No matter the size of your nonprofit organization, being able to take credit card donations can radically increase the amount of money you can raise. It also allows you to easily set up recurring donations or online giving. Some traditional merchant account providers and credit card processors offer discounted rates for nonprofits, whereas other solutions are designed specifically to help nonprofits collect donations and include tools to make fundraising easier.
The best nonprofit credit card processing providers are:
- Helcim: Best overall
- iATS: Best for on-site and online donations
- PayPal: Best variety of payment types
- Square: Best for in-person sales or donation collections
- Stripe: Best for online donations for 501(c)3 organizations
- CharityEngine: Best all-in-one solution for online fundraising and marketing
- Dharma Merchant Services: Best for nonprofits collecting over $10,000 per month
- GoFundMe Charity: Best for crowdfunding
Best Nonprofit Credit Card Processors Compared
All of the payment processors on this list, except for Square, offer discounts for nonprofits or are created specifically for nonprofit organizations.
Helcim: Best Overall
Helcim is one of the most cost-effective payment processors in the industry, with very low per-transaction cost and zero monthly fees. It comes with a full suite of online and in-person payment tools, plus CRM features that can easily be adapted to nonprofit functions.
While it does not provide discounted processing fees of its own, Helcim does offer Visa and Mastercard’s special interchange rates for nonprofits, which lowers your overall processing fee.
In our evaluation, Helcim scored 4.35 out of 5. Unlike PayPal, it does not charge organizations for use of its payment processing tools, such as its virtual terminal, and offers a much simpler pricing structure. It aced the payment types score and did well in the other features. However, Helcim lost points mainly for its limited integrations, which include nonprofit platforms. iATS, Stripe, and PayPal offer more options.
- International payments processing: Helcim does not take any cross-border fees except for what card networks are charging (1%–3%). It also does not collect any currency conversion fees when you accept donations from overseas, which sets it apart from most on our list.
- Over-the-phone payments: Use Helcim’s virtual terminal to collect donations over the phone. It can be accessed from any browser and even allows you to set up recurring payments.
- Customer portal: Helcim provides a free customer portal at no extra cost. You can use this to allow your donors to manage their memberships and subscriptions. CharityEngine has a similar feature, while others, like PayPal, do let customers manage recurring payments in their subscription portal. It also comes with a card vault feature that stores credit card information securely.
- Online donations: Helcim’s payment gateway is easy to set up with its payment page wizard that allows you to customize the page to match your nonprofit’s brand. You can also design “Donate” buttons and QR codes, which you can embed in your emails and social media campaigns.
What Helcim Is Missing
Helcim does not have dedicated fundraising tools and offers limited third-party integrations, so you may find it difficult to use if you wish to partner with nonprofit platforms. If this feature is something you need, consider Stripe for pure payment processing (it even supports platforms like GoFundMe) and PayPal for more flexible payment options.
iATS: Best for Donations
Built for nonprofits, iATS Payments is an all-in-one payment solution for international credit card (very much like PayPal) and ACH payment processing. However, iATS is unique because it works with charities of all sizes and offers secure online forms, making accepting donations safe and easy. It also integrates with CRM and donation-oriented software and companies.
Over 15,000 nonprofits work with iATS, and it partners with over 100 different CRM, event management, and charitable services. Of note is its mobile app for accepting donations and payments anywhere (such as at a local craft show and civic event) and its Salesforce payment processing app, Brickwork. If you use Salesforce, Brickwork makes it easy to take donations, simplify donor updates, and keep donor information and transactions on the same platform.
Based on our evaluation, iATS earned an overall score of 4.34 out of 5. It scored well on its pricing features and payment flexibility, including its own mobile payment app. However, it depends on third-party applications like Salesforce for virtual terminals.
- Online forms: iATS specializes in creating online forms that you can customize for different types of donations such as tithing, event signups, and auction bids.
- Mobile payment: This payment processor was specifically designed for nonprofits and includes a mobile payment app with its own mobile card reader. It’s a simpler version than PayPal Zettle or Square, so it is good for donations, but not if you also sell items for your charity.
- Third-party integrations: iATS integrates with hundreds of technology partners and can manage payments from your CRM, auction software, and online fundraising platform. It compares well to Stripe in this way.
- Salesforce integration: Brickwork by iATS is a native Salesforce app that opens you to more nonprofit and management tools, such as online and offline virtual terminals, donor database, and scheduling recurring donations. Others, like Stripe, also integrate with Salesforce, but only for the collection of payment.
What iATS Is Missing
iATS Payments’ website lists variable deposit times depending on your payment type, from one to two business days for Visa, Mastercard, and American Express transactions to every Thursday for Discover transactions. Meanwhile, ACH transactions are deposited every Wednesday. This arrangement may not be suitable if your business requires fast access to your funds; instead, consider Square, which offers options for same-day transfers for a 1.5% fee.
PayPal: Best for Payment Variety
With no minimums and a name trusted by consumers and donors everywhere, PayPal is a good match for nonprofits of any size looking to easily accept donations. It can accept international currencies, which is ideal for international organizations or nonprofits looking to fundraise overseas. What makes it unique, however, is that in addition to accepting PayPal payments, nonprofits can accept PayPal Credit, Pay in 4, and Venmo, which is also owned by PayPal. It also accepts a wide range of wallet and bank-transfer payment types. Therefore, PayPal is the clear leader for payment processing versatility, making it our most recommended provider for accepting a wide range of payment types.
PayPal’s sister service, Braintree, is best suited if you need greater online customizability and want to accept ACH payments. Both PayPal and Braintree earned high overall scores: 4.32 out of 5 for PayPal and 4.11 out of 5 for PayPal’s Braintree. However, it lands behind Helcim and iATS for this update. Unlike Helcim, PayPal charges extra if you want to use a virtual terminal.
PayPal no longer charges extra monthly fees for recurring donations (subscriptions), but it may charge a higher transaction rate.
PayPal offers more discounts for nonprofits, and users give it a much higher ease-of-use score. Braintree fared better for features and customizations. Either is an excellent choice for a nonprofit, and both are popular with 501(c)3s of all sizes.
- Online donations: PayPal allows you to create customized donate buttons that you can add to your website or send via email. You can also create shareable URLs for your social media account and other online platforms. Donations through a virtual terminal are also possible, but cost extra.
- In-person donations: Create a QR code you can display during events that your guests can scan to take them directly to a mobile-friendly checkout to make payments. You can also add a donate button on your mobile payment app where donors can send their donations. PayPal also has Zettle, a mobile POS system like Square’s, whereas others on our list only have simple mobile apps.
- Recurring payments: You can safely store your donors’ credit card information to process automatic recurring payments or send out invoices via email with a link to your payment page.
- PayPalMe: Set up a donation link for social channels (higher transaction fees apply).
- PayPal Giving Fund: Register to receive donations through PayPal, eBay, and other partner platforms. This program is unique to PayPal.
- Deposit speed: PayPal alone gives you immediate access to your funds, if you use your PayPal account, or you can pay extra to transfer them immediately to your account. Otherwise, it’s a two-day transfer to your bank upon request or on a schedule you set.
When to Choose Braintree:
Braintree is run by PayPal but offers more customizability such as transaction reporting for its online tools. However, it’s also more complex, and users said you need someone tech-savvy to get the most from it. It accepts ACH and e-checks (PayPal cannot), is better for handling bitcoin payments, and has cheaper international payment processing. It is also the processor to choose from if you are developing a marketplace.
What PayPal Is Missing
While PayPal is a powerhouse for supporting nonprofit organizations, the system could do well with a stronger customer database. At the moment, it can only store customer information for the purpose of setting up recurring billing and tracking records of daily transactions. If this feature is important to running your nonprofit, consider Square.
Square: Best for Nonprofits Needing a POS for In-person Sales
Square is a highly popular POS system and credit card processor for small businesses. Its tools are extremely flexible, making it a good service for nonprofits as well, especially those that sell items or hold events. It offers CRM functions for communicating with your donors and functions for monitoring campaigns and setting up recurring donations.
It is the only standard payment processor on this list that does not have discounts for nonprofits. However, it’s still competitively priced, and the lower base rate (10 cents vs 30 cents) for in-person donations makes it a good option if you take many small payments rather than a few larger ones. The Square POS system is a plus, but otherwise, it offers few fundraising-specific tools. Users also give it high marks for ease of use, and overall, it scored a respectable 4.15 out of 5 in our evaluation.
- Online donation options: With Square, you can create donate buttons and set recurring payments and customize invoiced donations. This is typical of most of the options on our list, but Stripe offers more flexibility.
- Mobile payments: Square is known for its mobile payments capabilities, with its free mobile app and card reader, so you can turn your phone into a payment processor. Of all on our list, it has the most versatile mobile system with a complete POS that ties to your online store if needed.
- Built-in payment tools: It offers a free virtual terminal, native POS, and ecommerce systems to give you a variety of ways to accept donations.
- Reporting features: You gain access to analytics and real-time reports to monitor your different donation payments from one platform.
- CRM tools: The system includes a customer engagement feature, which allows you to maintain a customer database, send emails, and monitor campaigns. If you need a full CRM solution, however, consider CharityEngine.
- Business tools: Like Stripe, Square can do more than payment processing. It offers banking features, including an account that lets you get quick access to your funds, payroll and employee benefits, and more.
What Square Is Missing
Unless your organization (nonprofit or otherwise) generates more than $250,000 per year in card transactions, expect to be charged Square’s normal rate. It doesn’t offer nonprofit discounts—its reasoning for this is that its transaction fee is already competitively low to begin with. However, if this is a deal breaker for you, check out PayPal for a low 1.99% + 49 cents discounted transaction fee and zero monthly cost.
Want to learn more about Square?
Stripe: Best for Online Donations
Stripe is a popular competitor of PayPal for payment processing because it, too, offers good rates and works on a per-transaction schedule rather than requiring a lengthy contract. It also gives 501(c)3 nonprofits a discount on processing fees. While it does not have special tools for nonprofits, its feature set is comprehensive and includes an advanced fraud protection system. Many crowdfunding platforms that offer nonprofit fundraising also work with Stripe.
In our evaluation, Stripe earned a score of 4.14 out of 5, and users rated it as highly as PayPal, although PayPal edged out Stripe for deposit speed and ease of use. It does not have specific functions for nonprofits, but it does offer a build-your-own POS system, a user interface (UI) for creating buttons, and integrations with over 450 programs, making it a highly versatile payment processing system.
- Customizable checkout page: Use Stripe’s dashboard to customize your checkout settings with client-only integrations for accepting donations.
- Customizable donation pages: Set up your donation pages by adding donation amounts as products that your donors can choose from. They will be redirected to your thank you page.
- Nonprofit integrations: Integrate with POS and ecommerce systems or build your own. Stripe has the greatest flexibility with over 450 integrations. For example, Stripe integrates with CharityWeb, Kindful, Donorbox, and others.
- Customizable fund transfer: Get a two-day transfer to your bank or on a schedule you set. Stripe, however, does not have same-day or next-day funds availability. For that, consider PayPal or Square.
- Global payments: Stripe supports 135+ currencies and has 24/7 support. Most on our list offer multiple currencies, but only Braintree comes close in the number available.
- Business support: Nonprofits are businesses, nonetheless. Stripe also offers financial and business tools that include financing, banking, accounting, and more. Only Square offers as many additional tools.
What Stripe Is Missing
While Stripe offers discounted rates for nonprofits, most of its fundraising tools are from integrations. Unlike PayPal, which includes dedicated fundraising functions such as creating donate buttons, Stripe allows you to design a custom checkout and integrate it into your donation page. If you prefer a system with more fundraising tools, consider PayPal.
Stipe limits its discounted rates to nonprofits that have at least 80% of their transactions eligible, with strict limits on what’s eligible. For example, non-eligible donations include membership fees, tuition payments, ticket sales, registration fees, and auction payments. The others on our list do not have such strict limitations.
CharityEngine: Best for Online Fundraising & Marketing
If your nonprofit runs multiple campaigns, maybe even simultaneously, then having a solution that can handle everything from events to regular donations could save you hours of time, not to mention headaches. CharityEngine is a fully featured fundraising solution that includes payment processing. However, unlike iATS, CharityEngine’s in-person payment tool is not included in its basic features, so this system is a better fit for nonprofits that only accept online donations.
CharityEngine received 4.13 out of 5 in our evaluation mainly because the pricing on its website is vague at best—you’ll need to call to get a personalized quote. Also, users did not rate its interface as highly as others on our list. Nonetheless, they do praise the features, and there are a lot.
You can run events, set up regular donations, have a website, manage direct mail campaigns, run peer-to-peer fundraisers, and more. It can even process funds from credit cards, e-checks, and direct transfers/ACH. It’s an excellent system, so it’s worth calling to inquire about pricing for your organization.
- Online donation tools: CharityEngine’s online fundraising tools include a website, a shopping cart builder, and an online form. The system also offers branding and product promotion tools, something the others on our list don’t do.
- CRM and marketing: You can run a direct mail fundraising program, organize events with integrated email communications and payment tools, and market your campaigns from a single platform.
- User center: This allows your recurring donors to manage their personal information (such as credit card details, address, and communications preferences) on your branded donation platform. Helcim has a similar feature.
- Donation management: With CharityEngine, you can safely secure transaction data, handle recurring donations, track pledges, and generate comprehensive reports.
- Workflow automation: It features automated workflows to handle billing and fundraising, the transfer of data between finance teams, and reconciliation between departments. No one else on our list has this feature.
What CharityEngine Is Missing
CharityEngine pays out funds in a batch system on specific days, which means you may not get same-day or next-day access to funds you raise. If this is a concern, Square or PayPal are better choices. It also excludes in-person donations from its core product features (unlike others on our list) and isn’t transparent in its pricing. Because it customizes a CRM for you, CharityEngine lists approximate monthly fees, and does not list transaction fees.
Dharma Merchant Services: Best for Larger Charities
Dharma Merchant Services is a direct credit card processor that works with nonprofits and regular businesses, generally those processing over $10,000 monthly. It not only offers discounted processing fees but also ensures you are registered with credit card companies to receive the lowest interchange rates. If you handle more than $10,000 in transactions per month, it’s a good service to have.
Unlike Helcim and Stripe, Dharma lost some points in our evaluation because it requires a monthly fee in addition to transaction fees, making it best for established charities with regular donations that can offset the monthly fee. It also does not offer extra fundraising tools like many of the services on our list.
However, it does provide a virtual terminal (which PayPal charges extra for) for phone or mail order donation processing, and it integrates with 4aGoodCause, which manages donation pages for a monthly fee. Users who reviewed Dharma like the service, but it may not be the best option for small charities. As such, it received an overall of 3.78 out of 5.
Dharma Merchant Services Features
- Merchant virtual terminal: You can access Dharma’s online virtual terminals where donors can manually enter their payments from a browser. Others on our list have terminals as well, although PayPal charges for its, and Stripe’s requires some programming.
- Invoicing and recurring billing app: The MX invoicing app allows you to set up monthly donation options through memberships and signups. Stripe, by contrast, allows membership but does not discount for them.
- Mobile payments: Dharma offers a mobile payment processing solution with a free app and a card reader for $149. Others on our list have cheaper card readers for mobile.
- Donation platform integration: It integrates with 4aGoodCause to get donation buttons, pages, and reports.
- Ecommerce integration: You can integrate an ecommerce gateway with your website or online shopping cart and customize it with donation amount options.
What Dharma Is Missing
Perhaps the most glaring feature of Dharma is its lack of a free plan option. Unlike PayPal, which offers alternatives for free and paid use, Dharma charges a $20–$25 monthly subscription fee on top of costs for accessing features such as free ecommerce and recurring billing tools. Small charities needing an ecommerce solution will find Square a more suitable solution with its forever-free plan.
GoFundMe Charity: Best for Crowdsourcing Donations
Most people know GoFundMe as the crowdfunding tool individuals use when they have immediate financial needs. However, it has services specifically for charities. It doesn’t charge a platform fee, and its per-transaction rate, while depending on individual or charity fundraisers, is nonetheless competitive in both cases. Payment transfers for charity fundraisers are handled through the PayPal Giving Fund.
This service earned a 3.72 out of 5 in our evaluation because of its specific crowdfunding purpose. Like CharityEngine, GoFundMe is not designed for in-person payments. It also took a hit because it does not support e-checks or ACH payments that other nonprofit platforms, like iATS, offer. Finally, its integrations are few and mostly related to CRM or charity fundraising. Nonetheless, the rates are competitive, and in addition to the GoFundMe website, which increases your visibility, you can accept donations via your own website.
GoFundMe Charity Features
- GoFundMe platform: In addition to the links and social sharing, GoFundMe has a platform where philanthropists can search for causes to give to. It alone offers such a function. The GoFundMe platform is free to use, so you get 100% of the donation, minus processing fees.
- Branded campaign materials: It gives you access to design tools for creating branded campaign pages and email appeals for donations and invitations to fundraising events.
- Social crowdfunding tools: GoFundMe’s platform is easy to use and offers text, photo, and video storytelling capabilities. Others, like PayPal, offer social sharing and donate buttons but without all the extra tools.
- Reporting tools: You get full access to your transaction data and can generate reports for useful insights on your campaign.
What GoFundMe Is Missing
GoFundMe is strictly a crowdfunding platform and does not support ACH or e-check transactions and card reader functions. This means that like CharityEngine, GoFundMe cannot process in-person donations, which is a shame because it provides strong social crowdfunding tools that can easily encourage potential donors to attend fundraising events. If your nonprofit requires these missing features, consider Square, which allows you to accept ACH payments and offers social media integration with its marketing tools for a small fee.
How We Evaluated Nonprofit Credit Card Processors
For charities and nonprofits, credit card processors should do more than handle your payments. They should provide discounted rates, simple tools for fundraising, and the ability to reach out to donors. We examined 14 credit card processing services for nonprofits to determine the eight best for 2023.
With an overall score of 4.35 out of 5, Helcim ranked as the best credit card processor for nonprofits. It offers good rates with no contracts or monthly fees—in fact, it’s also the cheapest credit card processor for most businesses.
Click through the tabs below for a full list of our scoring criteria:
25% of Overall Score
You may not have full-time fundraising needs, so we favored processors that did not have contracts or charge monthly fees. We also looked for discounted rates, low chargeback fees, and no cancellation penalties. GoFundMe had the best score with 4.75 out of 5.
30% of Overall Score
You need to be able to accept multiple payment types and from many places. Thus, we gave points for in-person payments (including tap payments like Apple Pay), ecommerce transactions, ACH and e-checks, and stored payment information for recurring donations. Stripe, Square, and Helcom had perfect scores here.
30% of Overall Score
The best credit card processors for nonprofits don’t stop at managing payments. They also offer fundraising tools, PCI compliance, a customer database, and CRM functions. We favored those that offered quick disbursements and had 24/7 live customer service. Helcim and CharityEngine earned 4.38 out of 5, the highest scores in this category.
15% of Overall Score
In addition to our own evaluation of the features and platform, we considered the opinions of the real-world experts: nonprofits that use these platforms. We examined ratings and comments on independent user review sites. Square had a perfect score.
*Percentages of overall score
If you are a nonprofit, you should be getting a discount on your payment processing. There are many fantastic merchant services and credit card processors, both direct and third-party, that work with nonprofits. Third-party processors offer not only reduced rates but also additional tools to make fundraising easier.