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Card Payment Machines for Charities: Your Questions Answered


We are headed toward cashless operations being the new norm. If you do not offer the option for your community to pay by card, you inadvertently limit your fundraising capabilities. Picture this: at your next fundraising event, a customer wants to make a purchase. How exciting! However, there is a downside and it is not a matter of pricing. The would-be customer does not have cash with them! Instead of turning them away, you pull out your brand new card reader! Is it as simple as buying a card machine? No, not quite. However, we can walk you through the steps of credit card processing for nonprofits and give you the information you need to make sure you make the best decision for your organization. 

Let’s go!


Why Buy a Card Payment Machine?

In a nutshell, the pros of card payment machines are that they can increase your donations and payments substantially. Most people do not carry cash unless they have a reason to, and even then, they often forget to pack it into their wallet (do not tell us we are the only ones!). There are so many ways to pay with credit cards that these days many people see no reason to have cash at all. You can even tap your phone or smartwatch to most card payment devices, and pay with the help of the bank card that is hooked up to it!

card-payment-machines-for-charities-your-questions-answered-whyTristan is ready to learn all about card payment machines!

The easier it is for people to pay, and the more payment options you have for them, the more likely they will be to make a contribution. 


Where You Can Buy a Card Payment Machine

Many payment processing companies, like PayPal, actually give you the option to purchase one of their specially designed card readers, which customers will either swipe their cards through, insert their cards into, or tap their cards against, to purchase items at your storefront or events. Basic credit card readers usually attach to tablets. You will need to download the app of your preferred processing system, and then, along with the credit card reader, you can process payments. Basic models are available for roughly $25- $50. Simple credit card readers for nonprofits are a lot easier on the budget than terminals. However, terminals have all the capabilities of a card reader, tablet, and app combined. Terminals are usually hundreds of dollars on the low end. Some of the companies that sell them include:

  • Helcim: With free shipping and a countertop stand, the Helcim device will cost you $109. It’s a small and sleek model.

  • Square: Some of the models from Square are as cheap as $10. That would be for a swipe-only AUX plugin for a smartphone or tablet. Other models are roughly $50, with the full-size terminal at $300. 

  • Clover: The smallest model is $49 and has basic features, whereas the larger is $500, and allows for tap-to-pay transactions. 

  • Shopify: Their simplest model is also clocking in at $49, with an additional model available for tap-to-pay and chip options. 

  • Stripe: Once again, the swipe-only model from Stripe is $49 dollars, ranking us a solid average landing just under $50 before taxes and additional fees.

  • SumUp: Falling in line as the cheapest device is SumUp. They have a 3-in-1 model for only $19, and it accepts chip, swipe, Apple Pay, and Google Pay. 

  • National Processing: The first terminal or card reader is free, along with setup. With National Processing, you choose a services tier with a monthly fee based on who you are, what you want, and what kind of revenue your business accepts. National Processing will even swap out your old hardware and software for free if you need them to. 

Pro Tip: Some companies offer your first card reader for free as a welcoming gift. 


Before Buying

As you get ready to make a purchase, make sure you keep an eye out for the potential cons of this payment method. More specifically, ensure that your chosen card machine provider accepts card payments for nonprofits. A third-party processor may work with charities differently than other organizations. Some of them may not work with your organization, whereas some may give you a discounted rate, so be on the lookout. 

Most of the time, there are apps that are associated with or created by the providers, so be sure to read plenty of reviews about them. You want to ensure that the software you will have to use has ease of access, so look for positive reviews about the user experience. Your team will have to be able to operate it, so it will have to be easy to learn. 

Pro Tip: Check reviews for issues with customer service. Customer service is massively important when dealing with any sensitive information like data, payment, and card numbers. Beyond that, you have to be comfortable working with the app to process payments. 

In addition, you will need to decide if you want the capability for mainly swipe or chip transactions, as many readers will only accept either one or the other. As you noticed above, the tap-to-pay and chip readers tend to get more expensive. The technology is a little more complex, and the systems are more modern. More than half of Americans are using contactless payment, and they may not have any other kind of payment on them.

card-payment-machines-for-charities-your-questions-answered-before-buyingBeatrice is thinking up all kinds of ways a card payment machine could be beneficial to her.

Lastly, it is important to ask directly about any hidden fees. This is especially important if you have to sign a long contract. Some card reader providers may charge an additional processing fee for some things, such as an e-commerce transaction.  Choosing the best payment processor is much easier when you know about all of the potential downsides. Save yourself from that frustrating moment when your bill comes out to be more than you had signed up for by asking your representative a lot of questions. 


4 Ways to Use Your Card Payment Machine 

Card machine payments open your nonprofit up to a whole new side of the world, one where funds are frequently available and always able to be spent. Here are a few specific examples:

  1. Fundraising events: Many people will only have their cards with them or will have already spent the cash they had, yet they will want to support you more, whether that be through donations or the purchasing of goods you sell. Card readers make larger donations and purchases possible! They ensure that people can give as much as their hearts desire, especially at something like a fundraising event, where people come into contact with the inner workings of your cause head-on. That is to say, they learn about just what you stand for and where their money would go if they were to donate it. Do not limit the extent of others’ offerings by failing to provide a card reader.

  2. Donation boxes: By making sure there is a credit card reader next to your donation boxes, you will have the same effect as a donation page on your website as you will be able to accept donations from anyone potential donors who walk by. This is a particularly effective payment processing avenue for churches, as churches are known to have collection boxes, and congregation members frequently use them.

  3. Registration events: Imagine that you request all potential members to bring their checkbooks. In a perfect world, this plan would go off without a hitch. In the real world, however, some people do not have checking accounts, someone will forget the checkbook they do have, or others will leave it in their car (which is inevitably parked across town). These people are unable to drop off their check, so your organization spends time and resources tracking them down after the event. Using a card payment machine to collect membership fees at registration events is a timesaving alternative.

  4. Selling tickets: Many organizations hold various events, raffles, and silent auctions throughout the year. Because you can avoid collecting, counting, and protecting cash, card readers,or online payment options like PayPal, make ticket sales for these gatherings a much more straightforward process.


Final Thoughts

There is a lot to know about purchasing a card reader to process credit card payments, but do not worry. Once you learn all the important parts, and you take your first payment, it likely will not seem all that complicated. Mobile payments are skyrocketing in popularity, and that goes for charity credit card processing all the same. Diversify your funds, and bring real flexibility to your payments. You should now have the tools to find an effective solution for your charity card payments, so good luck!


Springly is trusted by over 20,000 nonprofits to help them run their organizations on a daily basis. Try it, test it, love it with a 14-day free trial!


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