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The Central Midwest District UUA merged in 2013 with the Districts of Heartland and Prairie Star to form the MidAmerica Region of the Unitarian Universalist Association.
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Using Credit Cards in Your Congregation

Why would you want to use credit cards?

Here’s an example: In the church where I’m a member, we wanted to allow people to use their credit cards when paying for Service Auction purchases a couple of years ago.

How would you go about that?

In a small group where a small number of transactions will be processed, it often doesn’t make sense to set up a merchant credit card account. Beyond the per-transaction fee and the percentage of each transaction taken by the processor, nearly all charge some kind of monthly fee for the service, ranging from $20 to nearly $50 per month.

Where do you start?

In this case, one of the church’s members offered to run the purchases through their business credit card merchant account and write the church a check for that amount less the processing charges.

The auction went well. Several people did opt to use their credit or debit cards. We wrote down all the information and handed it off to be processed.

Unfortunately the member’s business started to go through some changes. Several calls from the church went unheeded. The church didn’t have the money from those Service Auction purchases. Eventually it all resolved but it took several months to collect the money from the transactions that had been processed. It turned out to be a strain on finances and on relationships within the church for a while.

What else might work?

The wiki at www.uuism.net/uuwiki/index.php?title=UU-Money has some questions and a few answers about ways to take donations online, including a write-up on the popular PayPal service. PayPal has been a division of EBay for several years now.

Here are some examples of how it has worked in our District:

1. My church had another occasion to use credit card processing. This time the treasurer and the office administrator set up a PayPal account. Money from this event was available within a few days and was transferred into the church’s bank account. They’re looking at more ways to use PayPal.

2. In 2008, two District groups started a short-term project. The UU Women’s Connection (formerly UU Women’s Federation) and the Women and Religion Committee collaborated, then teamed up with 5 churches spread out across the District to conduct facilitator training sessions for the new “Cakes for the Queen of Heaven” curriculum. There was a small fee to register and they wanted to collect answers to two questions: childcare needs and food allergies. So they set up a PayPal account and a web page where women could register to attend the training sessions. A mail-in form was also available. It turned out that over 80% of the registrants used the online form with the PayPal purchase option. In addition, the information the group wanted was collected. With each registration, PayPal sent a notice immediately so the group knew right away. That made tracking the registration information easy.

3. CMwD office manager Peggy Boccard set up a PayPal account for chalice lighter donations. I set up a page on our website for the “DONATE” button. That makes donating convenient for the people who have pledged to make Chalice Lighter donations.

4. At our District Assembly, we set up a satellite UUA Bookstore. In response to requests to process credit cards, we first tried to use our online registration system to process purchases. While at first it seemed ideal because people who had registered that way would have their information already in the system, the big disadvantage to that was having to log each person in and go through several pages of the registration process to get to the purchase area. Last year we set up a PayPal button for the Bookstore purchases, and with wireless access at the convention center, we were able to process those credit card purchase in a quick and easy manner.

So one good possibility is to use PayPal. With their new recurring payments (subscription) option, it might come in handy once again.

Gretchen Ohmann
CMwD Communications Coordinator