Choosing the Right Payment Processing Service to Accept Online Donations

By | Budget, Cryptocurrency, Donations, Fiscal, Fundraising, Nonprofit | No Comments

Most nonprofits accept donations through their website. If you don’t, you are missing out on many potential donations. Donors motivated to respond to an online solicitation, email, or news articles about the cause your work supports may wish to donate immediately rather than write a paper check and drop it in the mail. Accepting online donations provides a simple, easy pathway for people to give when they are able and motivated to do so.

Yet with so many choices of online payment processors, credit card payment gateways, bank payment systems, third party payment processors, and now even cryptocurrencies, what’s a nonprofit to do?

We’ve tried to make it as easy as possible for you to understand the many possible methods of accepting payments and help you sort through both the pros and cons of each. When you’re ready to proceed, if you still have questions, please call Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113. We are happy to help.

How Online Payment Systems Work

Nearly everyone reading this has purchased something online, so you should be familiar with how online payments work from the consumer end. The consumer end is called the “front end” or the “interface.” The shopping cart system is fairly straightforward, with variations to allow for different goods or services purchased. An online clothing retailer may have a spot for discount or coupon codes; a nonprofit may have a spot to share a message if the donation is in honor of someone.

Behind the interface or shopping cart  is a complex network of information shared by multiple parties to complete a credit card transaction online.

Encryption

Encryption means coding the information sent over the internet so that it cannot be ready unless someone has the key to decode it. After clicking “pay” or “order”, your credit card information is encrypted for security purposes. It then goes to an aggregator or a bank processor.

Aggregators

 An aggregator is a company that processes payments. As the name implies, aggregators collect payments from multiple entities such as merchants, nonprofits, and others to accept credit card payments and bank transfers without the need to set up a special merchant account. The aggregator makes an agreement with the merchant bank and batches multiple companies under their account for processing. In return, they assume a greater risk since they are dealing with multiple entities and may charge more for their services.

Acquirer (Bank)

 Merchant accounts are created by a merchant bank (called an acquirer). The bank settles and deposits the funds from the transaction into your bank account. They are responsible for ensuring that payment is rendered to your account once the transaction is approved.

Cryptocurrency Wallets

 Yet a third payment method available to nonprofits today is cryptocurrency. Bitcoin, Ether, LiteCoin and many other alternative payment methods are all potential forms of donation. Accepting donations in such coins is a slightly different process than accepting direct payments.

Cryptocurrencies are sent via the blockchain. An exchange facilitates sending and receiving cryptocurrencies. Senders can transmit their currency to the receiver’s wallet, a unique address that can be shared on your site to accept payments.

To set up a wallet, you’ll need to create an account with an exchange and submit information to pass KYC (know your customer). Cryptocurrencies received through the exchange can be changed into dollars or other government-backed currencies and deposited into your bank account. The exchange subtracts a fee for the transfer, which varies according to the exchange.

Pros and Cons of Each Payment Method

There is no clear-cut, single answer about which payment method is best for a nonprofit. You’ll need to weigh each factor in your decision.

Aggregators

 Pros:

  • Easier and faster to set up an account since aggregators tend to accept all types of businesses including new nonprofits.
  • Aggregators tend to be on the alert for fraud even more readily than banks because they accept riskier clients.
  • Better for small nonprofits with lower volume of monthly transactions.

Cons:

  • Charge a higher fee than banks.
  • Less customer support and service.

Merchant Banks

Pros:

  • Better for established nonprofits.
  • Better if you have higher volume of monthly transactions.
  • Better customer service than aggregators.

Cons:

  • Higher fees.
  • Pickier about who they accept, so if your nonprofit is new, banks may turn you away.
  • Tends to be better for high or steady volume, so if you can’t predict donation volume yet, may be costly.

Cryptocurrency Exchanges

 Pros:

  • Adds a new donation method to your nonprofit.
  • High appeal to young donors – millennials, Generation Z, etc.
  • Extremely high level of security through the blockchain.
  • Transactions cannot be reversed by the donor.
  • Transparency on both ends – donor can see that you received the money through blockchain confirmation.

Cons:

  • Fees can be high on some exchanges.
  • Nonprofit must pass KYC.

Clearly, there’s no “one size fits all” when it comes to processing donations. Thankfully, there are plenty of choices, and you can use what suits your nonprofit the best. Sorting through your choices may be the most complex part of the process, but if you need help, please contact us.

 

Welter Consulting bridges people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We offer software and services that can help you with your accounting needs. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Fiscal Year-End for Nonprofits

By | Accounting, Accounting Software, Budget, CPA, Fiscal, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Year-End | No Comments

For many nonprofit organizations June represents the last month of their nonprofits fiscal year, and the start of closing of the grants. As soon as fiscal and executive staff return to the office in July 2018, there will be plenty of work to do to close the books.

Oftentimes nonprofit organizations that operate around a program schedule find that closing their fiscal year at the end of June simply works better. For example, after colleges and other higher education organizations have celebrated graduations they enter a slower time making it an optimal season to close out their books.

Healthcare and human services receiving substantial funding from grants are preparing for end of July reporting requirements, making it an ideal time to get in line with parallel grant cycles. Others prefer to avoid the double whammy of having fiscal closing and tax season that start in January. Whatever their reason, July marks a new financial year of opportunity ahead.

What will your fiscal 2017 results look like, and how will you distribute them? If you close your books at the end of June your IRS tax Form 990 will be due on November 15. Audits will also start to get scheduled which include financial statement scrutiny, especially for organizations covered under OMB’s A-133 single audit act.

Some questions you and your team can be asking include:

  • Where will your organization be presenting your results?
  • Will you go beyond a normal board meeting update and provide results to your top funding stakeholders?
  • Do you also publish results to your website and/or an annual report?

Keep in mind the future funders of your organization likely expect more transparency than the ones to whom you’re delivering results today.  Getting audit ready for year-end is probably at the top of your to-do list and making sure you have all your tools in place is important.

Another way to effectively navigate this end of year season with success is to put a budget plan in place. This plan should be adaptable. If you have just started a new FY 2018 budget, think about your checkpoints and where you can adjust the plan. If you’re on the cusp of starting budget planning, though, please consider how you can build a better budget. We are offering a guide to building a nonprofit budget roadmap that can help you wherever you happen to be in your own organization’s journey.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact Welter Consulting online at 206-605-3113 for more information.

Mid-Year Budget Review

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Budget, CPA, Grant Management, Internal Controls, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit | No Comments

Let’s face it. Stuff happens. And, though you may wish your hard-fought and well-planned budget was settled, the National Council of Nonprofits says it best, “Budgets should not be ‘written in stone’ because the financial position of the nonprofit may change during the year.”

How is your nonprofit’s budget performing? Have you reviewed it since it was created and implemented? Is your revenue on target? Have any of the following occurred at your nonprofit? …

  • A shift or pivot in strategy or direction
  • Unforeseen events (natural disaster, legal, economic)
  • Organizational structure change (such as consolidations)
  • A change in funding received versus projected funding (such as receiving more or less from planned grant funding or fundraising activities)

A successful budget is one that is carefully crafted and implemented by a thorough budget team, then cautiously monitored and continuously updated throughout the year to reflect the inevitable changes affecting your nonprofit.

Download our Budget Checkup tool to put your Nonprofit budget to the test.

To learn about best practices when it comes to effectively monitoring and reviewing your budget throughout the year, download Budget Checkup: Critical Components of the Nonprofit Budget Review Process.

Feel like you have a pretty good understanding about the importance of the budget review process, but still relying on spreadsheets or an outdated solution? Join a live webinar, “Budget Lifecycle: Key Components to Budget Creation and Support” on Wednesday, June 7, for an in-depth review of how a true fund accounting™ solution can help you improve budgeting, so you can focus on your cause.

Looking for new nonprofit software to track your budget?  Answer these 5 Questions to Measure Fund Accounting System Effectiveness.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact us online or call 206-605-3113 for more information.

 

Responsible Data Collection for Nonprofit Organizations

By | Abila, Accounting, Accounting Software, Cloud, Data, Internal Controls, MIP Fund Accounting, Nonprofit, Technology | No Comments

Many people were shocked to discover the amount of data that Facebook and its partner organizations collect and share about their users. What’s surprising isn’t the amount of data collected and shared, but the public’s ignorance of how rampant data abuse is throughout the online world.

Have you ever had advertisements that seem to follow you online? That’s due to data collection from your browser history. Companies such as Google note which websites you’ve shopped or browsed recently and make educated guesses on behalf of their advertisers on which ads to display on your pages. So-called “remarketing” or “re-targeting” is just one example of how you are inadvertently leaving a detailed data footprint wherever you go online.

Social media websites such as Facebook may be in the news because of their disregard of how sensitive people are to data collection and sharing, but your company could be next on the list if you aren’t careful. Take time now to review your nonprofit’s data collection habits, security, and sharing guidelines, and make changes if needed to safeguard your donor and member privacy.

Create and Display Data Privacy Policies

Data privacy policies should be written and displayed prominently on your website. Some websites request that users accept them as part of their terms and conditions of using the website.

Privacy policies include:

  1. Details on how data is collected, shared, and stored
  2. Users’ abilities to stop data collection or access records
  3. Where to send complaints, questions, comments
  4. How IP addresses, cookies, and external links are used
  5. Any other information related to data use and collection

The Council of Nonprofits has a good privacy policy which you can review as a guideline to help you create your own. It includes the major points most nonprofits should cover in their privacy policies.

How Data Is Used

Most people recognize that some data is collected anytime they visit a website. Few object to simply recording IP addresses of people who visit a site but do disagree with who sites share their data with – they want control over who sees their personal information.

As part of your data privacy policy, be specific about how data is shared. Consider limiting shared data only to necessary third-party vendors, such as mailing companies who help you package donor mailings, or some other third party you manage and control. Selling user data may be a tempting way to make extra money, but it can quickly sour any trust built with your member base.

Improve Data Security

Even if you only collect a few data elements when people register for your site or make a donation, you must make all efforts to safeguard that data from hackers. Small nonprofits are actually at greater risk than larger ones because criminals know that small organizations lack the resources to counter against a cyberattack. They are more likely to pay the ransom when data is hijacked and may lack a dedicated IT resource to protect against attacks.

Take the time now to improve data security. Simple steps such as updating software, creating strong passwords, and adding virus protection software to your organization can act like locks on the front door of a house – not much if someone is truly determined to break in but enough of a deterrent that the average thief walks away for easier pickings elsewhere. Consider working with a cyber security expert to enact greater safeguards against intrusion if you handle highly sensitive data.

Although nonprofit organizations aren’t in the business of collecting and selling data like Facebook and other big companies are, they must maintain a basic level of trust with the public in order to continue their activities. Protecting data and providing transparency into your organization’s data privacy and security is one way to enhance that trust.

 

Welter Consulting

Welter Consulting is a technology firm empowering nonprofit and government organizations with effective software, consulting & training that can help you with your accounting needs. We are committed to finding the most affordable technology, the most powerful solution, and providing expert support. By leveraging technology and superior reporting, our team helps to free more of your time to devote to the important work of your mission. We bridge people and technology together for effective solutions for nonprofit organizations. We are passionate professionals who choose to work in the nonprofit sector for the same reason you do – helping others. Please contact Welter Consulting at 206-605-3113 for more information.