Tips for non-profit organizations: Credit card processing – donations


Online credit card processing for non-profit organizations is now an integral part of fundraising operations. To raise money, organizations typically need to host special events, run donor drives, and seek corporate sponsors—and credit and debit cards are the preferred payment method of 75% of consumers. For non-profits, accepting credit card contributions can improve the donor experience, increase donation size, and create recurring revenue.

Non-profits have many options when choosing a credit card processor, including a merchant account, third-party card processor, or credit card processor specifically for non-profit organizations.

Merchant credit card processing accounts

A non-profit can register for a merchant account with any bank or credit card company. A merchant account is a type of bank account that allows businesses to accept payments by debit or credit card. How much the processor or the bank charges a non-profit organization for set-up fees and per-transaction fees can vary. It’s wise to look for programs that have some experience with non-profits as their needs are different from a traditional retail or business account.

Non-profits with a merchant account will benefit by having their name on the donor’s credit card statements, and funds will go directly into the non-profit organization’s bank account without much lag time. Some disadvantages of a merchant account include credit checks and paperwork involved, just like any other business. Depending on the processor, there can also be complicated fee structures, long set-up times, and a wide range of costs.

Third-party card processors

Another option is a third-party processor, which uses its own merchant account to accept donations for other organizations. A third-party processor passes on the donations to the non-profit, minus a processing fee. There may be some delay in getting the funds into the non-profit’s own account.

Some third-party processors specialize in nonprofit credit card processing, offering perks such as hosting a centralized website that donors can review, sending acknowledgment messages, and offering website pages that can be branded for the non-profit.

Disadvantages to third-party processors include a lag time in getting funds deposited into a non-profit’s bank account. It’s also worth noting that the name of the third-party processor—not the non-profit—is often the name that shows up on the donor’s credit card statement. In this case, a donor can mistake the charge as fraud and dispute the charge, which can result in a chargeback. Non-profits should consider whether the possibility of confusion is outweighed by the ease of setting up and managing the account.

Tailor-made credit card processing for non-profit organizations

Processing programs specifically for non-profits work like a merchant account but come with extras. Those additional services include customer relationship management and integration with the non-profit organization’s website and financial systems.

The cost of such a program depends on the level of service a non-profit is seeking. The benefit is that the non-profit has control of the donor transaction, the donor is never aware of the processor, and these systems are typically turnkey operations. Many large non-profits process thousands of donations that amount to millions of dollars per year using this option.

The downsides include cost, a limited number of companies to choose from, and programs not scaled to non-profit needs.

Pricing models for credit card processing

Payment card processors, including merchant account providers and third-party processors, offer lower processing rates for non-profit organizations. A non-profit will need a 501(c)(3) nonprofit designation from the IRS to prove its tax-exemption status to the processor.

For a non-profit to get a discount in processing rates, there are different pricing models used by the credit card processing industry to be considered.

Traditional merchant account providers will set up a non-profit with a dedicated account called a merchant account, in which credit card funds can be deposited. The provider can draw all the fees from that account before forwarding the rest of the money to your organization.

Meanwhile, with a third-party processor, everything it processes goes into one main merchant account. The processor keeps track internally of how much is owed to each merchant and disburses money after it deducts its charges.

MCC for non-profit donation processing

When it comes to non-profits, the amount of the processing discount depends on whether an organization uses a traditional merchant account provider or a third-party processor.

For non-profits, the interchange costs can be lower for certain cards, and the processor can give an additional discount. For discounts on interchange rates, note that the various types of cards charged through the distinct channels—online vs. phone—are subject to different rates.

Debit cards have a much lower rate than credit cards, and Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover all charge slightly different rates. Only Visa and Mastercard offer discounted interchange rates for what it deems Charitable and Social Service organizations.

To receive such a discount from Visa and Mastercard, a non-profit’s merchant account provider must set them up with the correct Merchant Category Code (MCC), which determines the interchange rate.

Both Visa and Mastercard use MCC 8398 for Charitable and Social Service organizations, and only transactions prefixed with this MCC will receive the lower interchange rates. Not all non-profits will be eligible for this MCC, so it’s important to talk to a merchant services provider to be sure.

Typically, interchange-plus pricing is the best way to get a discount for non-profits. However, if a non-profit is just getting started or is a small organization, it should consider using a third-party processor. Third-party processors typically cost a bit more, but they offer other free services and conveniences that could be beneficial. Also, third-party processors can’t get the special non-profit rates from Visa or Mastercard but do offer special discounts for non-profits.

Setting up credit card processing for non-profits involves shopping around and things like cost, customer service, donor needs, and more. By modernizing your payment infrastructure and accepting credit cards, your organization will be seen as a credible organization worthy of your donors’ trust and money.

Sekure Payment Experts is proud to provide our services to several non-profits and charities throughout the United States.

Give our experienced Payment Experts a call, and we’ll be happy to help you set your non-profit organization up for success.

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