The Complete Guide To Square Nonprofit Fundraising & Donation Tools
If you are looking to expand fundraising possibilities for your nonprofit and are considering Square for accepting 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 donations for your nonprofit. We’ll look at the costs, fees, and all of the features that await you behind the curtain of Square’s processing.
Square constantly updates what it offers, so there’s a good chance that Square will have even more features for nonprofits within the next year. 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!
Table of Contents
Why Should Charities Use Square Nonprofit Tools?
Square nonprofit tools offer powerful features at a competitive price with no surprise fees or markups on the back end.
Advantages Of Using Square For Nonprofits
Here are some of the highlights of using Square for charities:
- Flat-Rate Processing: We’re a big fan of interchange-plus pricing here at Merchant Maverick, but flat-rate pricing is often a good deal for businesses with modest processing needs. It’s predictable and easy to understand, even if it isn’t necessarily the cheapest method over the long run.
- No Hidden Fees: Square doesn’t charge any monthly fees, setup fees, or markups on the back end. While some tools are behind a paywall, you get a lot of functionality right out of the box.
- User-Friendly: Square is designed to be easy to set up and use. You can get your account up and running, create a Square donate button, sell merchandise with a buy button, and even launch an entire fundraising website, all on the same day.
The Limitations Of Using Square For Nonprofits
Using Square for nonprofit donations offers a plethora of benefits, but it’s not without some potential hiccups.
- Account Stability: While representing a very small fraction of all of Square’s accounts, the largest category of complaints against Square involves account freezes and terminations. However, no matter what processor you go with, you’re going to have this risk. That’s why we encourage all of our readers to learn how to reduce their risk of termination or funding freezes.
- Prohibited Goods & Services: One of the most important ways to avoid issues is to accurately disclose your business type 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.
- Not Feature-Complete: 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. More complex solutions go as high as $15K for mid-sized and large charitable organizations. It depends on what your organization needs in ancillary tools.
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 are 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: “Do nonprofits have to pay any Square donation fees or other costs?” 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 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 donation button, invoice, or Square online store
You can learn a bit more about Square’s pricing in our article, The Complete Guide To Square Costs For Payment Processing & Software.
Note that Square’s 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 Square nonprofit pricing package for charities and small businesses that process more than $250,000 per year in sales; 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 not for profits.
Using Square For Nonprofits: 9 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 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 using Square to accept online donations, simply click Donations from your online dashboard and add the details. Along with creating Square cash donate buttons with preset amounts, you can also allow custom amounts to let your donors give a sum of their choice up to the maximum donation amount.
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.
You can also upgrade the free site to a premium option through Weebly — it’s all easy to navigate 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 developed by Square 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 of 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 card reader is worthwhile for nonprofits, as it’s 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 (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 want something mobile or 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 other software options for point of sale, Square comes with a virtual terminal right on your dashboard. The virtual terminal 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. Be aware that your business will face expensive fines in the event of a breach (not to mention a huge PR issue).
Using Square’s virtual terminal for donations is easy. You simply enter 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.
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 Square Point of Sale so that you can launch a one-time pop-up store or a full-fledged gift shop.
Square POS allows nonprofits to 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 issues digital receipts via text or email, so your customers have a record of their purchase too.
You can also set up alerts on your dashboard to stay on top of any dwindling 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 and future supporters. 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, in-person pickup, or you can print for shipping. 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.
7. Track Your Income & Improve Your Bookkeeping
Square offers simple income tracking. You can download sales history, view deposits, and see 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 and average donation size. While you’re not going to see more advanced reporting features with Square Analytics, we feel it delivers more than expected, especially 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 and enter any custom notes about your supporters. Because an 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. You can then use that data to get more insights into your donors and plan future giving campaigns.
9. Go Digital With Cash App For Nonprofits
Originally called Square Cash, the Cash App is another great tool for nonprofit organizations. While the app is still owned and run by Square, it’s also very much an independent product at this point. Cash App is a peer-to-peer payments platform, meaning it’s designed to move money from one entity to another, making it a simple way to handle a small volume of payments without the bloat of a full POS system.
One of the big appeals of Cash App for nonprofits is the ability to make a “cashtag,” a unique identifying link that anyone can click on to send you money. The link will have the format: cash.app/$Your_Unique_Identity.
Cash App accounts are personal by default, but you can switch it over to business within the settings.
The big difference between personal and business accounts is that your cashtag can accept payments not only from other Cash App users but from anyone. Payments are charged Square’s old 2.75% flat rate, making it ideal for small, infrequent transactions. There are no limits on the number of payments you can receive through a business cashtag, but sending is capped at $7,500 per week (and you’ll need to certify your account to get the upper limit).
How To Set Up Square For A Nonprofit
If you’re not anticipating a high volume of credit card sales ($250,000+), you can signup for Square for nonprofits on your own through the company’s website. While you can still technically do it this way if you’re high-volume, you might be missing out on some perks you could negotiate by speaking to a representative about Square donations.
To get started with Square’s setup for nonprofits, you’ll click Get Started on the website and follow the instructions given. To make this process go more smoothly, you should have the following handy:
- Full names for each account holder
- The main account holder’s Social Security Number
- Date of birth of the main account holder
- EIN number if applicable
Who the main account holder is is up to you, but you probably want it to be someone tied to the management of your organization’s finances. Once you’ve given Square the relevant information, you can link your org’s bank account to your Square account.
Square For Nonprofits FAQ
Is Square Right For Your Nonprofit?
Square’s tools for fundraising 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. So while it’s possible you’ll eventually outgrow Square, it’s not a bad place to start.
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. However, be aware that account stability issues exist, 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 any of our other resources and tools for nonprofits.
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.