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What Event Fundraisers Need to Understand About Payment Processing

Section: Blog

By guest blogger Michael Kim, Partner Account Manager, iATS Payments

More than likely, your nonprofit is already employing payment processing to manage a multitude of digital transactions. Whether you’re knee-deep in planning your first gala or planning your 100th gala, understanding payment processing is a great first step toward making your fundraising event as successful and profitable as possible. So, what exactly do you need to know?

Payment processing and nonprofits go hand in hand. You’re probably familiar with the basics of payment processing, but let’s talk through how it affects your organization as you plan and execute the perfect event.

Payment processing refers to the back-end steps that make digital transactions possible for your donors. Working with a reliable payment processor allows your nonprofit to sell digital event tickets, promote and sell merchandise, and launch crowdfunding campaigns to ensure you meet — and exceed — your fundraising goals. Obviously, credit and debit card processing is vital for your organization to remain accessible. Plastic is the go-to payment method for many donors, and being able to accept cards online and at your event should already be a no-brainer for your organization. Moreover, fundraising trends show that younger donors are demanding payment flexibility and digital giving. If you’re hoping to attract the millennial market to your event, a working payment processing solution is essential!

Takeaway: Payment processing makes it possible for your nonprofit to move funds from your donor’s pockets to your organization’s bank account. Being able to accept credit and debit payments means more fundraising dollars and a more successful event.

You can accept different types of payments. Your donors want options. The best way to meet that need? Choosing a payment processor that’s able to work with both credit and ACH (Automated Clearing House) debit payments.

Credit Card Processing

Credit card processing refers to the handling of an online credit card donation as it travels from one account to another. When your donor confirms his credit card contribution, his information must go through several checkpoints provided by your processor for security and verification. Generally, any processor will accept the four major credit cards (Visa, American Express, Mastercard, and Discover). Since so many donors find credit to be the most convenient payment method, it’s essential that your payment processor can accept credit cards for all your fundraising transactions.

ACH Debit Processing

ACH debit processing is an alternative to credit or debit card processing. Instead of entering a card number, the donor provides his bank routing and account numbers to directly draw money from his own checking or savings account. Consider it an electronic check. For a deeper look at debit processing for nonprofits, check out iATS’ guide to direct debit payment processing.

Takeaway: Both credit and debit payment processing are useful for your nonprofit. Being flexible as you fundraise and host your event will make donors comfortable and more likely to continue giving in the future.


Payment processing empowers online fundraising tools. There are a number of diverse online payment processing tools that you can incorporate into your fundraising strategy. Here are a few resources you might consider as you organize your event:

  1. Online donation forms are one of the simplest ways to engage with donors in the digital realm. When you include an online donation form on your event’s website or Facebook page, your networks can quickly complete their transactions without ever leaving your site.
  2. Fundraising thermometers provide visual incentives to your donors while you track your fundraising progress against your goal. You can also incorporate your thermometer into your event, encouraging guests to give onsite as well.
  3. Recurring donation features enable your donors to go from one-time attendees to long-term contributors. Your guests can use simple online methods of setting up recurring gifts before and during your event. Since many individuals already participate in online bill pay through their debit accounts, ACH debit processing is a great option for you to promote.

Takeaway: Secure payment processing systems equip your organization with valuable online tools for fundraising and community-building. Taking advantage of such features can help push your event toward success.


Mobile giving can be an integral part of your event. Thanks to online payment processing, your guests can put their checkbooks away at your fundraiser and instead rely on mobile giving options for all their onsite donations. Consider making mobile donations a central part of your event in one of the following ways:

  1. Mobile bidding software can enhance and modernize your silent auctions. Guests can use their mobile devices to place bids and complete their transactions easily. These services will manage the auction from start to finish, leaving you with more time to connect with donors personally.
  2. Text-to-give services make giving on the go easier than ever. You can utilize text-to-give software before your event and encourage event patrons to use their smartphones to donate at the event as well. These tools are easy for donors and nonprofits, making them a smart strategy for first-time event planners and veterans alike.

Double the Donation’s Top 13 Text-to-Give Services for Nonprofits is a great place to start when searching for the perfect mobile giving solution.

Takeaway: Mobile giving options make donating at your event easier than ever. Incorporate donation opportunities into your fundraiser’s list of events using simple gift-giving software.


Fraud happens. Avoid it. Unfortunately, you’re probably aware of the prevalence of fraudulent donations. Working with a trusted payment processor will help you steer clear of fraud as you fundraise. Here are a few ways to combat fraud:

  1. Ensure your processor is PCI compliant. This means that your provider abides by a set of data security standards set forth by the Payment Card Industry. Payment processors who don’t meet these requirements are not secure and put you at greater risk for fraud.
  2. Set a minimum donation requirement. Many hackers use nonprofit donation forms to “check” stolen credit cards by running a test transaction of a very small amount of money. Setting a minimum threshold prevents such fraud from happening on a large scale.
  3. Review your transactions often. At least daily, someone on your fundraising team should check your donation transactions to monitor for fraudulent activity. Report any unusual patterns to your provider as soon as you can.


Takeaway: The most important element of dealing with online fraud is making sure you’re working with a trusted, secure payment processor. Different processors offer varying fraud prevention services, so educate yourself on what resources are available to you.

In order to integrate online giving into your fundraising event, you’ll be employing some form of payment processing solution. By understanding how this process works and how it affects your event, you can maximize fundraising dollars and make this event your best yet. If you’re ready to incorporate payment processing into your next event, we recommend checking out iATS, a dedicated payment processor whose products and services might be a perfect fit for your fundraiser.

Happy fundraising!

With over 10 years of experience in ecommerce, point-of-sale, and payments, Michael Kim is responsible for strengthening and growing the partner ecosystem through strategic alliances. Since joining iATS in July 2014, he’s successfully fostered relations with over 20 partners and executed countless joint initiatives to enhance the way they work with iATS. In his spare time, Mike is the IT director and worship team leader at his local church.

Get your Event Sponsored in Five Steps

Section: Blog

Bringing sponsors on board is not easy. Gaining corporate support is all about strategy. CheckInEasy recently shared 5 tips that can help you get the event sponsorships you need:

Plan Ahead: For a corporation,  sponsorships are a vehicle to advertise their product or service by aligning it with a complementary brand, your organization! When planning a new event, think of of potential sponsors and what types of demographics they’d be interested in.

Think Small: You may already have a large sponsor in mind, but limiting yourself to one big fish is not always the best idea. Several smaller sponsors that will attract consumers from separate industries and may be a better bet.

Provide Research: The right data will support any demographic claims. If you’re enticing a sponsor with promises of access to your email list, show up knowing the number of emails on the list as well as the list’s breakdown according to age, gender, geographic location, profession, personal interests, etc.

Present an Organized Sponsor Menu: Provide options for every donation level. Also, make sure your levels are well thought out, in terms of the value they bring. Always start with the highest levels and work your way down.

Brag a Little: Highlight your organization’s history of well executed events. Experience really does matter. Prove you’re up for the task by building a portfolio filled with client referrals, positive online reviews, pictures of beautiful event setups, and even a list of the third-party vendors you use to ensure your events go off without a hitch.

Click here to read this story in its entirety.



Raising Green on the Green

Section: Blog

While it’s definitely still winter, many Event Journal clients are well on their way to planning golf events for spring, summer and fall. With a little planning, golf tournaments can be a successful source of fundraising dollars for your organization. A recent article by Mark Brewer in AFP’s Advancing Philanthropy outlines several suggestions to assist you with your planning:

One Year Out:
-Secure a date and location
-Recruit a planning committee
-Create and work off a sponsorship plan

Six Months Out:
-Plan catering
-Early promotion via Save the Date
-Plan long term promotion plan
-Order invitations

Three Months Out:
-Begin marketing push
-Set up registration website
-Mail invitations (6-8 weeks in advance)
-Recruit event volunteers

Day of:
Set up sponsor recognition
Organize for seamless check in
Host awards ceremony / dinner

-Thank you notes to volunteers and supporters
-Evaluate event
-Begin planning next year

Event Journal provides easy to use golf websites for information, registration and sponsor recognition. All golf outing website packages include these basics:

  • Recommendation, registration and setup of a user-friendly URL
  • Customized responsive design
  • Event program/overview page
  • Sponsor / supporter acknowledgement page
  • “Share” button that allows supporters to share your site via email, Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • Social media icons that link to your organization’s pages
  • One year agreement, with an option to renew
  • Secure integrated shopping cart for online registration, sponsorship purchases and donations
  • Email marketing option

Please call us if we can be of service in making your next golf tournament a hole in one for your organization.


Three unexpected strategies to help you raise more at your next fundraising event

Section: Blog

Annual fundraising events are a staple for most organizations, a tried and true method of reeling in major funds. But planning, staging, and following up on the event can be a major drain on an organization’s staff. Joe Garecht shares three unexpected strategies to help you raise more at your next special event.

1) Use the phone: Yes, you should send out invitations and promote your event online, by email and through newsletters. But the most powerful fundraising tool is the phone. There is nothing quite like reaching out personally. Start with your prospective sponsors, and after you send out a letter, arrange calls and one-on-one meetings.  Then move to your prospective event guests – target people who could buy whole tables. Give them a call or go see them at their office.

The Event Journal platform provides social sharing prompts and tools, to help spread the word about your event, in both business and personal spheres.

2) Find supporters who will “own” the event: Your host committee should not be spending their time discussing menus or floral arrangements. Enlist committee members who understand they are responsible for moving the needle, in terms of event revenue, and are willing to sell sponsorships and tickets. Make it clear to the entire committee that meeting the event’s fundraising goal is priority #1.

The Event Journal platform provides improved workflow, giving development staff and board members more time to execute meaningful fundraising efforts.

3) Do one remarkable thing at each function: While events grow in popularity over time – they can also get “stuck” in a predictable routine. Mix it up a little each year and do something unexpected. This could be as simple as inviting a local celebrity as a surprise guest, or as complicated as hosting a “pop-up” after-party for young professionals. Whatever it is that you decide to do, doing something really remarkable will get people talking about your event – and hopefully attending, year after year.

Read this article in its entirety at The Fundraising Authority.

Event Websites: Six Major Trends

Section: Blog

While the basic human interactions and emotions behind fundraising events haven’t changed, the way in which organizations promote events has changed a lot. Event MB shares six cutting edge trends in event websites:

Customized – not Custom
Many companies are able to customize solutions for much less, and still provide a robust, end product with which to promote your organization’s event.

Fully Responsive
Mobile-friendly is not enough. In this day and age, event website should be mobile responsive. This means, regardless of the device it’s viewed on, the website will look and act the same.

Heavily Optimized for Search Engines
This is where expertise comes in. When someone searches your event online, you want your event website to pop right up in the top first or second spot. Doing this means the site must be, written, built and tagged in the right way to be SEO-friendly and able to communicate with the major search engines.

Emphasis on Design
Event websites can look beautiful, too! Your website should be top notch in both form and function – and should not be limited to a single page. A robust event website should hype your event, touting your venue, honorees and event program.

To read this article in its entirety, click here.

Must-Know Implications of Mobile for your Event

Section: Blog

The number of smartphone and tablet users worldwide is expected to nearly double by 2021, from today’s 3.7 billion to 6.8 billion. If your nonprofit has been dragging its feet in embracing a mobile-first communication and fundraising strategy for event marketing … STOP! It is time to move forward. Heather Mansfield of npENGAGE explains why:

WEB COMMUNICATIONS – By 2021, 90% of Internet traffic will be mobile (Source: Ericsson®). Investing in a responsive event website, such as the sites Event Journal produces, is a necessary expense. The sooner your nonprofit makes the investment, the better.

EMAIL FUNDRAISING – More than 55% of emails are now opened on a mobile device (Source: Litmus®). Your organization must have a mobile-responsive email platform to promote its event. Think large, visually compelling photos and graphics, less text, and “tapable” calls-to-action.

DONATION PAGES – 14% of donations are now made on a mobile device (Source: Blackbaud), and online giving continues to grow every year. It’s guaranteed that your nonprofit is losing online donations if your donation pages are not mobile compatible.

A responsive platform, such as Event Journal, can move your organization’s special event forward in this respect, providing a secure mobile-friendly shopping cart for donations, tickets, tables and journal ad purchases. To read this article in its entirety, please click here.



Advanced Cultivation Strategies: The Whisper in the Ear

Section: Blog

By Guest Blogger Peter Heller of Heller Fundraising Group


The biggest and best gifts come from direct personal conversations built on strong relationships. But how do those relationships start? The people you hope to have as your donors are not always easily accessible. As major gift fundraisers, we need to be on the lookout for opportunities to connect with our prospects. Here’s one of my favorite strategies. I call it “The Whisper in the Ear.” It is both simple and elegant because it provides vital forward momentum in the cultivation process that otherwise might not happen.

Who is The Whisper in the Ear good for? This strategy is for prospects who are already in your organization’s orbit to some degree, but you have not yet gotten close enough to have an easy dialogue, phone or email relationship. They are not total strangers nor pie-in-the-sky prospects (like Bill Gates); they are also not usually your closest friends, though there are occasional exceptions to this when you can’t get your friend’s attention.

When would you use the strategy? Use it primarily at events of any size or meetings that your prospect is attending. The event or meeting has a purpose that does NOT allow time for lengthy, focused attention between you and the prospect, and even if it did, discussing your organization’s fundraising agenda and their giving would just not be appropriate in this context.

How does it work? I said it was simple, and it is. At your event or meeting, you commit to at least a few moments of polite, engaging conversation with your prospect. During the conversation, you say The Whisper: “I am hoping I could call your office next week to schedule a time to meet so that I can…”

You might complete The Whisper with:

  • “…get to know you and your nonprofit interests.”
  • “…learn what excites you about our work.”
  • “…follow up on Sue’s letter regarding our campaign. Your views will help us shape our next steps.”

When you have The Whisper — you might:

  • Be introducing yourself for the first time;
  • Already know the prospect somewhat or even pretty darn well, but you just haven’t been able to get that vital first meeting;
  • Not even be doing the whispering yourself but coaching your Executive Director or Board member to do the deed.

The Whisper in the Ear strategy rarely gets a negative reply and has started many long-lasting nonprofit relationships that couldn’t otherwise get off the ground. Give it a try!


Peter runs the Heller Fundraising Group located in NYC with clients everywhere. They focus on helping nonprofits build Capital Campaigns and Major Gift Programs, and they would love to hear from you: [email protected]


Planning your First Gala?

Section: Blog

Whether it’s your organization’s first gala, or simply your first time planning a gala, proper planning goes a along way. Sharnell Bryan of The Chronicle of Philanthropy shares advice from people who have run special events to help make your first gala a success:

Form a committee: Form a committee early (9 months to a year prior to event) and be sure to include people who have large networks of friends and professional associates, as well as experience in planning events. Mix trustees with staff members and rank-and-file volunteers who have a true passion for your mission.

Choose event wisely: Plan an event that is related to your organization’s mission. A charity’s locale and its ties to community groups play a big role in what sorts of fundraising events will be successful, in terms of attendance, sponsorships and fundraising potential.

Estimate potential return on investment: Research is important when choosing a fundraising event to determine an event’s costs, feasibility and likely success. Events that honor a prominent local leader generally make money, as long as expenses stay lean.

Budget carefully: Experts suggest establishing a budget for the event before doing anything else. Start with the biggest expenses, such as food, beverages, catering, location and marketing.

Reserve a location well in advance: Space should be secured up to a year in advance — as soon as the organization has established a firm date.

Delegate intelligently: Some tasks are ideal for volunteers, such as stuffing envelopes, checking arriving guests into an event, selling raffle tickets, and preparing gift bags. Staff members are best suited for responsibilities requiring greater accountability, like managing the charity’s donor information.

Seek sponsorships: Corporate sponsors can help defray the cost of the event. Nonprofit groups have to make it clear what benefits the sponsor will receive, as they will expect meaningful of recognition in return for their donation.

Spread the word: What good is an event, if people don’t know about it? Charities can get free publicity by persuading local newspapers and websites to post announcements. Post information about the event on an event page or website. Send out email blasts and post about the event on social media, and encourage others to post socially, as well.

Expect the unexpected: Even after all the planning is done, don’t get complacent on the day of the event. Even the best-laid plans can still go awry. Be flexible and expect some glitches.

Remember the mission: Taking time to remind attendees about the charity’s mission will make the occasion more meaningful. Attendees should know why they’re there and the positive effect their support will have.

Give thanks: Let donors, staff members, and volunteers know that their support is appreciated. The follow-up after the event is the most important part. It’s the most fertile period for cultivating those who attended and thanking the people who helped put the event on.

To read this article in its entirety, click here.

Treating Event Sponsors as Major Gifts Prospects

Section: Blog

Do you treat event sponsors like one night stands? Many organizations are guilty of this practice and it can make an individual or business feel used, undervalued and less than invested in your organization’s success. Icema Gibbs, Director or Corporate Social Responsibility at JetBlue, said at a recent AFP event, “I gave a large donation to an organization for its event and I thought we were dating.  But when the phone call never came, I realized I was just one of many.”

Instead of taking an event-centric approach, focus on cultivating long-term relationships with event sponsors. Give them the same level of respect and the same mindset you bring to prospects for major gifts.

Kristin Steele of Swaim Strategies said in a recent webcast, “If we can create emotional resonance between our organizations and our donors, we’re going to evolve out of the transactional relationship that we have with them. When people feel they’re treated like a checkbook, eventually they’re going to move on to someplace they’re seen as people taking action to change the world.” Steele continues, “The event is an opportunity. When people walk into a room and the event wraps its arms around them and brings them into the organization, they feel like they’re a part of something.”

Here are some tips to help you change up your event approach:

1) Research and Target Prospects
Too often, event sponsorships are solicited via a onetime letter and a follow up call. Instead of using this “shotgun” method of reaching out to a large number of unsubstantiated prospects, selectively target a “Top 10” list of prospects and dig in.

Find these prospects by talking to people who already support your mission: board members, community supporters and even existing sponsors. Who else do they know for you to approach? Remember, you’re just asking for recommendations. By offering to do the heavy lifting, aka “the ask,” you make it more likely they’ll participate with suggestions.

Do your research of that person’s or company’s past community giving and see if you can identify any patterns. Utilize a Donor Search firm to help your organization pinpoint your most likely prospects for long-term engagement. Look for “signs”, such as previous donations to your organization or a similar nonprofit and review personal information, such volunteering history and membership on boards. (Learn more about prospect screening.)

Add these prospects to your newsletter lists, mailings and holiday appeal letters and then communicate with them regularly. This will foster familiarity and will ensure they’ll have some awareness of the work you do by the time you reach out and ask for a substantive contribution.

2) Talk to Potential Sponsors
In Major Gifts, “asks” are personalized and done in person. To acquire major corporate sponsors for your event, follow suit by asking for an appointment. Remember, your contact at the sponsor is a “real person” and people give to people, most often for emotional versus logical reasons. Be prepared to illustrate what your organization is doing and invite your prospective sponsors, as individuals, to participate. Getting prospects personally involved will directly affect their company’s involvement.

Build a compelling case as to why this potential sponsor should be invested in your organization’s mission. When you meet, know your statistics and the impact of your mission’s work on their own employee base. For example, if you work in a mental health agency, you might cite the statistic that up to one third of Americans report they’ve struggled with mental health issues. Then, break this down to the number of people in the company who may be affected and possibly helped by your agency. Make the case that your agency helps their company be more stable by providing a valuable service to the community.

Ask questions to determine their “sweet spots” and motivations:

  • Do they have any direct connections to your work?
  • What do they look to gain from supporting your organization?
  • What can you offer to make supporting you more appealing?
  • Is it in their interest to engage their employees to volunteer for your agency?
  • Can you plan a day on site to discuss your work and rally employees behind the mission?
  • Would they be interested in spending time getting to know your nonprofit personally?

3) Propose a Multi-Year Commitment
Let the company know that the problems you tackle are not a “quick fix.” Ask for a 3-5 year commitment of annual sponsorship dollars or donations. Remember, if you don’t ask, you don’t get. And any good business person should understand that successful ventures are not realized without a multi-year investment. This is good business and a “major gifts” strategy that has been proven to work.

Your long term donors are people and organizations that you are able to move along your cultivation cycle because they’re known donors. They feel valued and validated in their generosity and in supporting your organization.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe, The “Godmother” of Rock’n’Roll

Section: Blog

You’ve heard of Elvis Presley. And we’re going to guess you’ve also heard of Chuck Berry, Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis. So why is it you’re not familiar with the person credited for inspiring these legendary performers?

She’s Sister Rosetta Tharpe, a gifted guitarist and the undisputed godmother of rock’n’roll. Her list of musical disciples reads like a who’s-who of legendary ‘50s and ‘60s figures. Tharpe’s unique guitar style blended urban blues with traditional folk music and incorporated a pulsating swing sound that is one of the first clear precursors of rock and roll. All this in the 1930s and ’40s — way before anyone had even coined a term for this kind of music.

She was born Rosetta Nubin in 1915 in Cotton Plant, Arkansas to parents who were both performers. Her mother was a singer, preacher and mandolin player for the Church of God In Christ, who encouraged her daughter’s participation in music. Young Rosetta quickly became a musical prodigy. After a move to Chicago, Tharpe became prominent in that city’s gospel music scene. In 1934 at 19 years old, she married a minister named Thomas Thorpe, but they divorced shortly thereafter. Rosetta kept his last name, slightly altering it to “Tharpe.”

Upon signing with Decca Records in 1938, Tharpe issued singles that were instant smashes. Tharpe dared to play guitar aggressively at a time when female guitarists of any discipline were rare. This eventually lead to her falling out of favor in the gospel world, as she crossed over into more mainstream music.

In the spring of 1964, Tharpe toured Europe as part of the Blues and Gospel Caravan. A concert, in the rain, was recorded at an old railway station in Manchester, England. The band performed on one platform while the audience was seated on the opposite platform. View this legendary performance here, and keep your ears open for some amazing guitar solos. Tharpe enjoyed several late-career highlights, including a 1967 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival.

Her health quickly deteriorated in the early 1970s. Tharpe passed away in Philadelphia in 1973 as a result of complications from multiple strokes. Learn more about Sister Rosetta Tharpe in a biography by Gayle Wald.