Square for Nonprofits: Why and How to Use

Transforming small businesses online and off,  Square is increasingly everywhere from the farmers’ market to ecommerce retailers. You may have used it without knowing it:  Square is a mobile payment solution that offers secure credit card processing for vendors, including via phone and tablet. They’re one of many mobile-specific vendors that enable payments via the tech already available (and ubiquitous) in our lives — other options include PayPal Here, QuickBooks GoPayment, and Shopify.
Regardless of card type, Square charges 2.75% of total sale per swipe for payments taken on the Square Reader or Square Stand  (more information on other pricing options here). From there, Square deposits all payments immediately into your associated Square account. The app allows for organizations and event planners to process payments efficiently and with little equipment to transport (and no risk of losing an overstuffed cash box at the end of a fundraiser).
It’s also not just for small businesses. Square for nonprofits will allow your organization to make donating easy, especially as carrying cash becomes less common. They even encourage nonprofit clients, and have collected over 10 million donations to-date. With that in mind, here’s our guide to Square for nonprofits.

9 reasons why Square works for nonprofits

You might be thinking, Sure, it’s easy, and other nonprofits have used Square successfully. But why should your organization use Square?

1. Potentially waived fees

Square doesn’t offer nonprofit discounts — their reasoning for this is that their 2.75% transaction fee is competitively low to begin with. However, if your organization (nonprofit or otherwise) generates more than $250,000 per year in card transactions, you may be eligible to receive a custom transaction rate. If this fits the bill for your organization, you can reach out to Square’s team.

2. Flexibility

Square turns any device, such as your phone or tablet, into a cash register. It takes care of payments, processing, and confirmation messages  so you can focus on nurturing your donor relationships (remember: you can automate payments, but you can’t automate empathy). This makes Square especially useful for nonprofits who run fundraising events, host an annual 5k, sell merchandise, or have any other occasion to collect donations IRL.
When you set up a Square account, you’ll receive a free Square reader to securely process donations from credit cards. With this and the Square Point of Sale app, you can process payments (even when you don’t have a signal), print or email sales reports, customize tax and discount codes, and receive deposits to your Square account within 2 business days.

3. Scalability

Square’s intuitive design and helpful resources mean that anyone on your team can use it. You can even invite multiple users (like your staff or nonprofit volunteers) to collect donations through the app on your organization’s behalf. You can also track and compare funds raised by each user.

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4. Instant gratification (and confirmation)

No more elusive invoices, and no need to set up separate confirmation messaging via your CRM or email marketing provider. Receipts are immediately sent to donors via email or text message, and can be customized so they have the required information to be 501(c)(3) Tax-Compliant.

5. Donor feedback

With every receipt, donors who contribute via Square are also given the opportunity to give feedback on the donor experience (whether it’s the process or the event where they contributed). This will allow you to follow up with any unhappy donors to optimize your donation page and (ideally) increase donor retention.

6. Donor engagement

Square has its own CRM software that can allow you to further engage with your donors. The tool automatically collects the information for those who donate to your nonprofit via Square, and then sorts your donors into groups based on donation behavior or frequency. You can email these groups in minutes using Square’s templates, tailoring your messaging based on their relationship to your organization and their donation amount.
Square integrates with a variety of eCommerce tools and ticketing services, in addition to WordPress, and Mailchimp for forms. However, note that it does not directly integrate with other CRMs. If you already have a CRM, you can use a Zapier integration, but these often require some level of regular manual effort, in which case Square may not be the right choice for you. If your organization hosts a lot of events or sell merchandise, and you have a CRM you want to move off of or don’t have one at all, Square for nonprofits may be right for you.

7. Data and dashboards

We love a nonprofit dashboard, and Square boasts a user-friendly analytics platform that tracks history, deposits, donor behavior, and more. If you’re selling merchandise in addition to collecting donations, you can track which option brought in more revenue. If you’re running events or having multiple staff members collect donations at events, you can use the real-time reporting to check in on overall and individual progress.

8. A suite of other services

This ties in with our note on scalability: With any tool you invest in for your organization, you’ll first want to consider people and process. The more functionality a tool like Square offers for your nonprofit, the more it may be worth considering as an investment — especially if you have other financial considerations. Other products now offered by Square include the option to build a free eCommerce site, integrate appointment bookings, even process payroll.

9. Security

This is the big one wherever data is concerned, and Square guarantees secure payment data and hardware. Card readers are EMV-compliant. Square is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant and takes organizational security very seriously, and will also relieve you of the burden of handling Anti-Money Laundering and Know Your Customer requirements. Their website resources also offer a number of security tips for your organization to increase its own cybersecurity, including tips specific to GDPR.

How to set up Square as a nonprofit

If you’re ready to get Square and anticipate more than $250,000 in credit card transactions for sales or on-the-ground donations, we recommend reaching out to their team before setting up your account to see if your organization is eligible for waived processing fees. To set up your Square account, you’ll need:

  1. Your (or the main account holder’s) Social Security number
  2. The date of birth associated with that SSN
  3. Full name for each account holder
  4. Employment Identification Number (optional)

Even if the account is being used by your nonprofit organization, Square still requires information about the main account holder. You can create profiles for different users so that members of your team can use the account without accessing your information.
From there, you’ll need to connect your nonprofit’s bank account to Square. Once you receive your card reader, you can start using Square to collect donations! If you want to get extra hardware or use some of their add-on features, you can purchase them here.
Check out more resources for raising money online with our guide to digital fundraising. Want more options? We have a roundup of donation platforms for nonprofits and fundraising websites. You can also check out our guide on choosing the best CRM for your nonprofit, and a roundup of some of the nonprofit CRMs we recommend most often to clients.