5 Factors to Consider with Merchant Services Selection

July 1, 2014

If you think your nonprofit could benefit from processing credit card payments, your next step is to set-up a merchant account. Luckily, there are many companies that provide this service. Yet, merchant services can be complicated and costly (especially without the right partner to help guide you).

We’ve provided a list of five important things to consider when selecting a merchant services provider. Hopefully the information here will help you select the right partner!

  1. Credibility: Partner with a company that has experience, ethical values, positive testimonials, and is a certified payment processor. There are many options out there, so if someone can’t prove their credibility, it’s probably best to move on. There are too many credit card scams to partner with someone that isn’t qualified.
  2. Set-up: You’ll want to select a partner that provides an easy process, such as an online application form and a customer service representative that helps walk you through this process and prepare you by providing a summary of requirements needed to apply. A good company can usually get you set up and approved in just a couple of days (unless there are extenuating circumstances).
  3. Fees: Every merchant service provider charges a fee for processing transactions, so this is not something you can avoid. However, the range of credit card processing fees can be very different. Rates also vary for different types of businesses (non-profit vs. for profit) and for debit vs. credit card transactions. In addition to transaction fees, there are monthly service fees, costs for mobile processing, late fees, fees for customer support and of course early-termination fees. Be on the lookout for all of these.
  4. Contracts: some companies require organizations to sign a contract binding them to use the service for a minimum of one year (or more), and they charge termination fees if the customer cancels early. Take note and possibly avoid these companies. Binding customers to a contract and threatening fees for leaving doesn’t seem like a great way to build a loyal customer base.
  5. Credit card Equipment: First determine what type of credit card processing you plan to do. Will you only be processing donations via your website or do you need a point of sale system or a mobile processing app for processing payments at fundraising events? Find out what type of credit card processing equipment is offered and what it costs. Some companies charge hundreds of dollars for equipment, where others offer it to clients for free.

Summary:

Merchant services has become an extremely competitive field. There are lots of options from the basic service of PayPal to the custom shop that offers credit card processing for one niche business. This is a buyers’ market; so do your research and choose a merchant service provider that is right for your organization.

DoJiggy Merchant Services (DMS) offers payment processing services for nonprofit organizations. With DMS, you’ll see lower rates, better customer service, POS terminals included at no cost, seamless integration with your organization’s fundraising website, and they even include a Free Donation Website when you sign up.


Credit Card Processing for a Fundraising Campaign

June 3, 2014

If your nonprofit is doing any kind of fundraising, there’s a good chance you may be considering processing donations and payments with credit and debit cards.  Since so many people prefer to pay with plastic these days, it’s absolutely essential for your organization to integrate a credit card processing solution for your fundraising campaign. This will allow you to: accept online donations, process registrations and ticket sales on your fundraising website, and sell more products, auction items, or raffle tickets at your fundraising event.

Let’s review a few different types of payments nonprofits would likely process with credit cards:

  • Online donations: One of a nonprofit’s biggest goals is bringing in donations to help support your cause. With online credit card processing, you simplify the process for donors by allowing them to easily make online donations using a credit card vs. sending in a check. You can even get setup to take recurring donations on a monthly basis from your core supporters.
  • Online registrations & ticket sales: If your nonprofit is hosting a fundraising event, a merchant account would allow participants to easily register and make payments online. This frees up a lot of extra paperwork and bookkeeping from participants having to mail in checks. Add a point of sale system (POS system) making it possible for your organization to take credit card payments on-site at the event – allowing for last-minute ticket sales.
  • Auction Bidding & Payments: If a charity auction is part of your fundraising campaign, credit card processing will make the whole process easier for bidders by allowing them to store credit card data for quick check-out at your event or pay for items won or purchased via “buy now” pricing online. This is much easier than sending an invoice and collecting payments after the auction closes.
  • Sponsorships: If you intend to reach out to local businesses to sponsor your fundraising event, online payment processing can help streamline the process. Sponsors can review benefits of packages online, select a sponsor level that suits their needs, safely make payments, upload logos, etc.
  • Fundraising Merchandise: Do you intend to offer any fundraising merchandise for purchase as part of your fundraising campaign? Perhaps participants may be interested in purchasing visors or golf shirts in advance of your charity golf tournament. With a merchant services account, you can offer product sales on your fundraising website allowing participants to select products, sizes, make payments and receive items prior to the event.
  • On-site payments: If your nonprofit is hosting a conference or fundraising event such as a gala dinner, having a POS or mobile credit card processing system on site is a great way to easily collect credit card payments for last-minute ticket sales, fundraising merchandise, raffle tickets, food and drinks, etc. (by accepting credit cards, you don’t limit attendee spending by only accepting the cash they have on hand.)

Summary: Merchant services is an important part of fundraising as it opens up more opportunities for your nonprofit to raise more money by safely and securely processing credit card payments for online donations, ticket and product sales, sponsorship packages, and more!

DoJiggy Merchant Services (DMS) offers payment processing services for nonprofit organizations. With DMS, you’ll see lower rates, better customer service, POS terminals included at no cost, seamless integration with your organization’s fundraising website, and they even include a Free Donation Website when you sign up.


Designing Your Event

April 8, 2014

You’ll be most successful if you’re always thinking of your main goal as you design your event. Are you trying to thank and recognize, educate and make a case for support or raise money? Again, clearly define your goal and design the event from there.

Let’s say you decide that your major donors should see the facility first hand and understand how their support made it possible. What are some creative ways to reach your audience? Individualized tours of the facility might an option because tours allow more personal interaction with staff and an in-depth look at the housing. Tours can be scheduled at the convenience of your major donors which is a plus when working with busy people. Additionally, you don’t have to rent a venue, order catering or set up chairs, tables or audio/visual equipment. However, you will likely want an opportunity to talk to specific donors and introduce key staff. In this scenario, the ideal solution might be an open house at the facility with tours starting every half hour.

But what if tours aren’t an option because of client confidentiality concerns? Maybe you will need to organize a reception that premiers a nicely done video of the facility and, ideally, a testimonial from someone your organization has helped. When designing your program, keep in mind that donors want to hear from the staff directly connected to the organization’s mission. Oftentimes, you are there to facilitate those conversations. Ask those in the organization that work directly with programs or clients to talk about what they see daily. Spend time working with program staff to help them understand a donor’s point of view and how best to talk about their work. Coaching your program staff on fundraising techniques can take a lot of time, but the dividends will be tremendous once you have allies in your organization.

Other event articles by Brenda:
Party for Party’s Sake


Party for a Party’s Sake

February 11, 2014

This post is part of a series on non-profit events. From time to time I will have guest authors write in on topics they have an expertise in. Thank you Brenda for taking the time to share some of your thoughts and advice on non-profit events.- Jason

When staff members get together to talk about donor recognition, increasing revenue and finding creative ways to reach new donors, usually one of the first ideas on the table is to have an ‘event.’ But, is a reception, lunch, ground breaking ceremony, auction or dinner what you need? These things can be done well and reach your key audience, but there are pitfalls and drawbacks you want to consider carefully and be careful to avoid.

In planning events, it is important to avoid letting the tail wag the dog. First, decide what your need is. (We need to have a donor event is NOT a legitimate need!) Your need should be defined in terms of moving your fundraising objectives forward. Let’s say your organization wants to draw attention to the opening of its new housing facility for victims of domestic violence. Which donors or groups of donors need attention and what has been done to communicate your message so far? You may not be able to design one event that is the best solution for every group. Better to have a clearly defined message and defined measures of success for one group than an event that invites everyone, but doesn’t advance your objective. Sometimes, an event is NOT what you need. You may be able to get the same results with visits or other techniques. The worst thing you can do is spend money for a party and then find that your event didn’t attract your core audience and you spent your time and money on fancy hors d’oeuvres for staff.


Note to self: This is not a hat in hand.

September 19, 2011

I have a friend who has recently stepped into a new role as a fundraiser and is struggling. Lots of calls + lots of effort = no new money for his organization. It’s a tired and challenging equation that if we are not careful can erode our posture of passionate advocates for our respective organizations into anxious and worrisome cold callers, complete with signature white knuckles and high blood pressure. He told me the other day that it ‘feels like I’m going to have to start begging.’

Hopefully, none of us have been where he is at. More likely though, and if we’re honest, we all have.

The fruit of our labors are relationships that generate investments of treasure, time, and talent. In seasons of fiscal and donor management drought there are many dangers, but perhaps the greatest is our losing sight of and trust in the mission. Though giving may decrease at times, and relationships may dwindle, our passion and trust in the work must not waver. We must never resort to philosophical posture of begging, no matter what.

I’m totally guilty of the hat in hand mentality myself. After 7 years in this bizarro world of development and bearing witness to some amazing giving, I am still convicted all too often of how much I think about all the reasons someone has not to give. When I need to get out of this rut and recharge, re-focus, and re-dedicate I lean on guys like Henry Nouwen to give me the juice:

“Fundraising is proclaiming what we believe in such a way that we offer people an opportunity to participate with us in our mission and vision. Fundraising is precisely the opposite of begging. When we seek to raise funds we are not saying, ‘Please, could you help us out because lately it’s been hard.’ Rather, we are declaring ‘We have a vision that is amazing and exciting! We are inviting you to invest yourself!”

Let it be known that it is a privilege to participate in the organizations we represent! Let it be known that people have the need to give just as much as our organizations have the need to receive! Let it be known that even if giving has stunk for the last few months, our mission is still worth it! Lives are being changed, goals are being met, and we continue to invite you to join us! Phew, that’s better. Now back to work.

How do you stay excited about your organization when donors aren’t responding how you’d like them to? What are sources of encouragement that you lean into when you’re not seeing the results you hope for?

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Edward Sumner is currently serving as the Director of Development at Puget Sound Christian Clinic.  He is a Jesus guy, proud Papa, and an advocate for social justice deeply committed to loving and serving the least and the lost in our communities.


Getting An “A” In Nonprofit Board Fundraising

September 5, 2011

I saw this title to a blog recently and thought, “Wow, three words in one sentence that make most board members shudder: Nonprofit – Board – Fundraising.” For far to many board members they’d rather die than be asked to be on the fundraising committee. “Let me help out with program or communications or governance issues, but please don’t ask me to ask for money.”

And the number one complaint by Nonprofit CEO’s and Development Staff are board members who won’t fundraise. Why is this so hard? I had an acquaintance recently tell me of his experience on a board. He didn’t realize when he joined the board that he would be so uncomfortable with the prospect of fundraising and he resigned rather than try his hand at it.

The author of the blog went on to briefly list three things that help to effectively involve board members in fundraising. They deserved more discussion.

  1. Clearly define and communicate expectations. Sometimes people are recruited to a board without explicitly spelling out expectations. The organization is eager to fill board spots and doesn’t communicate the fundraising responsibility that goes along with the job for fear they will scare the person off, and then are disappointed when the new leader doesn’t clamor to help raise money. Board job descriptions need to be specific. Board members should be expected to give and the amount or the range should be stated. They also need to help draw resources to the nonprofit by actively participating in fundraising events.
  2. Appropriately equip them with the training and resources needed. As fundraising professionals we spend a lot of time learning the latest best practice for our profession. We attend conferences, hear presentations through our professional associations and take trainings. All designed to make us better fundraisers. But how much time do we spend training our board members for their fundraising responsibilities? It’s rare to find a natural fundraiser among your volunteers. Let your board know you’re there to help and provide all the support and training they need and then hold their hand through the process.
  3. Sufficiently empower them to execute those specific responsibilities. Board members should feel confident as they step outside their comfort zone to make that critical ask. Help them learn to express their own passion for the mission. Create board mentors who have been through the process before, who can provide advice and support as the volunteer new to fundraising makes that first foray into the unknown. As they gain confidence they will find that their own excitement and commitment to the cause will make asking easy and fun.

——

Jane Kuechle is an independent consultant to nonprofit organizations and to individuals who want to make a difference. To read more of her work and connect with her visit her blog: http://www.kuechleconsulting.com/blog/


How to Maximize the Revenue from Your Next E-Appeal

August 15, 2011

As more and more non-profits have dipped their toes into e-fundraising, whether through e-mail, social media, or on their websites, many are wondering how to maximize the revenue they receive from these efforts.

E-fundraising isn’t the same as direct mail fundraising, though there are some similarities: you have to make it emotional; you have to make it attractive; you have to avoid cluttering your page. That being said, there are some unique strategies your non-profit can use to supercharge your next e-fundraising appeal:

#1: Be Transparent
Many people are still wary about giving online. This includes new prospects as well as your current donor pool. To many donors, there’s something comforting about writing out a check and handing it (or mailing it) to the development director at an organization. If you want people to give to your online fundraising efforts, you need to make them feel comfortable doing so.

In addition to things like using secure credit card processing, the best way to make someone feel good about giving online or through e-mail is by being completely transparent, and helping them understand where their money will go. What will this donation be used for? How will you report back to the donor on the effectiveness of their gift? Why do you need all the information about the donor that you are collecting on the credit card form? Be as transparent as possible!

#2: Make Your Ask Bite-Sized and Action-Oriented
I’ve found that the most compelling asks online, on e-mail, and on social networking sites are small “bite sized” asks: $5, $10, $25, $100. I’ve also found that the best online asks are “action oriented,” where the donor is being asked to make a donation to fund one specific action or thing. For example: “Give $10 to feed a family for a month,” or “Give $25 to fund free museum admission for a class of 40 eighth graders.”

#3: Use All Channels to Generate Buzz
Many non-profits have tried using e-fundraising to focus on one specific “online channel” or community. They may have a presence on their website, Twitter, Facebook, and have a 1,000 person e-mail list. Yet they only post their online fundraising effort on their website, or send it out to their e-mail list.

The truth is that people have fleeting attention spans online. There’s always something else to look at, another link to click. You have to make sure you get your message in front of your donors and prospects as often as possible if you want them to get involved. Treat your e-fundraising like a campaign – give each effort a name, a specific ask for a specific ask, and a deadline. Set up a page for it on your website. Then use e-mail, Twitter, Facebook, and any other social media sites you are on to push people to that page.

#4: Make a Direct Ask
Finally, like all fundraising efforts, your e-fundraising appeals will not be successful unless you make a direct ask. Don’t just tell people why you need money and how much you need, and hope that they will give. Ask them to give. Say, “Will you make a donation today?” or “Will you give $50 today to save a life? Click here!” Make your case, then make an ask.

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Joe Garecht is the creator of The Fundraising Authority, a free source of fundraising advice and tutorials for non-profits of all sizes.