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The Ultimate Guide to Selecting a Payment Processor

By Lori Borg February 10, 2021

Setting up online donation forms and credit card processing for a nonprofit organization or education institution can be confusing. While the process is not inherently difficult, there are aspects of it many administrators might not grasp right away. 

For example, why do you need a payment gateway and a payment processor?  When the first monthly statements arrive, you may be more confused. You may have understood that the rate for Visa and MasterCards would be a given percentage, with some cards being charged a slightly higher rate. But the reality is that nearly all cards are charged a higher rate, and there are other unexpected fees and surprises. How and why do the rates and fees vary so much from one card to the next?

As it turns out, payment processing is actually quite complex. With a plethora of payment types, nonprofit exceptions, gateway and processing options, and a steady supply of tools and technology to help you manage it all, the payment processing industry is both a language and a field of expertise unto itself.

Two people submitting a payment on a computer

Setting up online donation forms and credit card processing for the first time can be confusing.

Because so many nonprofits are small organizations, often with a single person wearing multiple hats, it’s understandable that not everyone in charge of payments is a payment expert. Even large organizations with dedicated teams sometimes lack this expertise.

Fundraisers at organizations of all sizes struggle with these issues — from hidden fees to online fraud to moving sustaining donors from one platform to another — so we’re sharing some insider tips and lessons in our Guide to Selecting a Payment Processor. Here’s an overview of the five key takeaways from the guide:

  1. Get a Handle on the Payments Industry: You will gain an understanding of which payment types are most important for your organization and the different steps for processing a payment — including why you need both a gateway and a payment processor. We’ve also included a glossary of payments terminology to help you cut through the industry lingo.
  2. Identify “Gotchas” in Contracts and Fees: This Guide will show you what to look for when signing a contract and how to evaluate fees — whether you pay a single all-in rate or interchange plus. You’ll learn how to identify the often hidden fees in payment processing, so you can better understand what you will be paying. We include a list of typical and not-so-typical fees, so you’ll know what to expect. We explain why you might need multiple merchant accounts and help you understand your options for how funds will be disbursed to your organization. Also included is a handy checklist to help you identify typical pitfalls when signing a contract.
  3. Set Up Recurring Donations and Future-Proof Your Organization: You will learn important considerations for setting up recurring donations and keeping card data current that can save your organization time every month. You will also receive tips on how to avoid your recurring donor information from getting “stuck” when you switch vendors.
  4. Learn the Importance of Online Security for Nonprofits: Gain new insight as to why your organization might be a target for credit card fraud and why security is so important for nonprofit organizations that accept online payments. You’ll find suggestions on which common fraud-prevention tools to implement and better understand the settings for each. We also cover the importance of Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance — both for you and for your payment vendors, but most importantly, for your donors.
  5. Know What Payment Features to Look for in Online Fundraising Platforms: Because payment processing is so tightly tied to online fundraising, this guide also walks you through the integration process of payments and online fundraising platforms. It includes key payments-related features to look for in your fundraising solution, such as donor cover, customizable and dynamic ask ladders, support for recurring donations, and the ability to move donors to a new vendor when needed.

Screenshot of a donation page

The Guide to Selecting a Payment Processor offers analysis on five key areas.

In addition to the five areas highlighted here, the guide also includes insights from payments experts from across Salesforce with areas of focus ranging from the nonprofit and education sectors to for-profit companies using Commerce Cloud

This guide, which was created with fundraisers and CRM administrators in mind, will help you understand all the elements and considerations necessary to select a payment processor. 

Get more in depth insights on payment processing by downloading the full Guide to Selecting a Payment Processor.

About the Author

Lori Borg, Senior Product Marketing Manager for Elevate

Lori leads product marketing for Elevate, Salesforce’s new fundraising suite for nonprofit and educational institutions, which includes Payment Services and Giving Pages. Lori has an extensive nonprofit background, from serving as executive director, to board member, to volunteer fundraiser. She currently serves on the board of ArtReach, a nonprofit that takes visual art to under-served children in San Diego. She has nearly 10 years of nonprofit payments expertise and has presented in nonprofit conferences and webinars on payments, data hygiene and sustaining donor programs. Lori earned her MBA at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles.