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How to get started with non-profit payment processing

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Last editedMar 20233 min read

Donations are the lifeblood of any non-profit’s cash flow, so it’s important to make your payment process as efficient as possible. While card payments have been the gold standard for non-profit payment processing in Australia, there are now more options than ever. Charity organisations have access to affordable, reliable alternatives including BECS or ACH payment processing for non-profits. Here’s a closer look at how to get started.

What is payment processing for non-profits?

First things first – what do we mean when we talk about a non-profit payment processor? What is payment processing? This refers to any system facilitating online payments for a charity or other non-profit organisation. It handles the behind-the-scenes processing necessary to take a donation and deposit the funds into a non-profit bank account. In addition to donations, they also help process membership fees, event tickets, and product sales.

Some payment processors are more comprehensive than others. In addition to merely processing payments, they might also integrate with non-profit management software to help with event planning, donor management, and other aspects of running the business.

Non-profit payment gateways refer to the donor-facing portal used to collect, store, and transmit sensitive payment information. A few familiar examples include PayPal, Stripe, or WorldPay.

Why do non-profits need a payment processor?

From glittering galas to humble doorstep conversations, in-person fundraising still plays an important role in any non-profit’s finances. Yet most donors hesitate to pay in cash anymore. Most prefer to donate the same way that they’d pay for goods or services, online. You can make the most of your fundraising efforts by integrating a payment processor directly into your website. This facilitates a few different payment methods including bank transfers, card payments, and recurring subscriptions.

With a good payment processor, your non-profit organisation isn’t limited to any fundraising schedule; it can accept donations any time of the day or night. You can also set up recurring payments to ensure a steady cash flow and sell online merchandise in an ecommerce storefront.

Credit card vs BECS/ACH payment processing for non-profits

The two main types of payment methods used in no-profit payment processing include credit or debit cards and direct debit. ACH payment processing for non-profits is used in the United States, where bank payments are electronically transferred using the automated clearing house network. In Australia, the network used is the bulk electronic clearing system or BECS. BECS direct debit payments use a pull-based system. Your donor authorises payment to be taken from their bank account, after which time your payment processor can pull these payments on the agreed-upon day without further input. It’s fast, efficient, and convenient for both donor and non-profit.

By contrast, card payments offer the benefit of familiarity to donors and members. They might feel more comfortable sharing card details with a secure platform rather than signing up for bank debits. At the same time, card payments incur higher transaction fees for non-profits along with higher payment failure rates.

Many non-profits decide to accept both types of payment to cater for all donor preferences and reap the benefits. To get started, you’ll need an online donation form that collects payment details, be they card or bank.

How to get started with choosing non-profit payment gateways

Some non-profits choose a card-first payment processor like Stripe or BECS direct debit solution like GoCardless. Others opt to benefit from the best of both worlds by integrating more than one non-profit payment gateway into their systems.

No matter the route you choose, you should ensure that your payment processors have the following features:

  • High security standards including encryption, tokenisation, and PCI DSS compliance to keep donor data safe

  • Multiple payment methods on offer including card payments, bank debits, and alternative or digital payment options

  • Streamlined checkout process with a user-friendly design to make donations easy

  • Third party integrations allowing for some degree of customisation to suit your non-profit’s needs

Don’t forget to compare fees when looking into your options. Some payment processors only charge you for each donation, while others will also charge a monthly or annual subscription fee.

GoCardless makes it easy to collect donations for your non-profit. We offer a BECS direct debit solution perfect for recurring payments, along with a new PayTo tool collecting one-off and recurring payments in real-time. 

Non-profits like the Norwegian Refugee Council have successfully implemented GoCardless into their payment processing, saving 50-60 hours each month on payment admin through automation. Cut your fundraising and administration costs with a fast, efficient system that minimises the chance of failed payments in comparison to card processing.

We can help

GoCardless is a global payments solution that helps you automate payment collection, cutting down on the amount of financial admin your team needs to deal with. Find out how GoCardless can help you with one-off or recurring payments.

Over 70,000 businesses use GoCardless to get paid on time. Learn more about how you can improve payment processing at your business today.

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