Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Free--no processing fee--online transactions for non-profits

I have told a couple or three non-profit organizations about this. But I am beginning to feel badly that I haven't told more. If you have influence with someone in a position of authority at a 501(c)(3), I would encourage you to make them aware of the opportunity.

It's been 11 months since Google made the offer, but there are still four months this year in which your favorite charities could benefit by moving donors toward online gift-giving: a tremendous boon for the charity and investor. (Know anyone with a credit card that offers miles or a cash back bonus or other benefit? --Now they can enjoy that benefit as well as grant their favorite charity 100% of the value of their donation.)

First, the details of the offer. From the official Google Checkout Blog:

Introducing Google Checkout for Non-Profits
Thursday, September 27, 2007
Posted by Prem Ramaswami, Product Manager

Today, I'm happy (OK, more like ecstatic) to introduce Google Checkout for Non-Profits -- with this launch, U.S. non-profit organizations (IRS-certified 501(c)(3)s) now have an easy way to accept online donations, and donors have a fast and secure way to support their favorite groups. The best part: it's completely free for the organizations. Through at least the end of 2008, non-profits will pay 0% + 0 cents in transaction fees for each donation they accept through Checkout. And that means donors can support these groups knowing that 100 percent of their donations will reach their charity.

Besides being free, Checkout for Non-Profits is designed to make the entire donation and collection process more efficient. For donors, it enables you to complete a donation with just your Google login, and it helps you track your giving in a convenient and central place (a feature that should be particularly useful for those of us who tend to start our tax returns on April 14). It also helps to drive more donations to non-profits by making it easier for donors to give, and it makes collecting funds as easy as pushing a button. With Checkout for Non-Profits, we hope to do for donations what we're currently doing for e-commerce: increase the volume of transactions by making the process as simple and secure as possible for everyone involved.

To learn more, head over to our Checkout for Non-Profits page, and take a look at non-profits like the William J. Clinton Foundation and the March of Dimes, which are already using it to drive online giving on their YouTube channels.

And then, deeper in Google's Checkout site:
Will I pay fees when I use Google Checkout to collect donations?

Verified non-profit Google Checkout merchants can collect and process donations through Google Checkout for free through December 31, 2008. After this time, all non-profit organizations will pay the low standard transaction fee when processing donations.

You may be charged transaction fees on your first several donations while our team completes an initial review of your account to verify the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of your organization. Any fees you accrue will be credited back to your account in full within a few business days. This credit will show up as a lump sum credit adjustment under the 'Other Activity' column on the Payouts tab.
Any transactions not conforming to the Checkout donation guidelines or content policies won't qualify for free processing.

I guess I should add a couple of caveats.

1) As we discovered with our company, some people feel an almost moral revulsion against the use of credit cards no matter how responsibly someone else may be able to use them. Your nonprofit may need to take this into account, depending on your specific audience. Maybe you want to make a comment, as I seem to recall I did when we first added credit card capabilities in our company, that it was not our intent, in any way, to encourage debt, let, as we had found in our family, a judicious use of credit cards that we pay off at the end of each month can make life very much simpler both for the credit card holder and the recipient of the payments.

2) It has been my experience that it takes awhile to get used to new technology. It seems to me, even if you have no intention of continuing with Google and/or with credit card online transactions (you may intend to implement online checking, for example), it makes great sense to get some experience under your belt, especially if someone else is willing to help underwrite the expense!

When our company first went online, those almost-3% transaction fees for accepting credit cards seemed quite severe. But then, when we began to realize how much more smoothly our entire operation became when we no longer had to handle all that paper associated with the check payments we had been receiving, we decided it was well worth it to us to bite the bullet and pay the fees.

Of course, to maximize the benefits of online giving all the way around, you should probably make extremely visible to your donors the real costs associated with the various methods of transaction processing and, therefore, your agency's preferences:
  • When we process a paper check, it costs us _____ in terms of processing time by various staff members, plus ____ in bank fees, etc. Therefore, . . .
  • When we receive an online donation via credit card, we ______, and, therefore, save all the associated staff processing and handling time. The bank, however, of course, charges us a ___% processing fee. Therefore, . . .
  • When we receive an online donation via electronic check . . .
  • Etc.
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