Your organization has just made a compelling fundraising ask to your potential donors. Now that one of the hardest parts is over, what are the next steps you should take? There are a few practices your team should put into use to make sure your donors’ journey is as simple and straightforward as possible.

Providing the path of least resistance for supporters to donate to your cause is crucial to meeting financial goals and pushing your mission forward. It’s crucial that you understand your payment processing system and how it can help you establish a relationship between you and your potential donors. We’ll unpack a few items that are crucial to take into account when you take steps to optimize your donor’s giving experience, such as:

Let's jump into how your organization can help your donors contribute in a secure, simple way!

Understanding how nonprofit payment processing works for you.

Your team has made an effective ask, and now your donors are flocking to your website to make a payment. It’s essential that you understand the part your payment processor plays in your fundraising efforts as well as your donor’s journey.

Primarily, it’s crucial to know what areas payment processing software can benefit your fundraising. It’s more than a way to accept donations. It can also help you by:

  • Collecting your member’s dues.
  • Providing a way for supporters to buy your merchandise online.
  • Serving as an event ticket sales portal.

Now that your team understands the multitude of ways your donation processor will work for you, it’s best practice to know the ins and outs of the donor’s experience when they contribute to your mission. Essentially, you can choose to use a dedicated donation processor or an aggregator to collect donations. Both of these systems look fairly similar to the donor but different on the backend of the giving process.

A donation processor that is dedicated to nonprofit fundraising hosts specific features and considerations to maximize your philanthropic efforts. You’ll receive your funds in a few business days, so you’re not waiting on a monthly check. When you use a dedicated processor, the donation journey is fairly straightforward! Here’s how it works:

  1. Your donor will enter their personal and payment information on your nonprofit’s online giving page.
  2. This information is sent to the payment processor’s gateway for the transaction to be verified and approved. Then, it moves through the ACH (automated clearing house) network before being received by the donor’s bank or credit card.
  3. Once the transaction is approved by the donor’s bank or credit card, it’s sent back through the system to your organization’s merchant account, which is typically set up by the processor specifically for your nonprofit.
  4. The merchant account will retain the donation amount until the transaction is fully verified and finalized.
  5. Finally, the donation is transferred from your merchant account into your organization’s main bank account.

On the other hand, if your team chooses a payment aggregator, the first couple of payment processing steps remain the same. But, you’ll share a merchant account with other organizations that also use the aggregator and will likely receive the funds a bit later. An example of this tool is Paypal, which pays its clients on a monthly basis.

The donor’s journey to making a payment is as simple as that with the right payment software. With this understanding, you’re able to settle on which type of processor best suits your individual needs.

Choosing a payment processor that best suits your needs

Now that you understand how payment processing works, consider which attributes your organization requires in such a tool. Your team should research which payment processing system works best for charitable organizations like yours.

There are a few first steps to take when determining which product to invest in. You can choose between purchasing a dedicated payment processing system separately or to work with a fundraising solution that has a preexisting partnership with a payment processor.

When you purchase your payment processor separately, you’ll find that you have more control over the payment process itself. You can choose a processor with a great reputation and all of the security features that are most important to you. Plus, if you choose a processor that is dedicated to the needs of nonprofits, you’ll have access to a support staff who understands the donation process and how it works in context of your organization. Choose one that also has a number of integrations with fundraising solutions, donor databases, and event solutions so that you’ll be sure every aspect of your strategy is integrated.

On the other hand, some fundraising solutions already have partnerships with specific payment processors. When you choose to work with that fundraising software, you might be automatically opted into using that partner. While this ensures built-in integrations between your donation page and your processor, you should also be sure to conduct research about the processor before purchasing the fundraising solution. Ask the fundraising software provider what processor they use, then conduct research on that processor separately. Make sure they use one that still fulfills all of your needs in a solution.

Whichever route you choose to find your payment processor, these key attributes are crucial to consider during your research process:

  • Easy access to funds — Ensure the processor you choose gives nonprofits more leverage over their raised money and grants them access to the funds within 1-2 business days. This means more immediate funding, leading to easier accounting at your organization.
  • Painless software integration — Again, be sure to pick a service that has specific integrations with your existing nonprofit software. If you’re choosing a payment processor separately, choose one with a lot of integrations already built-out. Meanwhile, if you’re analyzing your fundraising software, be sure to research the processor to be sure you’ll have an entirely integrated system.
  • Experience in the nonprofit sector — Your payment processor should have experience handling any questions or concerns that arise during your fundraising efforts.
  • Security — Secure payment and data protection are crucial to your organization. Data breaches are damaging to your success and reputation, so be sure to invest in a program that offers a high-security level. Additionally, remain vigilant in these protective measures:
    • Using a PCI-compliant processor.
    • Running address verification services.
    • Following up on large and minimal donations.

With these key items in mind, your fundraising team can find the best payment processor that can help you effectively retain donations and reach your fundraising goals!

Making the donation process as simple as possible

Finally, now that you’ve secured your payment processing software goals work to simplify the other details of the donor payment journey. This can include setting up a donation page that is easily accessible from multiple browsers and simplifying your donation form. The last place you want to lose your supporter is in the final step of giving.

Optimize mobile giving

Making your giving experience accessible for both desktop and mobile donors makes it easy to recruit and retain more donors. Prospects can donate at your fundraising event or on-the-go, which is exceptionally convenient if they don’t have time to sit at a computer and figure out how to give.

It’s essential to implement a mobile-responsive design for your donation site and page. This means that your page should respond well on all screen sizes. Your mobile site will look a bit different from the desktop version, and that’s okay! Consider including the following attributes to optimize user-friendliness:

  • Bold and easy-to-read text
  • Large donation buttons
  • A simple design to avoid crowding

When it only takes a few seconds for your donor to click and donate via mobile or desktop, you’re sure to secure their contribution. They’ll thank you for taking the extra step to save them time!

Tip: Use this free Google tool to test if your donation page and form are mobile-friendly.

A straightforward donation process

The donation form you create is the last touchpoint you have with a donor before they give. Make sure the information asked is simple enough not to scare them off. After all, forms that take too long or are too complicated can turn even your most passionate supporters away.

However, you still need to ask for the essential information. The information you collect will help you in your future marketing efforts and donor segmentation strategies. Consider asking the following questions to retain an expedited experience but still store crucial information for future use:

  • Contact information
  • Household size
  • Interests
  • Preferred giving channel

The donor database software you chose as your integration with your payment processor is useful for future communications and getting to know your donors. The more you know about your donors, the better you can communicate with them.


Your organization puts a lot of effort into making a successful fundraising ask that drives potential donors to your website. Make sure you’re getting the most out of your work by ensuring a straightforward and secure process.

With fundraising tools like a dedicated payment processor, you can lead your organization to leverage its fundraising and connect with supporters. Be sure to keep in mind that simplifying the giving experience end-user is essential in your decision-making process.


Matt DunneAbout the Author: Matt Dunne

Driven by his desire to support numerous charitable causes in his home country of Ireland, Matt joined the iATS Payments Team in March 2016 to leverage his entrepreneurial experience in support of the non-profit industry. He empowers partner organizations to provide impartial, accurate and valuable payments information and knowledge to the Nonprofit community.

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