This article is part of a larger series on Payments.
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 for receiving on-site and online donations
- PayPal: Best for accepting a variety of payment types
- iATS: Best for charities that use Salesforce as a CRM
- Square: Best for small nonprofits with in-person sales or donation collections
- Stripe: Best for online donations for 501(c)3 organizations
- CharityEngine: Best all-in-one solution to handle online fundraising and marketing
- Dharma Merchant Services: Best for nonprofits collecting over $10,000 per month
- GoFundMe Charity: Best for crowdfunding
Top Nonprofit Credit Card Processors Compared
Contract/ Monthly Fee
Discounted Fee for Nonprofits
Card network nonprofit interchange
Card-present, Online, Recurring, Invoicing, Virtual terminal, ACH/e-check
1–2 business days
Donate button, QR code, Sharable payment link, Hosted donation page, Mobile card reader, Collect membership dues
From 1.99% + 49 cents (for IRS 501(c)3 nonprofits only)
Card-present, Online, Recurring, Invoicing, Virtual terminal, ACH/e-check
Same day with fee (25 cents to $15)
Donate button, QR code, Sharable payment link, Hosted donation page
Card-present, Online, Recurring, ACH/e-check
2+ business days
Hosted donation page, Online forms, Event registration, Text-to-donate, Auction bids
No discount; Standard fee from 2.6% + 10 cents
Card-present, Online, Recurring, Invoicing, Virtual terminal, ACH/e-check
Same day with fee (1.5%)
Hosted donation page, Collect membership dues, Sales function for events tickets and merchandise
Custom discounts for 501(c)3 nonprofits
Card-present, Online, Recurring, invoicing, Virtual terminal, ACH/e-check
2 business days
Custom checkout with donation amount buttons, Shareable payment links, Fundraising platform via integration
Online, Recurring, Virtual terminal, ACH/e-check
Hosted donation page, Donate button, Collect membership dues, Sales function for events tickets, Donation forms
From 0.1% + 8 cents
Card-present, Online, Recurring, Virtual terminal, ACH/e-check
Hosted donation page, Donate button, Collect membership dues, Sales function for events tickets and merchandise
From 1.9% + 30 cents
Online, Recurring, Virtual terminal
2–5 business days
Hosted donation page, Donate button, Sales function for events tickets, Donation forms
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 Nonprofit Credit Card Processor
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 adopted 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 4.20 out of 5, taking the lead from PayPal in this update. Unlike PayPal, it does not charge organizations for use of its payment processing tools, particularly its recurring billing features, and offers a much simpler pricing structure. However, Helcim lost points mainly for its limited integrations, including the lack of support for nonprofit platforms—which PayPal, and even Stripe, does well.
- International payments processing: Helcim does not take any cross-border fee except for what card networks are charging (1%–3%). It also does not collect any currency conversion fee when you accept donations from overseas.
- 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. It also comes with a card vault feature that stores their 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.
PayPal: Best for Payment Variety
With no minimums and a name that is 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 also accept PayPal Credit, Pay in 4, and Venmo, which is also owned by PayPal.
PayPal also purchased Braintree to increase its functionality for marketplaces and provide other payment processing capabilities like ACH and e-checks. Therefore, PayPal is the clear leader for payment processing versatility, making it our most recommended provider for accepting a wide range of payment types.
Both PayPal and Braintree earned high overall scores: 4.17 out of 5 for PayPal and 4.11 out of 5 for PayPal’s Braintree. However, it lands right behind Helcim for this update. Unlike Helcim, PayPal charges extra if you want to use a virtual terminal and have recurring payment functionality for donations.
That said, 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 on 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Deposit speed: Get immediate funds in your PayPal account and 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.
iATS: Best for Nonprofits Using Salesforce
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 14,000 nonprofits work with iATS, and it partners with 55 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 4.14 out of 5. It scored well on its pricing features and payment flexibility, including its own mobile payment app. However, in spite of being designed for nonprofits, this system depends heavily on integrations to support online forms and manage a customer database, which prevented iATS from ranking higher in our roundup.
- Online forms: iATS specializes in creating online forms that you can customize for different types of donations such as church donations, 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.
- Third-party integrations: iATS integrates with hundreds of technology partners and can manage payments from your CRM, auction software, and online fundraising platform.
- 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.
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, and 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.
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 solid 4.09 out of 5 in our evaluation.
- Online donation options: With Square, you can create donate buttons, set recurring payments, and customize invoiced donations.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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. However, it does not have special tools for nonprofits, but its feature set is comprehensive and includes an advanced fraud protection system. Some crowdfunding platforms that offer nonprofit fundraising also work with Stripe.
See our Stripe vs PayPal comparison.
In our evaluation, Stripe earned a score of 4.03 out of 5, and users rated it as highly as PayPal, although PayPal edged out Stripe for deposit speed and ease of use; iATS also beat Stripe for available fundraising tools. It does not have specific functions for nonprofits and requires you to submit an API request to gain access to its virtual terminal features. However, 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.
- Hosted fundraising platform: CharityWeb, an online fundraising platform for nonprofits, integrates with Stripe and allows you to customize fundraising pages and link them to your own website.
- Nonprofit integrations: Integrate with POS and ecommerce systems or build your own (higher transaction fees may apply).
- Customizable fund transfer: Get a two-day transfer to your bank or on a schedule you set.
- Global payments: Stripe supports 135+ currencies and has 24/7 support.
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 to your donation page. If you prefer a system with more fundraising tools, consider PayPal.
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 3.89 out of 5 in our evaluation mainly because 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.
- 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.
- 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.
What CharityEngine Is Missing
It’s easy to notice that CharityEngine’s nonprofit features are all focused on online donations. While its website mentions support for face-to-face marketing efforts (along with Direct Response TV), collecting pledges from your guests at events may require an additional investment. All of the other providers in our roundup can handle card-present transactions at no extra cost, although Square is the best alternative with its low transaction fee, forever-free plan, and CRM tools.
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 Stripe lacks) 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.
- Invoicing and recurring billing app: The MX invoicing app allows you to set up monthly donation options through memberships and signups.
- Mobile payments: Dharma offers a mobile payment processing solution with a free app and a card reader for $149.
- 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 $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 any platform fee, while its per-transaction rate depends on individual or charity fundraisers. 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
- Zero platform fees: The GoFundMe platform is free to use, so you get 100% of the donation.
- 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.
- Crowdfunding platform: It allows you to get increased visibility for your nonprofit and donation campaigns.
- Social crowdfunding tools: GoFundMe’s platform is easy to use and offers text, photo, and video storytelling capabilities
- 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 Credit Card Processors for Nonprofits
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 2022.
With an overall score of 4.20 out of 5, Helcim ranked as the best credit card processor for nonprofits. It offers good rates with no contracts or monthly fees and useful tools for online and in-person fundraising.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
We chose Helcim as the best credit card payment processor for nonprofits because it offers card network charity rates along with wholesale, volume-based interchange-plus pricing. Along with a zero monthly plan, it makes its complete suite of online and in-person payment processing tools available to fundraising at no extra cost.