A client is migrating to new Association Management Software, which will entail changing their credit card processor. They asked for advice on how to handle their existing recurring donations, and whether it’s possible to migrate those transactions to the new processor. Some of the best advice I’ve seen on this came from technology consultant TJ Griffin. He said:
It’s definitely not impossible to migrate recurring donations, but it requires willingness on behalf of both processors in order to exchange the vaulted payment information. It will generally require time and money in order to do it (typically the payment processor you are moving off of will ask you to pay for their time, the payment processor you are moving to may just be happy to get the revenue).
In addition to the payment information, you’ll also need to send the schedules and amounts and each processor may handle this differently. If, for instance, you’re moving from a processor that has a recurring billing system to one that doesn’t and you have a separate app that handles sustainer processing then you’ll have several pieces of data that need to migrate.
Generally speaking, I wouldn’t look to migrate in this fashion unless you have a significant amount of revenue as it will cost you in both money and staff time as it requires a great degree of oversight and testing. So if you’re talking anywhere less than 500-1,000 sustainers, I would recommend emailing and calling and migrating them that way to the new processor. If you can leave them on the old processor and let them naturally migrate in a standard sustainer renewal cycle then that’s probably the best case scenario….but that’s not always possible.
I also pointed my client to an old article from Convio called Switching Payment Processors: Assessing the Impact on Your Sustainer Program (this is an archived copy — click the Open button to read it), and I suggested the following steps:
1. Ask the two processors if they will cooperate on the migration and what they’d charge. If they won’t cooperate or the price is too high, read on.
- Ask your recurring donors to move to the new processor.
- Keep your account with your old processor open as long as the value of the donations (minus transaction costs) exceeds their fees.
- Develop a manual process for tracking and recording payments made using the old processor.
- When recurring donors come up for renewal, move them to the new processor.
- Evaluate this at least annually. Eventually, you’ll either have no recurring donors left on the old processor or the cost will exceed the value.
- If you reach a point where you still have recurring donors using the old processor but the cost exceeds the value, communicate with those donors personally: Call them, email them, send postal mail, and if all else fails, consider a visit. Try to avoid losing or angering loyal donors.