Managing Memberships with PayPal

Does your society use PayPal? If not, why not? PayPal supports not-for-profit groups and has many tools that will extend your capabilities in any number of directions. So, just what can you do with PayPal?paypalreader

  • Collect membership dues. PayPal offers a recurring billing option which will automatically remind members to renew. This is especially handy for your distant members.
  • Special events. Use PayPal as a payment option for special events. And, with PayPal’s mobile card reader, you can use an Android or iPhone device to accept credit card payments just about anywhere.
  • Fund-raising. Not only can PayPal collect donations, but it will track who made them so you can thank them and provide them with tax statements if the donation is tax-deductible.
  • Online sales. Does your society have items to sell online? Most online storefronts include PayPal integration making it easy to support those efforts. And, they offer an affordable micropayments service making it easy to sell digital products such as ebooks and digital editions of the society’s journal archives.

One very nice thing about PayPal is that your members don’t have to have PayPal accounts to use it. They can pay using a credit or debit card and PayPal will still handle the transaction for you. There are no upfront or monthly fees required to use PayPal and the transaction fees are quite reasonable. If your total monthly payments are under $3,000/month, your transaction fee is 2.9% + $0.30. For a $25 membership, that comes to $1.03. If your monthly payments are greater than $3,000/month, the transaction fees go down. The fee for micropayments (transactions under $10) is 5% + $0.05. That would be 30¢ on a $5.00 publication.

PayPal is very easy to use too. The button wizard (example below) walks you through the process of creating a payment button. In this example, I’ve used the subscription button to define both a single and family membership fee to be billed annually. There are additional steps not shown – including requiring the member to enter his address as part of the payment process – then PayPal gives you the embed code to copy/paste onto your web site.


 In addition to providing an online payment option, PayPal provides some significant bookkeeping too. When you build a button, you can define what it’s for. When payments are made, PayPal provides a register of who paid for what. So, you can easily see how many single memberships you have compared to family memberships. My veterans group has a permanent scholarship fund and various short term fund-raising projects. PayPal makes it easy to determine who donated to each of these.

A PayPal account for non-profit groups is a special category of a business account. These accounts allow the owner to assign additional users with different levels of access. For example, while the treasurer may be the only one who can transfer money from PayPal to the society’s bank account, the membership chairman could be given rights to view the receipts register and confirm that someone has paid their dues.

One tidbit we learned the hard way. When our association’s account was first created, it was set up using the treasurer’s personal email address. When his term ended, we had to jump through all kinds of hoops to change the address on the account. Our solution was to create a generic email address ( for example) and use that for PayPal. When a new treasurer takes over, he/she just needs to change the passwords to the email and PayPal accounts.

PayPal is a cost-effective way to provide an online payment option for member dues and so much more. It’s definitely worth a look.

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