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How to Change Payment Processors and Keep Recurring Donors

By July 15, 2019

t’s possible to change your payment processor and keep your recurring donation data safe and organized

By Tim Forbes, VP of Products & Marketing at PICnet

Your payment processor plays a huge role in your operations and can significantly impact your ability to fundraise online. If your nonprofit might want to switch processors, though, you’re probably curious about where to start.

Remember, your processor is the common denominator of all your online fundraising campaigns, so it’s worthwhile to make sure you’re using the best choice.

Switching payment processors shouldn’t be approached as a quick, one-off task. Safely migrating your data requires preparation. This is particularly true if your organization relies on or prioritizes recurring donations. No subscription data should get lost in the shuffle!

We’ll walk through the basics and focus on effectively managing your recurring donor subscriptions during the move from one processor to another. Here’s what we’ll cover:

  1. Why nonprofits choose to change their donation processor
  2. How recurring donation data fits into these systems
  3. How to make the switch

Your nonprofit staff (and especially if you’re using Salesforce and nonprofit-specific Salesforce apps) should always feel empowered to make the most of your toolkits without being afraid of data loss. Let’s get started:

1. Why would your nonprofit need to change your donation processor?

A number of different concerns might lead your organization to reconsider your processor. Typically, it’s because you need one or more of the following:

  • A better fee structure
  • A more intuitive administrator interface
  • Easier subscription management features
  • Stronger security and protection options 

Your nonprofit may also want to consolidate processors across multiple chapters, or you might simply want to get away from your old service. This reason is especially common among nonprofits that are ready to graduate from their very first processor, like PayPal. 

Your ultimate goal should be to have a fully-customized donation form that blends seamlessly with your website with an intuitive payment processing service behind it.

The Importance of Data Management for Recurring Donations

There’s one last reason why you might want to make the switch. Your ability to track fundraising data is essential for managing valuable supporters like recurring donors, and your processor plays a crucial role. 

Organizations using unintuitive payment processors might have to go through a confusing manual process to export data, wasting time and opening up opportunities for data loss.

Nonprofits that have recently adopted a new CRM, like Nonprofit Cloud, might find that their older processor doesn’t report easily to the new platform. In that case, it’s definitely time to find an integrated donation app, like Soapbox Engage.

Recurring Giving and Data Management

2. What about recurring monthly donors and their data?

In order to actively support your recurring giving strategies, your donation processor needs to have strong data reporting capabilities. Tracking data from recurring donors is inherently more complex than one-time transactions, in terms of volume and variability.

Donation apps generally process recurring donations in one of two ways:

Payment processors generally process recurring donations in one of two ways, one involving a single schedule and the other involving multiple

  1. The donation tool saves the transaction schedule on your organization’s server and then makes requests to the processor on each scheduled date. This is like making one-time transactions once a month. This relies on your donation tool to make all the requests at the right times.
  2. Some donation tools create transaction schedules directly with the processor, which can then charge future donations independently. It sends records to the donation tool once each donation has been processed. With this method, your donation tool only manages the schedules, not every single transaction.

When choosing a new donation app and processor, think about data flow. 

For instance, with the first method, you’ll have transaction data flowing in for separate donations each month. You’ll have to ensure that your donation tool and CRM can effectively compile all this data to avoid getting swamped.

The second method tends to be easier to manage because the data flow is more direct. It can give you more freedom of choice in which processor you use and how you manage recurring giving data. 

If your nonprofit prioritizes recurring donations, switching to a processor that better supports this strategy is a smart move. But how do you ensure all your data will migrate properly to the new processor?

Making the Switch

3. How to make the switch

At Soapbox Engage, we develop integrated apps for nonprofits using Salesforce. This is how we guide our own customers through the process of switching processors.

Organizations changing their payment processors generally fall into two categories those that are changing their processor and donations app, and those that are only changing their payment processor.

Change your payment processor and donation app

  1. Choose your new donation tool and processor. Explore the Soapbox Engage guide to Salesforce donation apps here for more information on top capabilities to look for. 
  2. Next, encrypt and migrate your transaction data from your previous donation tool and processor to the new processor, including your recurring subscription data.
  3. Ensure your new payment processor can decrypt and import your migrated data. Double check that the subscription data has been properly migrated.
  4. Work with your new app provider to onboard the subscription data and sync your donation schedule with the new tool. This usually involves sharing a few details about each subscription, including name, amount, frequency, and ID number.
  5. Bring your new donation app and processor online, and phase out your previous one. 

Change your payment processor but keep your donation app

  1. Encrypt and export your existing data from your old payment processor.
  2. Make sure your new processor will be able to import that encrypted file.
  3. Share a few details about each subscription with your app provider for them to help onboard the new data.
  4. The provider then migrates the data and ensures that all the subscriptions are properly synced from the old processor.

Not every donation tool out there supports multiple payment processors, so check first that yours can before getting started.

Whatever your reasons, approach the process of switching processors carefully and with the help of your new provider. You’ll start seeing improvements in your ability to track and manage data in no time.

This will also help you better manage your recurring giving fundraising data and develop increasingly effective strategies for attracting those valuable donors!

For more research on recurring giving marketing strategies, read this report on recurring giving that analyzed how 115 organizations acquire and cultivate recurring donors.

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About the Author

Tim Forbes is VP of Products & Marketing at PICnet. He orchestrates the ongoing development of PICnet’s web solutions and gets the word out on how they can make nonprofits more efficient and effective. These duties are informed by more than a decade of work at nonprofits in the U.S. and overseas, where his experience has included project management, strategic planning, marketing, and fundraising as well as website development. Tim was also an NGO Development Peace Corps Volunteer in the Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan. Tim is a Salesforce Certified Administrator, Advanced Administrator, and App Builder with a B.A. in Communication and an MPA from the University of Washington. A Seattle native, he often daydreams of Mt. Rainier, Puget Sound, and the smell of freshly-roasted coffee.