Best Practices

Buyer's Guide for 2020

A payment processor is a company that manages card transactions between a merchant and a customer. In the nonprofit world, this refers to a charitable organization and its donors. Every nonprofit professional should understand their payment processing system, especially because they rely on donations from their supporters.

Most payment processing systems, like those used by for-profit organizations, say they can work for your nonprofit’s fundraising efforts. However, these general payment processors are probably not meeting your nonprofit’s unique needs, whether that’s recording the right donor data, handling recurring gifts, or sharing information with your nonprofit’s CRM.

With a dedicated payment processor designed specifically for nonprofits, you can leverage this tool to help you increase fundraising and better manage your donor data.

Our team at iATS Payments wrote this guide to go over the basics of nonprofit payment processing in order to help fundraisers like you better understand what’s going on behind the scenes. In this guide, we’ll also review a list of tools that might meet your nonprofit’s unique needs:

Ready to start truly understanding what exactly is going on with your donors financial information? Let’s get started.

Credit Card Processing for Nonprofits: The Basics


With the rising prevalence of online donations, it’s important that your donors’ financial information is kept safe and processed efficiently. If you don’t consider it necessary to invest in a high-quality and capable payment processor, think about all the ways your nonprofit might receive money, and what would happen if that was compromised. This includes gifts received, merchandise sold, event tickets purchased, and membership fees collected.

To get a better sense of how payment processing works, especially for nonprofits, let’s review some key terms:

  • VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN helps ensure that your internet connection is secure for payment processing. Using data encryption, VPNs help prevent fraudulent payments and unauthorized users.
  • Payment Gateway. When a transaction is made, the donor’s card information goes through the payment processor’s payment gateway. This is a fraud prevention method and protects donors’ information throughout the entire process until it reaches the merchant account.
  • Merchant Account. This is the account where the nonprofit accepts and holds all donations from debit or credit cards. This is set up between a nonprofit and a merchant-acquiring bank and usually has a small fee taken for each transaction put into the account.
  • Third-Party Processor. This is a payment processor that helps nonprofits accept online funds without having to create their own merchant account. This processor doesn’t partner with a bank and instead gives the nonprofit access to the processor’s merchant account.
  • Aggregator. This is a larger company that processes transactions for many other companies or nonprofit organizations. The funds go to the aggregator’s account with other organizations and companies. From there, the merchant is paid out, sometimes only once a month. A good example of this is PayPal. Aggregators are simple to work with but won’t offer much nonprofit-specific support compared to a nonprofit-dedicated processor.
  • ACH (Automated Clearing House). ACH is responsible for the electronic fund transfers between banks and merchant accounts. These usually take 72 hours to be completed. To increase online donations, your nonprofit payment processor should be able to accept credit card and ACH direct debit payments.

There are many payment processors out there, some that only work with for-profit organizations and some that also work with nonprofits. However, to really maximize fundraising success and feel complete trust in your nonprofit’s financial processes, consider investing in a payment processor that was built specifically to serve nonprofit clients.

For one thing, larger aggregators are likely to have so many clients to cater to that they won’t understand or hear out the unique challenges that your nonprofit faces.

Additionally, with a payment processor dedicated to nonprofit organizations, you might also have access to other fundraising related perks like branded online donation forms and integrations with your constituent relationship management (CRM) system.

Nonprofit Donation Processing Tools: Find The Best One For You

Many nonprofit donation processing tools depend on iATS as their payment processor, the only payment provider designed exclusively for nonprofits. Our incredible network of partners uses our unique features to offer meaningful tools for nonprofits to engage with supporters.

Before talking more about the iATS Payments platform specifically, let’s review a couple of our nonprofit fundraising software partners.

Each of these donation processing tools can help meet a unique need your nonprofit may have and uses our trusted payment processor that’s custom-built for nonprofits.

Auction Nonprofit Software

Visit our Technology Marketplace to learn more about all our auction partners.

OneCause | Overview of This Auction Nonprofit Software

OneCause is a comprehensive fundraising software that is trusted by over 5,000 nonprofits. First starting as a solution for charitable event giving with “BidPal,” OneCause has since grown to help nonprofits of any size undergo many campaigns and supplement existing efforts.

With OneCause, your nonprofit can easily facilitate online giving with branded giving pages and customized forms, as well as help you plan events and sell event tickets. If you want a solution that will not only help you increase fundraising but also empower your supporters, consider investing in OneCause.

OneCause’s Top Features

If your nonprofit hosts multiple charity auctions, OneCause has unique tools that can elevate the experience and streamline planning. OneCause offers Mobile Bidding and Auction software that can:

  • Help you manage silent auctions, live auctions, and online auctions.
  • Seamlessly capture guest info.
  • Securely process credit cards during check out.
  • Empower attendees with bids on their mobile phones.
  • Provide instantaneous checkout and automated receipts.

Take advantage of these top features and securely process gifts with OneCause!

Securely process gifts with OneCause now.
If your nonprofit hosts auctions, Auction & Event Solutions is a great tool and uses a trusted online payment system for nonprofits.

Auction & Event Solutions (AES) | Overview of This Auction NonProfit Software

For over 30 years Auction & Event Solutions (AES) has been helping nonprofits streamline auction and event management. AES was built for nonprofits and works to improve the event experience for guests, staff, sponsors, and volunteers.

Additionally, if your nonprofit depends on auctions for your fundraising efforts, it helps to invest in software that specializes in auction planning.

Auction & Event Solutions’ Top Features

AES offers your guests elevated tools and multiple options to improve the entire bidding and auction experience:

  • Mobile bidding allows your attendees to bid and give from the comforts of their phones.
  • Paper bidding is also supported by AES. Let guests use paper bidding for silent auctions, live auctions, raffles, and more!
  • DIY solutions customized to your event might be what your nonprofit needs the most. AES provides software, training, and even one-on-one support.

Consider investing in AES and start increasing fundraising today.

MaestroSoft | Overview of This Auction NonProfit Software

MaestroSoft is a suite of event management solutions for nonprofit organizations. Many nonprofit organizations plan events each year, whether it’s an in-person live auction or an online fundraising campaign.

With MaestroSoft, your nonprofit can facilitate online registration, event payments, and even mobile bidding. Let your guests buy items on the spot and provide a smooth check-out process. Your team can manage and plan all of your events remotely and get a comprehensive look at all your processes with access to 280+ progress and analytics reports.

MaestroSoft’s Top Features

If you’ve decided to invest in MaestroSoft to aid in your future event planning, you’ll have access to these top features:

  • Track and manage your event guests’ important details!
  • Stay on top of your event’s budget by recording all of your expenses, keeping track of payment dates, and instantly generating expense reports.
  • Organize your tables by tracking table purchases as well as managing table blocks and seating requests.

MaestroSoft gives you extensive tools to help supplement your event planning and process all necessary transactions.

Learn More About MaestroSoft's Suite of Event Management Solutions.

Auction Frogs | Overview of This Auction NonProfit Software

Handle all of your online fundraising needs with Auction Frogs. With Auction Frogs, your nonprofit can effectively plan online auctions, engage gala event guests digitally, offer mobile bidding, and even facilitate crowdfunding. Quickly process donations and bids for all these tools and streamline the entire fundraising process while also increasing revenue.

Auction Frogs' Top Features

If your organization depends on Auction Frogs for fundraising, you can take advantage of:

  • Facilitating an online auction. Offer standard bidding, encourage bid wars, and provide auto-bidding.
  • Crowdfunding tools with a customized website, social media integration, and more!

Optimize and elevate your online fundraising with Auction Frogs' tools.
Association Management Software

Azily Solutions | Overview of This School Food Service Management Software

Though not exclusively a nonprofit tool, Azily Solutions offers an easy to use school-meal and foodservice software called Freedom Cafe.

Many schools often don’t have enough time or money to prioritize their food service. However, Freedom Cafe provides easy to use point of sale and admin software that was made with direct input from actual school lunch staff. This way, you know it’s meeting your staff’s unique needs.

Azily Solutions Top Features

With Azily Solutions’ Freedom Cafe, your school can easily:

  • Manage students, accounts, and reports from a centralized software solution.
  • Sell school lunches easily and efficiently with their point of sale system.
  • Process applications in an efficient manner. This can be extremely helpful for students who are on free or reduced lunch.

Your students’ school lunches play a big part in their performance and overall health. Ensure you can provide this service in a seamless and manageable way with Freedom Cafe.

Optimize your school food management with Azily Solutions.

Ski Club Pro | Overview of This Team Management Software

Ski Club Pro is focused on helping ski and snowboard clubs manage their members. Ski Club Pro strives to bring you an affordable solution made specifically to help streamline registrations, manage rosters, and process medical releases. Created by former ski racers and professionals, Ski Club Pro can help your organization raise money and inspire athletes.

Ski Club Pro’s Top Features

By just investing in the basic Ski Club Pro package, you have access to:

  • Program registration for your various sessions.
  • Medical releases for members.
  • Real-time rosters.
  • Team evaluations to learn more about progress.

Take your snow sports team to the next level with Ski Club Pro.

Support Services Unlimited | Overview of This Association Management Technology

Support Services Unlimited operates all aspects of a professional association. The SSU team has over 60 years of experience helping non-profit, volunteer-driven, member-based organizations with administration, social media, finance, webinars, event planning, website development and more.

Support Services Unlimited Top Features

SSU’s technology enables associations to operate despite geographical distances, virtually linking members, boards and committees. With SSU, your association can:

  • Manage operations with the Association Dashboard.
  • Access all association information from any computer in any location with the Virtual Boardroom.
  • Facilitate online video-meetings without the typical scheduling struggles with Live Meetings.

Streamline operations so you can focus on your association's priorities.
Donor Management for Nonprofits

CiviCRM | Overview of This Donor Management Software

CiviCRM is a constituent relationship management software that allows many organizations to easily store and manage their donor data. Working seamlessly across different platforms and devices, CiviCRM can automatically create profiles for each of your contacts and let you manage these contacts from one place.

CiviCRM’s Top Features

CiviCRM is best known for its open source license. This means that CiviCRM is:

  • Free for anyone to download.
  • Completely configurable and customizable to reflect your specific organization’s brand. You can try and tailor the code yourself or find a programmer to help you with this process.

CiviCRM is reliable and easy to use by anyone.

Blackbaud | Overview of This Association Management Technology

Blackbaud is the world’s leading cloud software company powering social good by serving the entire social good community, such as nonprofits, foundations, corporations, education institutions, healthcare institutions and individual change agents.

Blackbaud’s Top Features

Blackbaud offers a large portfolio of solutions tailored to the unique needs of nonprofits such as:

  • Fundraising and CRM.
  • Marketing.
  • Advocacy.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising.
  • Grantmaking, and more.

Blackbaud connects and empowers organizations to increase their impact through software, services, expertise, and data intelligence.

Learn more about Blackbaud's full suite of tools.

Salesforce | Overview of This Donor Management Software

The Salesforce Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) is a set of managed packages developed and maintained by and made available for free via the Salesforce AppExchange. It allows nonprofits to manage some common nonprofit business processes more effectively.

If your nonprofit organization uses Salesforce NPSP, consider looking into Brickwork by iATS! Brickwork by iATS is our Salesforce payment app and is ideal for nonprofits who use the Nonprofit Success Pack and the Salesforce CRM. With Brickwork by iATS, easily process credit and direct debit payments from your website’s online donation or through Brickwork by iATS’ virtual terminal.

With Brickwork by iATS, you can:

  • Seamlessly integrate with your Salesforce CRM and the Nonprofit Success Pack.
  • Download it for free from the Salesforce AppExchange.
  • Use Aura by iATS to create online donation pages.
  • Accept all donation types (one-time, recurring, ACH).

Minimize manual data entry and streamline processes and procedures for your nonprofit’s fundraising.

Streamline processes for your nonprofit's fundraising.

Sumac | Overview of This Pledge Management Software

Sumac is a leading solution for nonprofits getting a better grip on their fundraising processes. All within its Basic CRM package, Sumac lets you manage your contacts, process payments, improve your email marketing, and manage your donations.

From there, you can add-on other features to make your CRM even more comprehensive and customized to your specific needs.

Sumac’s Top Features

One of the top add-on features to Sumac’s Basic CRM is its Pledge Management feature:

  • Eliminate the work of entering payment information over and over again.
  • Automate the payment process for recurring donations or pledges.
  • Track irregular pledges and prevent lapsed pledges.
  • Accept pledges right on your website.

If your nonprofit processes more than 10 pledges a month, consider investing in Sumac.

Manage your donations, contacts, and payments in one solution.
Online Donation Forms for Nonprofits

DonationPay | Overview of This Custom Donation Pages Software

DonationPay is not only a comprehensive fundraising solution but also very affordable for nonprofits. With DonationPay, you can increase your fundraising efforts with its user-friendly and quick donation process.

Many nonprofit organizations have benefitted from DonationPay and improved their overall fundraising process with its real-time updates and leading customer service.

DonationPay’s Top Features

DonationPay works to support all fundraising campaigns and any organization with its highly customizable donation pages. For instance, you can configure these pages for:

  • General online donations.
  • Event registrations.
  • Church fundraising tithes.
  • Membership program dues.
  • Peer-to-peer fundraising campaigns.

Having a customized donation page for each of your fundraising efforts improves the donor experience and also ensures that you get all the necessary information you need.

Increase your fundraising efforts with DonationPay.

FormAssembly | Overview of This Online Donations Form Technology

FormAssembly is an enterprise form platform which can help your nonprofit quickly create web forms, collect data, and streamline workflows through smart integrations with Salesforce and other third party systems. Automate manual data entry processes, save time, and start collecting leads, customer feedback, event registrations, and much more with FormAssembly.

FormAssembly Top Features

  • Compliance Cloud plan with HIPAA Compliance and PCI DSS Level 1 Certification
  • Advanced integration with Salesforce allows record creation, updating, prefilling, and more
  • iOS Mobile App for offline data collection (Android app in beta testing)
  • Wordpress plugin and integrations with services like PayPal, Stripe and Google Sheets, in addition to still more integrations through our HTTP connector
  • Simple drag-and-drop functionality that makes it easy to create powerful web forms without advanced technical knowledge
  • Custom branding abilities, including code injection and visual editing

As a Salesforce AppExchange Partner, FormAssembly is available on the Salesforce AppExchange, as well as the Google Apps and FreshBooks marketplaces.

Create beautiful web forms with Form Assembly.

GiftTool Inc. | Overview of This Online Donations Form Technology

GiftTool provides powerful, web-based eCommerce solutions for non-profits, member-based organizations and businesses across the United States, Canada and around the world.

GiftTool Top Features

  • Easy-to-use forms follow a general framework to get you started and can also be customized depending on your needs.
  • Forms can match your website’s look to put your brand, vision and message at the forefront.
  • A wide array of automation tools allows your staff to reduce time-consuming administrative tasks and focus on the work that really matters.
  • GiftTool reporting can enhance your ability to track results and learn from past campaigns, improving results over time.
  • GiftTool is built to handle an extremely high level of transaction volumes and concurrent users.

GiftTool offers fully branded solutions that can be easily integrated into an organization’s operations with little or no technical expertise required.

Discover online forms - no technical prowess required.

iATS Online Forms | Overview of This Online Donation Forms Technology

iATS Online Forms is our online donation form which makes accepting online gifts easy and quick. With iATS Online Forms, you can create as many forms for your website as you need. Customize it to your campaign and accept donations from one-time to recurring credit card and ACH donations.

Take a look at these top Aura by iATS features:

  • Brand form to website and organization.
  • Embed form in the main website.
  • No set-up fee.
  • 24/7 reporting.

With iATS Online Forms, make online giving easy and keep donors on your website for future engagement.

Secure online forms to make online giving easy.
Volunteer Management Platform for Nonprofits

Helping Habit | Overview of This Volunteer Management Software

Many nonprofits and volunteers can take advantage of Helping Habit to help organize their volunteer schedule. Once on the website, users can browse different volunteer opportunities based on their charitable interests and own schedule. Helping Habit can also process donations for you!

If you want to better manage your volunteers as well as attract more volunteers for future events, Helping Habit can help.

Helping Habit’s Top Features

  • As a nonprofit, you too can use Helping Habit and post your volunteer opportunities for users to easily browse through:
  • Filter by one-time or ongoing events.
  • Easily promote your cause as volunteers are encouraged to share their experience on social media.
  • Meet people who are excited to help and want to volunteer.

If you host many volunteer opportunities, Helping Habit can help promote each event and organize your volunteers from an online platform.

Organize your volunteers with an online platform.
Advocacy Solution

Grassroots Unwired | Overview of This Advocacy Management Software

With Grassroots Unwired, any nonprofit or political advocacy organization can create a successful advocacy campaign based on messaging or fundraising. Focusing its efforts on in person or event-based fundraising and advocacy, Grassroots Unwired helps you engage your constituents as well as process online donations and manage events.

Grassroots Unwired’s Top Features

If you’re starting an advocacy campaign for your nonprofit’s cause, consider investing in Grassroots Unwired to help:

  • Facilitate face-to-face fundraising for advocacy efforts.
  • Political canvassing with its canvassing mobile app. This way people can access information from wherever they are as well as easily collect signatures and collect donations.

Increase in-person advocacy efforts with Grassroots Unwired.
Education Focused Software | Overview of This Education Software is a service of Northworld LLC, the premier provider of targeted benefit-auction software solutions. likes to help non-profits with their fundraisers through their feature-packed fundraising software.’s Top Features

  • Build sponsorship packages that contain tickets, items, and promotional spots and sell them online alongside your event tickets.
  • Online bidding allows you to move your silent auction online and your supporters to bid and donate from any device with a web browser.
  • Virtual Live Auctions brings livestreaming video, chat, and bidding all together on the same page for an easy, fun, virtual fundraiser.
  • Small-dollar recurring donations let guests contribute in small incremental amounts over a period of time. offers a library of articles, videos, and walkthrough tours to help you get the most out of their software. All subscribers have access to email support prior to their event and phone support the night of their event.

Enhance your school fundraising with

Talisma | Overview of This Education Software

Talisma has two decades in service to a wide range of charitable and nonprofit organizations, from higher education, health care, arts and cultural foundations, faith-based and community services organizations.

Talisma’s Top Features

  • Talisma Fundraising software is a cost-effective solution flexible enough for one department or a global foundation.
  • Single database system offers greater transparency and collaboration - all the information resides in a universal database for staff to access and update anywhere, anytime.
  • Get greater insight into your fundraising efforts - summaries are available for various development areas, including campaigns, appeals, and funds.

Talisma solutions improve constituent satisfaction by integrating the power of email, phone, chat, SMS text messaging, print, portal, and Web self-service with a robust and mature web services platform, comprehensive analytics, and a system-wide knowledgebase.

Learn how to implement Talisma's cost effective solution.

iModules Software | Overview of This Education Software

Encompass by iModules is the leading SaaS Constituent Engagement Management provider for educational institutions.

iModules’s Top Features

  • Encompass allows you to gain efficiency by standardizing processes across departments to create powerful, personalized campaigns.
  • Email, events, engagement scoring, and more improve engagement by deepening your relationship with your supporters and communicate more strategically.
  • House alumni records within the Encompass infrastructure and create personalized online journeys that resonate with your constituents.

iModule's interconnected suite of modules transforms how institutions create relevant constituent experiences and achieve fundraising success through web content management, marketing communications, online giving, event management, e-commerce, and social media integration.

Achieve fundraising success with iModules Software.
Online Fundraising Technology for Nonprofits

Drupal Commerce | Overview of This Online Fundraising Technology

Drupal is content management software used to make many of the websites and applications you use every day. Its tools help you build the versatile, structured content that dynamic web experiences need.

Drupal’s Top Features

  • A multitude of out-of-the-box functionalities help your nonprofit manage, collect and disseminate content from the get go.
  • Drupal is scalable and can connect your main website, your campaigns and any other microsites you decide to launch.
  • Easily tag, categorize and organize complex content so that your nonprofit message stays strong and connected.
  • Anyone can download, use, work on, and share it with others for free.

The Drupal project is open source software built on principles like collaboration, globalism, and innovation. There are no licensing fees, ever.

Explore open source software as a solution for your nonprofit.

CanadaHelps | Overview of This Online Fundraising Technology

CanadaHelps is a registered charity dedicated to increasing charitable giving across Canada by connecting donors with the causes they care about. They process donations made using their site, disburse the funds to charities and provide instant or anytime access tax receipts directly to the donors.

CanadaHelps’s Top Features

  • A significant cost advantage for all but the largest gifts when donors choose to give online because manual administrative work is eliminated.
  • Prompt donation disbursement, instant tax receipting, and online access to donation data.
  • Monthly giving offers a steady and predictable source of funding and helps charities forecast funding, budget finances, and plan future charitable projects and initiatives.

For more than 19 years, CanadaHelps CanadaHelps supports all Canadian charities, no matter how big or small and has facilitated over $1 billion in giving over the last 19 years.

CanadaHelps is dedicated to charitable giving across Canada.

Causeview | Overview of This Online Fundraising Technology

As the developer of giving apps for nonprofit organizations and higher education institutions, Causeview Inc. transforms CRM platforms into Donor Management systems by providing powerful payment processing functionality.

Causeview’s Top Features

  • Process all kinds of donations from landing pages and forms or even from the donor’s profile record.
  • Recurring gifts can be created by supporters on a form or landing page, and you can manage them internally from the donor’s profile to change donor or gift details.
  • Automatically create and email compliant tax donation receipts for your contributors; also, send instant, automatic gift acknowledgments each time a donation processes, ensuring peace of mind for your supporters.

Causeview makes donor management simple.

Make your donor management simple with Causeview.

iDonate | Overview of This Online Fundraising Technology

iDonate’s Digital Fundraising Platform is built from the ground up to create great giving experiences that give donors the freedom to give how, when, where, and what they want – all while making nonprofits' lives easier.

IDonate's Top Features

  • Create an unlimited number of giving embeds that can deliver unique giving experiences for every web page, campaign, and even visitor in real time.
  • Gives you the ability to present your donors with the option to add an incremental donation amount to cover your card network processing cost.
  • Your fundraisers and teams can create and manage multiple peer-to-peer fundraising pages in support of your organization’s different campaigns.
  • Using a donation shopping cart makes it easier for donors to meet more than one need at a time.

Create a unique giving experience for your donors.

iATS Payments: Payment Processing Dedicated to Nonprofits

iATS Payments is a solution that many nonprofits and related fundraising tools take advantage of to securely process payments. With over 20 years of experience, iATS Payments is the only payment processor exclusively made for nonprofits and understands this sector's unique needs.

Never worry about your fundraising efforts with these iATS Payments features:

Credit Card Processing.

iATS Payments accepts most major credit cards, Visa, MasterCard, American Express, and Discover, working to cover all our bases. There are no hardware or software requirements, you immediately have access to customized fraud prevention tools, and there’s 24/7 online reporting.

Direct Debit & ACH.

With ACH processing, iATS Payments can receive donations directly from a donor’s bank account. This way, you increase fundraising channels in a safe and secure manner. Take advantage of the full refund capability and easily setup and manage one-time and recurring payment programs.

International Processing.

iATS Payments can even accept payments from international countries. You can receive gifts from over 40 countries and easily process foreign currencies with minimal hassle.

Security Solutions.

iATS Payments’ first priority is your donors’ financial information. We at iATS invested in multiple security products to help keep your donors and their gifts safe. For instance:

  • Tokenization & Encryption. This is when card information is hidden as it goes through the payment process. iATS Payment offers advance tokenization and encryption process to protect data at no cost.
  • PCI Compliance Assistance. iATS is Level 1 PCI Compliant and can help you learn more about this. The Payment Card Industry (PCI) Data Security Standard (DSS) are guidelines created by credit card companies to ensure all businesses meet security standards. If your software processes payments you need to ensure it meets PCI Compliance.
  • Fraud Protection Tools. iATS Payments offers additional fraud protection tools to protect your organization and donors’ information. These tools can be customized to your nonprofit so you only invest in what you need.

In addition to simply helping nonprofits process donations and other funds they receive, we at iATS Payments also offer our own solutions that can help elevate and optimize your fundraising efforts:

Additional Payment Processing Resources for Nonprofits

If you want to learn more about payment processing for nonprofits and the best way to accept donations online, check out these additional resources our team at iATS Payments put together:

  • iATS Payments Blogs. Review these blogs for best practices and top tips regarding fundraising and the nonprofit world.
  • iATS Payments Case Studies. For a specific situation on how iATS Payments can help, read our case studies.