Nonprofit Payment Processing 101


There are several basic components that are required before you can commence nonprofit payment processing. A nonprofit can choose to acquire these components separately or subscribe to a service that provides all of them in one package, like Acceptiva does. Your nonprofit will require [1] a secure online form, i.e., a web form, or if you are like most Acceptiva clients, multiple custom web forms for many diverse nonprofit payment processing needs. [2] A method to accept credit and debit card payments and have the funds be deposited into your organization’s bank account; this is accomplished via a merchant account. Acceptiva integrates a merchant account as part of the Acceptiva service. [3] A way to connect your webform to the merchant account; this is accomplished via a payment gateway. The payment gateway also provides security, reporting and some other important functions as detailed below. Acceptiva includes a payment gateway as part of its core service. [4] A bank account to connect to the merchant account so that funds from your nonprofit donations and payments can be deposited directly into your own bank account (and not held by a third-party aggregator). [5] A secure web portal to access donation and payment transaction data, create reports and manage donor payment information. The Acceptiva secure portal provides all these functions and much more.

Secure Online Donation & Payment Form(s)

[1]Secure Online Donation & Payment Form(s)

Nonprofit payment processing forms are different from other pages on your website. These forms are the interface that donors use to enter their credit card and other payment data, so they must reside on a secure server and meet certain industry mandated security protocols. Beyond the technical requirements, these forms should be customized to ensure that donors understand how to make a donation or payment easily and without confusion. Acceptiva specializes in the creation, hosting, editing and management of secure online forms to accept any kind of donation or process any kind of nonprofit payment, and offers an ‘Unlimited’ service package that allows your nonprofit to have as many secure online forms as you need, for any purpose, whenever you need them.

Merchant Account

[2]Merchant Account

A merchant account is not a bank account but a contractual arrangement between a nonprofit and a merchant-acquirer that enables the nonprofit to accept online donations via credit or debit cards and have the funds deposited into the nonprofit’s bank account. The merchant account also details the cost to process credit and debit cards and any other monthly fees associated with processing such cards. The merchant acquirer is the payment processor of record or the entity that communicates with the card associations, i.e., Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover, when a payment is processed.

Payment Gateway

[3]Payment Gateway

A payment gateway connects donation and payment software with a merchant account. The payment gateway also provides security, reporting and in some cases an application program interface (API) to enable nonprofits to process transactions via various interfaces, i.e., mobile apps, lightboxes and direct software integration. Acceptiva is an example of a both a software interface provider and a payment processor that is integrated with a payment gateway.

Bank Account

[4]Bank Account

Donation and payments processed through online webforms and associated merchant accounts need to be deposited into a bank account. There is a one to one relationship between merchant accounts and bank accounts, i.e., one merchant account can only route funds to one bank account. Your nonprofit organization should have its own merchant account and bank account combination so that it can control and manage funds independent of the provider of your online web forms. This also ensures that the donations and payments processed through the nonprofits merchant account are fully tax deductible as the funds are legally and literally being paid directly to the nonprofit rather than an intermediary such as a third-party aggregator.

Secure Web Portal – Reporting

[5]Secure Web Portal – Reporting

Nonprofit payment processing online means that your nonprofit will also need to be able to access transaction reporting online. And preferably the reporting will include details of every aspect of donations and payments and enable you to interact with the data. The Acceptiva secure portal provides access to all transaction data in real time and allows your organization to create reports, edit data, reprocess failed recurring charges and manage donor payment data. Additionally, you can process refunds, view fund deposits and manage merchant and bank accounts. Our secure portal is hosted on our Level One PCI DSS compliant platform and is available to you twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week.

Accepting Donations & Processing Payments Online

Accepting Donations & Processing Payments Online

Nonprofits increasingly look to online tools such as a website and secure payment forms to accept donations and process payments. Online options provide instant, 24-hour access to giving options for donors and allow nonprofits to expand their payment processing reach nationally and globally.

The cost to provide, manage and maintain a secure nonprofit payment processing solution on their own organization’s website can be significant for nonprofits, and may entail monthly and annual security audits. Additionally, the cost to independently create and edit secure forms for donation and payment processing needs can also be significant.

To create, manage and secure donations and payments via your own in-house payment processing solution, entails expenses that include server hosting, PCI DSS (industry security requirements) compliance, secure form creation and editing, data reporting and email receipt transmission, to name just a few. As a result, most nonprofit organizations both large and small, outsource their donation and payment processing solution needs to experts in these areas.

Types Of Online Donation & Payment Processing Needs

Types Of Online Donation & Payment Processing Needs

Many nonprofits underestimate the scope of their online donation and payment needs and assume that they will use a payment processor or donation solution for just fundraising and online donations. At Acceptiva, our over 15 years of experience with nonprofit organizations of all sizes, has taught us that most nonprofit organizations have dozens of transactions that could be better served via an online solution. These include gala sponsorship payments and registrations, membership dues, general giving, annual funds, event signups, recurring donations, merchandise sales, tithing, school tuitions, camp registrations and ticket sales.

Choosing a Donation & Nonprofit Payment Processing Solution

Choosing a Donation & Nonprofit Payment Processing Solution

There are many options available when looking for an online donation and payment processing solution. Many companies that provide such services offer a combination of secure forms, CRM, merchant account and payment gateway. Most provide those services as what is called SaaS or Software as a Service. This is best understood as a software suite that your staff administers, manages and uses as needed to create secure online forms. Acceptiva is different in that Acceptiva is both a software suite AND a service. The expert secure form creation team at Acceptiva will create as many secure online forms as you need for any need, and will edit, amend and update them for you quickly whenever you need changes to be made. This personal service sets Acceptiva apart from the SaaS solutions that offer payment processing capabilities and software but little to no interaction after initial training. Acceptiva clients consider the Acceptiva team as their outsourced in-house solution that knows their organization and its needs and that can quickly provide secure online donation and payment processing forms with minimal effort from the nonprofit. See Acceptiva client testimonials here: Testimonials



Nonprofit payment processing commences when an individual accesses a nonprofit’s secure online form to enter their payment information. This information is checked on the form to ensure that it is entered in the correct fields and that payment data is in a valid format. Upon submittal of the transaction, the data entered on the form is sent to and stored in the payment gateway as a database record.

Acceptiva includes an unlimited number of customized online secure forms that are created for nonprofits by our expert team of form builders for any donation or payment processing need. See the features and capabilities of Acceptiva customized forms here: › Form Features


The payment gateway is a key component of the online donation and payment processing flow. The payment gateway stores transaction data and opens a connection to the merchant account processor to validate the payment data. Upon verification of the data, i.e., dollar amount, address, secure code, card/e-check number and other threshold and security related items, the payment gateway determines if the transaction should be sent to the merchant account for ‘authorization’, where it will be approved or declined. The approval or decline is communicated to the donor/payer on the online form; and if approved, the donor/payer is sent a receipt for the transaction.


Upon the authorized approval of a transaction, the merchant account provider commences the process of ‘settlement’. Settlement involves depositing the transacted funds, i.e., the amount of the donation or payment into the nonprofit’s bank account. Settlement can commence between 1-5 business days after authorization and may vary by merchant account provider. The merchant account provider communicates the transaction to the credit card associations (or bank for e-check) so that donors and payers are assessed the correct amounts on their credit/debit/e-check statements.
Merchant accounts assess fees on all transactions. Fees include a percentage of the transacted amount, a flat fee per transaction and monthly service fee. Additional fees that may be levied by a merchant account provider include a PCI DSS compliance fee, network access fees, international and business card transaction fees and card association marketing fees. The fees charged by a merchant account provider varies by provider and usually fluctuates with processing volume.

Acceptiva uniquely offers a flat fee merchant account that charges just the first three of the fees above, i.e., a monthly fee and a percentage and flat fee per transaction. This ensures that a nonprofit will know exactly what each transaction will cost regardless of whether the payment card used is a business or international card. The flat fee merchant account also rolls all other incidental fees into one low monthly service fee, to once again ensure that the nonprofit will know exactly what their fixed costs for payment processing each month will be.


Most nonprofits use a donor database or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) database to manage and track donor and payer transactions. Transitioning donor/payer data into a database can be done manually via export and import of database ready data files such as CSV (comma separated values) files or through direct integration between the payment gateway and the CRM database.

Acceptiva offers direct integration with the world’s leading CRM database, Salesforce, and also enables the export of transaction data via several file formats including CSV. This ensures that all donation and payment processing activity is easily accessed via whatever database the nonprofit chooses to utilize.


There are a variety of merchant account fees charged to the nonprofit for merchant services. These fees vary by merchant account provider and may also vary depending on processing volume, i.e., the dollar amount that is processed by a nonprofit during a month or year.

Fees that may be assessed include:

  • Percentage transaction fees
  • Per transaction flat fees
  • Monthly service fees
  • Statement fees
  • PCI compliance fees
  • Network access fees
  • Chargeback fees
  • Annual assessment fees
  • International & Business card processing fees


Acceptiva has been an industry leader in online donation and payment processing for over 15 years. We work with some of the USA’s largest nonprofit organizations as well as hundreds of small and mid-sized nonprofits to provide custom, professional, secure online forms for any donation or payment processing needs, whether for campaigns, events, payments, dues, registrations, tuitions or any other need. We offer the experience of an in-house design team and the expertise of an outside professional agency. Additionally, we believe we excel in the following areas to ensure your complete satisfaction:


Acceptiva is easy to use; after all we create the forms for you to your specifications. Our reporting is simple and straightforward, and our donor/payer management tools enable your donors to manage their own payment information without contacting you.


Acceptiva offers dozens of useful features to ensure that your mobile responsive secure online forms are easily understood and that reporting and managing funds is simple and secure. We can set triggers and limits on payment forms and you can process refunds directly from your Acceptiva secure login.


Acceptiva is secure, reliable and private. Our Level One PCI DSS certified platform assures that your donor and payer data is safe and private. Acceptiva does not ever share ANY transaction data with any third parties. We monitor our platform and perform detailed security scans every minute of every day to ensure your piece of mind and to safeguard against fraud. See Acceptiva’s PCI DSS statement here:


Acceptiva offers dozens of useful features to ensure that your mobile responsive secure online forms are easily understood and that reporting and managing funds is simple and secure. We can set triggers and limits on payment forms and you can process refunds directly from your Acceptiva secure login.


Acceptiva customer service is second to none. Our expert team is based in Seattle, Washington and at the ready to assist with edits, questions or tutorials, always free of charge. If you are unsure how to design an online form, simply ask for examples and we’ll show you how other nonprofits just like you use Acceptiva every day to accept donations and process payments just as you desire to, for the same types of events.


We guarantee that Acceptiva service will be an undeniable asset to your organization that you’ll love and wonder how you ever managed without us! We’d love to have your organization as another happy Acceptiva client. Call or Request a Demo today!

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