What Event Fundraisers Need to Understand About Payment Processing


by Karen Perry-Weinstat

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.

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