How do I set up my organization’s website to accept online donations?

From merchant accounts to payment processing, how do I set up my organization’s web site to accept online donations? Whether you are setting it up yourself or hiring a company to do it for you, here are the funds processing components that you need to know about:

A secure web site form – This is the form on your web site that collects the information required by the bank to process a credit card transaction. You’ll want to have a professional, who knows and understands HTML coding and CGI scripts, develop and integrate this form into your organization’s web site.

Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) -The web page where your form sits needs to have a Secure Sockets Layer, which is the encryption method used protect the information submitted on the form as it is sent from your web site to the bank.

Digital Certificate – You must also have a digital certificate, which certifies to the bank that the message is coming from where it claims to be coming from.

Internet Merchant Account – This is not the same type of merchant account you use to process credit cards off-line. To process credit cards transactions online you must have an Internet Merchant Account, which is a bank account that accepts the funds from the credit card provider’s bank into your bank account.
Payment Processing Software – This software is what takes the place of the “swiping machine” that you would use to process off-line transactions (just like almost every store where you would present a credit card for payment). It is the link between you and the bank; and this software is generally sold as a package with the Internet Merchant Account.

There are other things that are important to know about when considering setting up online donations processing. Here are just a few:

Number of Clicks – According to a recent study by Vividence on abandoned shopping carts, 41% of those surveyed indicated that the “checkout process is too long” as the reason they did not complete their purchase. The same goes for online donations. The more “clicks” it takes to complete the donation, the more chances there are for the donor to bow out. Read the study for more on shopping cart abandonment:

Keep it Short and Simple – Using the Internet to make a donation should be easier for your donors-not more difficult-otherwise, why would they do it? Don’t ask for unnecessary information and don’t have them fill out and scroll long pages for information. Make sure the donor knows where she is in the process and how much more there is to complete. If possible, collect all the information you need on one page, process it and thank them on the next.

Credit Card Fees – Plan on paying an additional fee to the credit card company for each transaction. This is above and beyond the cost to set up an Internet merchant account and payment processing. The charges usually range from 2.5% – 3.5% depending on the types of credit cards you plan to accept.

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