Non-profit organizations occupy a unique position within the credit card processing industry due to their donation-based revenue model. While standard businesses might require features like sales management, inventory, or point-of-sale solutions, non-profits tend to focus on necessities like recurring billing, donor outreach, and event planning. This means that many traditional payment processors that primarily cater to for-profit enterprises may not offer the tools necessary for a non-profit to grow its donor base and keep overhead low.
Generally speaking, there are two paths that a non-profit organization can take once it has chosen to accept credit cards. The first method is to set up payment processing through a traditional merchant account provider and then use integrated third-party solutions like SalesForce, NeonCRM, Exceed! Basic, or QuickBooks for donor management, tax filing, and online advertising. Although this method requires more initial effort and research, it is usually the cheapest option because it allows non-profits to negotiate the most competitive rates for each service and only pay for necessary features.
Why These Providers
Active since early 2014, Fattmerchant is a merchant account provider leading the industry’s move toward flat-rate, subscription-style pricing. The company’s products and services include EMV-compatible countertop terminals, a virtual terminal, an online payment gateway, an online shopping cart, mobile phone processing, QuickBooks integration, online invoicing, and recurring billing. Fattmerchant is capable of serving all standard-risk non-profits and offers free equipment for all accounts.
Fattmerchant offers multiple pricing plans with different rates, but all of its plans charge a fixed monthly fee and a fixed per-transaction dollar amount above interchange. In other words, none of Fattmerchant’s plans charge a percentage-based fee on each transaction, meaning that merchants will not pay more to process a large transaction than they will a small transaction. Fattmerchant currently has an “A” rating on CPO and an “A+” rating with the Better Business Bureau.
Like Dharma Merchant Services, Payline Data offers interchange-plus pricing with month-to-month contracts, low monthly fees, and no early termination fees. The company has also received general acclaim from reviewers across all consumer protection websites. Payline even has a program dedicated to contributing to non-profit organizations, although it works a little differently than Dharma’s.
Dubbed “Payline Giving,” the service donates 10% of Payline’s revenue from each account to a non-profit organization of the merchant’s choice. Non-profits that utilize Payline as their merchant account provider can designate themselves as the non-profit that receives a donation from Payline, effectively resulting in a 10% discount. Payline also offers a payment gateway that can be integrated with SalesForce for donor management and online promotion.
Founded in 2009, Payline Data maintains its headquarters in Chicago, Illinois. The company offers phone and email support as well as an online help forum and knowledge base for all of its users. Payline Data currently has an “A” rating with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) and an “A+” rating with CardPaymentOptions.com.
Host Merchant Services
Host Merchant Services is a Newark, Delaware-based merchant account provider that is a great fit for non-profit organizations. The company’s products and services include point-of-donation solutions, online marketing tools, an online payment gateway and virtual terminal, and mobile credit card processing. Host Merchant Services advertises that its HMS Gives program can help non-profits receive the lowest possible per-transaction rates.
Host Merchant Services has received only positive feedback on public forums, with most reviewers singling out the company’s customer service for praise. The company offers interchange-plus pricing with no early termination fees to all of its merchants, meaning that users will enjoy the most transparent pricing model and can cancel service without penalty. The BBB gives Host an “A+” rating, and CPO also gives the company an “A+.”
CDG Commerce is yet another positively reviewed processor on this list that offers month-to-month contracts, no early termination fee, few complaints, and excellent customer support. Privately owned and operated since 1998, CDG Commerce can provide processing solutions for a non-profit organization’s on-site or online payments.
CDG Commerce offers mobile and in-person card acceptance for the same fixed, low per-transaction rates, and its online processing costs only slightly more. The company provides a payment gateway that enables reporting, recurring billing, and built-in QuickBooks integration, which is essential for most small non-profits that need to stay on top of their accounting.
CDG Commerce provides phone support, live chat support, and email support to all of its organizations. The company currently has an “A+” rating with the BBB and an “A+” rating on CardPaymentOptions.com.
Dharma Merchant Services
Dharma Merchant Services takes the number one spot on this list for several reasons. First, it offers transparent interchange-plus pricing to non-profits with month-to-month contracts and no early termination fees. And like other highly rated providers, it has received overwhelmingly positive feedback on user forums. But the company also earns its position through its strong affiliation with the 501(3)(c) community.
Dharma Merchant Services is partnered with over a dozen third-party service providers that specialize in non-profit processing solutions like banking, marketing, and telecommunications. It can also integrate with SalesForce for donor management via its Authorize.net payment gateway. To underscore its commitment to the non-profit community, Dharma donates 50% of its net revenue to handpicked non-profit organizations at the end of each calendar year.
Dharma Merchant Services is based in San Francisco, California, and has been in business since 2007. The company offers phone support and a contact form on its websites for organizations. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) currently provides a rating of “A+” for Dharma Merchant Services, while CardPaymentOptions.com also gives the company an “A+.”
Founded in 1981, Blackbaud is one of the largest and best-known all-around software providers for non-profit organizations. The company offers a massive number of services, including donor management, accounting software, event planning, social media engagement, training, analytics, and payment processing.
Blackbaud offers every service that a non-profit could conceivably need, but its closed software ecosystem is generally more expensive and restrictive than competitive third-party offerings. For this reason, Blackbaud is best suited for medium-to-large non-profits that are willing to pay a little more for the convenience and simplicity of keeping all their solutions with one provider. Smaller organizations may find the overall service package a little too costly or robust for their needs.
An all-in-one software solution from Softerware, Inc., DonorPerfect provides donor management, membership tracking, integrated payments, QuickBooks syncing, and advanced custom reporting for non-profits. DonorPerfect is partnered with TransFirst as its integrated payment processor.
DonorPerfect is a slightly more affordable service than Blackbaud overall, with various pricing tiers that scale up according to the number of donor accounts a non-profit needs to manage. It also offers some third-party integrations that may help organizations keep costs down. Its payment processing through TransFirst is about average for the industry in terms of cost, but the company does state that it may be possible in some cases for organizations to use a different merchant account provider. Taken as a whole, DonorPerfect is a solid solution for non-profits of most sizes.
Fundly is an online crowdfunding platform specifically designed for non-profit fundraising. Instead of offering a wide array of long-term organizational software solutions, Fundly provides non-profits with a simple online profile, social integration, and payment acceptance in a similar fashion to Kickstarter or Indiegogo.
Fundly does not charge any monthly or annual fees, but its per-transaction fees are relatively high for the industry. There is no upfront cost to use Fundly, but the service charges roughly 5-7% of a campaign’s earnings depending on volume. This makes it a strong option for young, small, or one-off non-profit initiatives, but not a viable solution for large or growing organizations. Its social share features make it even more optimal for small, close-knit donor communities where a small online presence might provide a clear advantage.
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