Are you looking for a better way to accept donations?  Do you have a credit card processing account but don’t know what you are being charged and don’t know how to read your credit card processing statement?  Are you looking for a better way to integrate forms in to your existing website?  There are a lot of factors that come in to play when setting up a merchant services account* for your organization.  As you start to look in to adding a new credit card processing merchant account or evaluating your current account to be sure you are getting the best rates, these are the main things you should focus on:

*Merchant Services Accounts (through providers such as Heartland, TSYS, Stripe, are set up to enable your business or organization to offer credit card acceptance.  Your merchant service account is connected to your bank account to deposit the funds processed through credit cards and/or electronic checks.  There are notable and secure 3rd party technology providers such as PayQuiq that work as partners between you (the organization or business) and the merchant service providers to help negotiate credit card rates and integrate the credit card processing in to your website through forms, in to your office through terminals or e-payment processing and/or through custom emailed member statements that can also be paid online right though a link in an email (as opposed to printing, stuffing and mailing paper statements and waiting for checks or cash to be sent back).   If you already have a merchant service account and are looking for a seamless way to integrate payments in to your organizations website or day to day office transactions, companies like PayQuiq have developed API connections to be able to integrate your current merchant services accounts in to technology for online forms, recurring payments etc.

  1. Make sure you are getting a Non-Profit Discount Rate – If the bank doesn’t put in the right MCC (Merchant Category Code) for your 501(c)(3) during the initial application there is a chance you are missing out on a lower discount available specifically for Non-Profit organizations.  There are websites available or ask your account manager if you are working with a technology partner to help identify the correct MCC code for your organization.
  2. Make sure you are not getting overcharged for credit card processing services you are not using – Banks will often make statements very hard to read which can lead to paying for services or features that you are not using.  Make sure that you have a clear understanding of all the fees that are being charged.  You should be able to set up a call with a customer service agent at your merchant service provider or the 3rd party technology provider who can go through the statement with you.  Items such as merchant savings programs or automated supply reorder should not be charged to a non profit or can often times be waived.
  3. Make sure you are informed about PCI security requirements and the fee increase if you don’t complete the PCI questionnaire – PCI compliance is most often a requirement when setting up a merchant services account to provide security when processing credit cards. It is highly recommended by the payments industry that you fill out a PCI questionnaire when setting up your merchant services account and continue to maintain a high level of security with yearly renewal.  There are various different companies that the Merchant Service Providers work with such as to monitor and run the questionnaires.  With completion of these questionnaires your organization will receive a discount on the cost the banks charge to manage and maintain security standards.  Ask your representative at either the Merchant Service Provider or Technology Provider for more information.
  4. Option to prompt donors to increase their donation to help cover fees – There are laws* in many states that prevent organizations from forcing a fee increase on online credit card transactions (*Note: laws vary by state and by organization type.  In many cases schools and other various government organizations can work around these laws).  There are credit card processing companies like PayQuiq that do have technology options that will enable you to prompt your members or donors to increase their payments to help cover the fees in a legal way.  Although the fees cannot be forced in many cases, many donors will opt in to pay that fee for the organization – especially in the case of Non-Profit organizations.  Be sure to ask the credit card provider you are considering if they have that option available.
  5. Option to pay by both credit card and electronic check (ACH) – The rates to accept electronic checks (ACH) are more often than not (and should be) a lower rate than Credit Card rates.  Offering ACH as a payment option is a great way to still allow members or donors to make easy payments online, but is a cost saving solution for the organization.
  6. Seamless integration of donation forms right inside your existing website – Many credit card processing companies partner with 3rd party technology companies so that you can integrate payments directly in to forms which can be integrated right inside your current website.  Companies like PayQuiq have special relationships with merchant service providers to not only offer discounted rates, but have developed technologies to integrate your credit card processing directly in to forms which can be added to your website.
  7. Automatic Recurring Payment option – When choosing a 3rd party technology partner to work with to help integrate your merchant services account, look for a partner that offers the option to set up an automatic recurring payment module.  Automatic recurring payments will help reduce stress to both the donor and your office staff.  Automatic recurring payments should be able to process payments automatically though Credit Cards and ACH so that a donor or user can make repeated payments for the same amount on a weekly, monthly, quarterly or yearly cycle.  Make sure to ask about the security and encryption that takes place when data is stored for recurring payments. The company you choose to work with should encrypt credit card and ACH information so that stored credit card data cannot be compromised.
  8. Short “path to purchase” so that you don’t lose donors with long forms – Studies have proven that the drop off rate dramatically increases as the path to purchase or donate increases.  The less number of clicks and pages to purchase the better the odds are that a donor will complete the payment and make a higher payment.  Keeping payments all in one easy to use cohesive form will keep donors interested.
  9. Integrated payment options – make payments without having to open up a new web page or direct donors to an outside payments page. Technology like PayQuiq forms enables your members to fill out forms such as “Donations” and make a payment without ever leaving your organizations website.   Keeping the payment and form collection all in one place elicits a sense of security for the donor as they are already in a trusted space on your site.  You can work with companies like PayQuiq from the start to end process, they have customer service agents that will work with you and the bank/merchant service providers to negotiate credit card rates, make sure you are not getting charged any hidden fees, set up a dashboard specifically for creating forms etc. and train you on how to create forms that have payments integrated.
  10. Friendly, accessible and non-profit knowledgeable customer service!! – Setting up and maintaining both a merchant services account and accompanying technology to manage forms, recurring payments, email statements, custom reporting etc can seem like a lot to add to your organization, but it doesn’t need to be and shouldn’t be an added stress.  Make sure the companies you chose to work with are accessible, offer a high level of support, can explain what all charges are and have a strong understanding of your goals as an organization.  The main goal of the company you choose to work with should be to help increase donations and decrease stress that can come with managing a business.

Make sure you are getting the best payment options that fit the needs of your organization.  There are many companies our there that offer all-inclusive packages so that you can accept Credit Cards, Electronic Checks and Donor information/registrations all in one place.  Systems like PayQuiq will enable you to create customized forms that can be integrated right inside your website so that donors can come right to your website and make a donation, register for an event, email customized billing statements and schedule automatic recurring payments.