In order to accept donations, you must first determine the forms of donations you will accept. Begin with the bank where your organization has its checking account, and consider researching different banks and their services. The major differences will be in service charges, fee-free checks or transactions per month, and whether the account pays interest. In addition, some accounts have credit cards or ATM cards connected to them. When the basic bank accounts are set up, you will probably accept checks and cash.
You may also wish to accept credit cards—particularly if you plan to accept donations through your organization's website. One special advantage: accepting credit cards makes it easy to accept donations from individuals in other countries. Accepting credit cards requires a merchant account, and again offerings from different banks will vary. You may elect to keep your checking account with a local bank and use a different institution for your merchant account.
Providers of merchant accounts charge a fee for each transaction—sometimes both a flat rate and a percentage rate—and a monthly statement fee. You may be asked to choose between using a physical terminal connected to a phone line and accepting cards via a "virtual terminal," dialing a number, and having the card approved. Each of these has different costs associated with it.
The virtual-terminal option allows you to accept credit cards on your website using a form. Genetic Alliance and PXE International take donations on their sites, at https://www.geneticalliance.org/ws_display.asp?filter=donate and http://www.pxe.org/English/FormDonation.asp?x=1. Before you install such a form, you will need to ensure that your website is able to provide assurance to users that their information will be transmitted securely. We will discuss this in more detail later, in our discussion of websites.