounts to let your donors give a sum of their choice, up to the maximum donation amount, which is $5,000.
If you have multiple focuses for your nonprofit, you can create more than one campaign on your site. Just repeat the process in your dashboard from the donations area. That way, if you want a focused fundraiser, you can do so while still maintaining the ability to accept general donations.
Below is an example of a storefront using Square’s free site template. You have a range of colors, but customization is limited. Also, take note that you do not have a custom domain with Square’s free site.
You can also upgrade the free site to a premium option through Weebly — it’s all easy to navigate and choose through your Square dashboard. This way, you’ll get a custom domain and other bells and whistles that help you create a site for your cause.
If you already have a site, you can choose from one of the plugin integrations for Square at your dashboard for easy setup.
If you’ve got some expertise when it comes to code (or have a developer on staff), you can build a branded checkout flow with the Square Transactions API that allows you to accept digital wallets, too. Check out our article on how to accept online payments with Square for a full, in-depth explanation of each of these possibilities and a few more (such as in-app purchases).
Creating A Square Donate Button Without A Website
The newest option that Square has developed for nonprofit organizations to accept donations online is Square Online Checkout. Using this set of tools, you can actually create Square-powered donation buttons that you can embed in emails, texts, or even on social media. This allows you to create fundraising campaigns that reach further and work across all of your marketing channels.
Read more about how it works in our full post, What Is Square Online Checkout? Your Guide To Using This New Square Payment Option.
2. Use Square for In-Person Donations & Fundraising
Hoping people have cash on hand or the even more archaic option — a check — can limit you at an in-person charity event. Instead, Square fundraising tools include the option to use Square’s free POS and mobile card reader to accept donations via credit or debit card.
When you set up your Square account, you’ll get the free magstripe reader, but we strongly suggest that you opt for the Square Reader for contactless and chip. Square’s chip reader is the best way to protect yourself from chargebacks and give people more options (and convenience) to donate. The contactless reader can accept tap-to-pay transactions from smartphones and smartwatches — that is, from Apple Pay, Google Pay, and other “Pay” apps. The chip reader is competitively priced at under $50, and you can even finance your hardware purchase.
You have even more options in hardware, however. Whether you need something mobile or you need something a little sturdier for a kiosk or desk setup or both, you can find what you need to accept donations in-person through Square.
Want even more information on Square’s hardware options? Check out The Complete Guide To Choosing Square POS Credit Card Readers & Cash Register Bundles.
3. Take Donations & Orders Over The Phone
Like most point of sale software, Square comes with a virtual terminal right on your dashboard that allows you to accept payments over the phone or manually key in credit card data. What’s important to understand here is that a virtual terminal is really the only way to process credit card data safely over the phone. That’s because when you receive credit card information, security has to be considered during transmission and storage.
Jotting credit card information down on a piece of paper or worse — keeping this information on a spreadsheet — is a big no-no. You’d be surprised to find out how many organizations store credit card data this way, but in the event of a breach, your business will face expensive fines (not to mention a huge PR issue).
Using Square’s virtual terminal for donations is easy. You simply enter in the credit card data in the form, along with any other information you collect. Since the full credit card number isn’t visible once you key it in, you never have to worry about this information being vulnerable. You can even store donor information and see a full history of their contributions.
4. Set Up Recurring Donations With Square
As a charity, there is probably nothing that feels better than an ongoing commitment from your supporters. These folks help you keep up your daily operations and allow you to plan for future growth.
Square makes setting up recurring donations super easy for your charity. Whether you’re on your mobile device or at your full Square dashboard on your PC, you can create what you need.
I’ve included the screenshot below so that you can see how easy it is to set up and schedule your invoice for delivery on whatever recurring plan you want.
If you desire more consistent branding for your charity, you have some options. Check out the full post, How To Use Square For Recurring Payments & Invoices, for information on integrations or a prebuilt workflow for Square donations.
If you’re wondering about any additional cost regarding invoice scheduling for charitable donations, I have some good news: Setting up recurring donations through Square doesn’t cost anything extra beyond the processing charge (3.5% + $0.15 per transaction).
5. Sell Merchandise
Ready to sell merch at your fundraising event or want to offer an online store to supplement your donations? Square works for nonprofits by providing a free store, or the option to upgrade to a more advanced ecommerce site. Your inventory also syncs seamlessly with the Square Point of Sale, so you can launch a one-time pop-up store or a full-fledged gift shop.
Square POS allows nonprofits to even accept payments for charity auction items right then and there (or send an invoice for payment after the event).
Whether you sell merch at an event, through your online store, or you take a phone order through your virtual terminal, Square syncs the sale in your dashboard, so you can keep track of what’s been sold and where. Square also isseus digital receipts via text or email, so your customers have a record of their purchase too.
You can also set up alerts at your dashboard to stay on top of dwindling t-shirts or other merchandise you offer. That way, you can re-order supplies before stock drops to zero!
6. Use Square To Manage Fundraising Events & Registration
Planning an event for your charity can help you connect with both your current supporters and those who become one. That’s why I’m glad to see that Square’s nonprofit tools include the option to sell tickets for any event you have in the works. You’ll do this through your online store. You can set up your tickets for electronic delivery, or you can print for shipping or in-person pickup options. Square gives step-by-step information on how to sell event tickets through its help center.
Square also has a partnership with Eventbrite, so it’s that much easier to organize, manage your event, and sell your tickets.
The great thing about selling with Square is that your sales for tickets, merch, and donations all seamlessly sync to improve your record keeping. Whether you take a ticket at the door with your POS or sell them online, everything stays up to date.
And that brings me to my next point: Square’s donation and sales tracking can improve your bookkeeping.
7. Track Your Income & Improve Your Bookkeeping
Square offers simple income tracking. You can download sales history, view deposits, and view everything that’s happening over a set period.
View income by categories, such as merchandise sales, donations, or ticket sales. If you rely heavily on Square donation tools for your income, there are other tools to analyze donor patterns. You can also compare new givers with long-time supporters as well as average donation size. While you’re not going to see more advanced reporting features with Square Analytics, we feel it delivers more than expected, considering these features are completely free.
Need something more? One thing to note is that Square integrates with QuickBooks, so you can sync sales data and get the sales or expense reports you need all in one place. QuickBooks has some specialized accounting features for nonprofits, which can make it a must-have piece of software.
8. Collect Donor Information & Engage
Ready to do some more analysis of your Square donations data and use it to improve engagement? You can export a list of your donations or the details about your donors from your online store at any time. All of this is accessed under Order Management right from your online dashboard.
As you collect donations through Square, you can populate the standard customer data profile as well as also enter any custom notes about your supporters. Because email address is one of the standard pieces of profile data, you can also build a robust email list for future marketing.
Square has a few customer engagement features that are completely free. The emails that you collect during transactions are yours to add to a separate email campaign service, of course. You can also create, import, and manage all of your customer profiles within your Customer Directory, which you can then use to get more insights into your donors and plan future giving campaigns based on that information.
You don’t need to find a solution outside of Square for email marketing tools, however. Square Marketing gives you some predesigned email templates with campaign suggestions and scheduling tools that help you create and manage your email list and marketing campaign. Square Marketing starts at $15/month. In the screenshot below, this particular campaign provides those on your list with a special offer. To the right, you can see that you have a selection of templates and themes to create something in line with your branding. Though it’s not fully customizable, you can add your logo, business name, and other images where desired.
Email remains one of the most cost-effective marketing tactics, so it’s nice to see that Square makes it easy to collect emails or opt for this relatively low-cost email marketing tool.
Is Square Right For Your Nonprofit?
Square fundraising tools are a great option for most nonprofits. You can start taking donations — and even have access to a few ways to grow — without having to spend any extra money right off the bat. However, for advanced reporting features, marketing, and other integrations you may need, you’re going to pay more each month. And in my mind, that’s okay. Square provides basic reporting features, so you can gain insight into patterns of giving as well as set up multiple ways to give on your site and more ways to connect, all for free.
While Square does not offer any special discounts for charities, the processing fees are competitive. And with all of the freebies, it’s a bit remarkable for a processor overall. Be aware that account stability issues exist, however, but they aren’t unique to Square by any means — using any third-party processor for donations involves a certain amount of risk. Check out our full Square review so that you understand how to make the most of this option.
Not sure if Square is right for you (or already sure it isn’t)? Read Become A Hero & Save Your Charity Money With Discounted Credit Card Processing For Nonprofits or check out the How To Accept Donations Online: Everything You Need To Know To Improve Your Fundraising
Want to get started with Square for nonprofits and open an account? Check out our step-by-step tutorial on how to set up a Square account.
Have any questions? We’d love to hear from you.