Paypal Makes Four: Mobile Payment Options for Nonprofits

Photo by Mykl Roventine

Mobile payment solutions became mainstream last week when Paypal announced Paypal Here, their new payment platform for small businesses. The technology isn’t new. Square invented it in 2009 and of late, it’s been growing quickly.

What is significant is that a major player such as Paypal has jumped into the space to apparently squash smaller companies such as Square and LevelUp, the latter I wrote about earlier this month.

Different mobile payment options seem to be popping up everywhere, and I’ve heard of a couple of nonprofits using them for donations, auctions and events. Use of these solutions will grow, but which one is best for your organization? Let’s review.


How it works: LevelUp operates very similar to Starbucks mobile payments system. After you sign up and input a credit card number, you get a unique QR code that can either be scanned by a smartphone or waved in front of a terminal.

Fees: LevelUp charges 2.00% flat on the total volume of the transaction.

Details: The president of LevelUp’s parent company, SCVNGR, has said that “Starbucks mobile payment app is LevelUp’s best sales person.” It delivers a mobile payment experience that consumers find easy and pleasant, which is priceless as a competitive edge. While LevelUp could certainly work for nonprofits, I haven’t come across any nonprofits that have actually tried it.


How it works: You open the Square app on your phone and you put the square card reader in the top where you usually put your headphone jack. Enter the amount you want to charge, swipe the credit card and let the consumer sign their name right on the screen of the mobile device. They can get a receipt either via SMS or email.

Fees: Square charges 2.75% per card swipe.

Details: Square may be the most popular mobile payment option for nonprofits. This past holiday season, The Salvation Army did a test of Square at forty red kettle locations nationwide. The Army was hopeful the experiment would go better than the introduction of credit cards several years earlier. While novel, credit cards weren’t a big hit because bell ringers had to record the info, not actually fun or easy. Square is easier to ask donors to do something they already know how to do, swipe their credit cards to pay.

Paypal Here

How it works: Umm…just like Square but with a triangle.

Fees: 2.7%. But if you combine it with a Paypal debit card, the fee drops to 1.7%

Details: One option Paypal Here has (that Square also has) is that shoppers don’t even have to take out their phones. Thanks to geo-tracking on the shopper’s smartphone, the Paypal merchant already knows the consumers is in the business and just confirms the buyers identity by looking at their picture. No swiping or scanning needed! Paypal Here could be huge because the e-payment giant is so well known (and hated) and has the lowest fees. You can’t ignore Paypal Here. It’s here to stay.

Intuit GoPayment

How it works: A lot like Square and Paypal Here, but the reader is shaped like a half-moon. (With all the shapes mobile payment solutions come in it’s like we’re talking about the marshmallow in a box of Lucky Charms.)

Fees: 2.7%, but Intuit has lower rates for businesses with high volume traffic.

Details: Intuit partnered up with Girl Scouts of Northern Ohio to collect credit card payments for cookie sales with its mobile payment app. In addition to its free reader, Intuit also reduced transaction fees for the scouts. The initiative paid off. By accepting credit cards, troops saw a 13 percent increase in cookie sales, with each scout selling an average of 20 more boxes, according to Intuit.

That’s my take on mobile payment options for nonprofits. Has your nonprofit used one of these solutions for donations or events, or do you plan to in 2012? I would love to hear about it in the comments section.