As a modern fundraiser, you already know how important your donors are to your nonprofit. Without their moral and financial support for your cause, you wouldn’t have as much of an impact or the funds to make meaningful change.

With a global pandemic on our hands and the CDC recommending everyone partake in safe social distancing practices, it’s even more important to think of your donors. This isn’t the time to continue your fundraising asks, but to remember to check in and update donors on the next steps to how your nonprofit will take its engagements to a purely digital level.

Now, with online donation tools, you can simply request gifts through an email or host an entire campaign online to raise money. COVID-19 has already taken a toll on our economy, with more small businesses closing and unemployment rates increasing. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you take steps to secure your donors’ financial information online properly— no one is going to put any financial details into a form they don’t trust.

Online payment processing is pretty simple once you have a comprehensive understanding of it. However, there are a couple of nuances since you work for a not-for-profit organization. At iATS Payments, we work with many nonprofits to process online donations and protect their donors’ finances, so we believe we can offer you some valuable tips.

Whether you already have a dedicated payment processor or are just beginning your search,  it’s always a good idea to review the basic dos and don’ts and ensure that you’re taking all the necessary precautions. These tips aren’t just for times of crisis, but can also be applied to all future online fundraising efforts. Here is what you’ll be learning today:

  1. DON’T just use any payment processor
  2. DO verify the cardholder’s identity
  3. DON’T exclude a payment option
  4. DO invest in a capable database

Protecting your donors’ finances should be one of your biggest priorities, even if COVID-19 wasn’t a pressing issue. Not only is it terrible for you to risk nonprofit funds, but you also don’t want the reputation of being untrustworthy to tarnish your charitable organization! Let’s get started.

iATS-Payments-Funds2Orgs-iATS-Payments-Funds2Orgs-Nonprofit Payment Processing_ Tips in Times of Crisis_Header-1

1. DON’T just use any payment processor

As you think about the best ways to keep donors’ finances safe and manageable, look at the payment tool you’re using and consider the types of campaigns you host to determine the capabilities for your nonprofit.

For example, if you often host events (to practice social distancing, consider pivoting that to a digital medium), it makes sense to depend on a payment processor and fundraising tool that can handle ticket registration.

Many organizations use large aggregators like PayPal to accept payments, but this might not be as beneficial in the long run. Aggregators are convenient because the company will process the funds for you through a shared account with other clients. However, if one client of the aggregator has issues, that could affect the other clients’ finances.

With a payment processor designed specifically for nonprofits, your organization can accept gifts and set up a personalized merchant account. Many online donation tools come with connections to integrated payment processors and can offer a convenient solution.

Do your research beforehand and ensure your nonprofit payment processing system is PCI-compliant. The Payment Card Industry (PCI) has guidelines that all companies must provide to process any online card payments. Without PCI-compliance, you cannot accept funds securely, putting all parties at risk.

iATS-Payments-Funds2Orgs-iATS-Payments-Funds2Orgs-Nonprofit Payment Processing_ Tips in Times of Crisis_Header-2

2. DO verify the cardholder’s identity

One of the biggest risks of online payments is that there are no face-to-face interactions to approve the transaction. Every time your donors make an online gift, purchase a piece of merchandise, or register for a fundraising event, they’re inputting their financial information into a form and trusting your nonprofit to effectively (and securely) process the transaction.

With everyone self-quarantining, it’s important to flesh out protective measures before you attempt any other fundraising efforts.

The online donation process involves multiple steps depending on the payment processor you use. But one of the things you should do before completing the transaction is to take the extra steps to verify the donor’s identity. Though paying by card is extremely convenient, it’s always worth it to take the extra precautions:

  • BIN/IP address verification. Each card should also include a Bank ID Number (BIN), which is information to help identify the cardholder’s bank. During each transaction, compare your donor’s regional IP address against their BIN. A common indicator to watch out for is the donation’s location being different from the donor’s regional IP address.
  • Two-factor authentication. Some processes employ two-factor authentication to verify users’ payments. This security feature is a pretty popular verification method because it can be done with something as simple as an SMS message or even a thumbprint stored in the donor’s phone. To learn more about two-factor authentication, read this!
  • CVV2 number. Ask for your donor’s CVV2 number, a code usually found on the back of a card. The digits eliminates the chance of someone using this card without physically having it.

Ensuring that the person sending the gift is who they say they are is imperatively essential. If you verify each cardholder’s identity, it’s generally more difficult for scammers to target your nonprofit. Credit card fraud is a real fear, and even more so when the world economy is dropping, so don’t let your nonprofit fall victim to it!

iATS-Payments-Funds2Orgs-iATS-Payments-Funds2Orgs-Nonprofit Payment Processing_ Tips in Times of Crisis_Header-3

3. DON’T exclude a payment option

To ensure your nonprofit payment processor is successfully accepting donations for your organization, you need to take advantage of all opportunities. If you’ve had to recently cancel any in-person events or stop your face-to-face fundraising campaign, it’s especially crucial that you can continue digital fundraising and can accept all online payments.

For instance, imagine you’re hosting a large online campaign, and someone goes to your website to make a gift with their credit card. One of the worst things that can happen is if your donation page doesn’t accept that particular card.

Online donations can boost your fundraising and help you reach that goal, so make sure you can process all types of payments. The two types of online gifts you’ll likely accept are those from bank accounts and credit cards: 

  1. Bank payments. When people pay with their debit card, the funds are coming straight from their bank account. Make sure your payment processing tool can handle these payments, commonly known as ACH (automated clearing house) payments. It’s important that you facilitate ACH payments because almost everyone has a bank account, but not everyone is using a debit or credit card. 
  2. Credit payments. This is when funds are taken against the credit card, not directly from the donor’s bank account. However, keep in mind that there are multiple types of credit cards. Make sure you can accept the most popular ones, like Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover, and more.

Don’t risk losing a significant gift by not being able to process it— these online donations are more critical now than ever. With the right payment processing tool, your nonprofit should accept all types of online funds and be able to process it swiftly and securely.

iATS-Payments-Funds2Orgs-iATS-Payments-Funds2Orgs-Nonprofit Payment Processing_ Tips in Times of Crisis_Header-4

4. DO invest in a capable CRM tool

When you’re processing a lot of people’s information, especially if it’s financial data, your nonprofit should be storing it in a capable fundraising database. This point isn’t just advice for nonprofits during a global pandemic, but a necessity to an organized and effective nonprofit. 

Your nonprofit’s database, also known as a constituent relationship management (CRM) system, works to record and organize all of your donors’ various engagements and interactions, and that includes online donations.

Not only is a CRM helpful for remembering vital data, but it can also help you create donor profiles. Continuously reference these donor profiles to get a better understanding of their support and even to meet new donors. For instance, if you notice that many of your donors discovered your nonprofit on Facebook, this can be an excellent clue to increase your Facebook marketing activity.

The best nonprofit CRM will integrate with your various online donation tools. This way, all donor data seamlessly flows into your CRM, and you always have access to the most updated and accurate information.

An excellent example of a popular CRM system that nonprofits might invest in is Salesforce. According to Double the Donation, Salesforce is known for its integration partners and its vast Salesforce AppExchange, ensuring your nonprofit can take advantage of a plethora of tools. If this applies to your organization, look out for a Salesforce payment processing tool for nonprofits, and you’re sure to find the right fit for your nonprofit.

Don’t fret if you suddenly find yourself having to only focus on digital nonprofit engagements. Although virtual fundraising can be tricky, a dedicated nonprofit payment processor makes it much easier. Without a secure processor, you’re opening yourself up for financial risks and turning off donors who don’t trust your system. Make sure you follow these dos and don’ts, and good luck!

Get your free resource in 30 seconds

find a resource


The Kid-Friendly "No Sell" Way


This back-to-school resource is essential for school groups who want to get new fundraising ideas and their budget back on track.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.