There are three ways you can give by ACH:
- Via the donor interface without logging in – If you’d like, a donor can visit the online giving interface and donate without logging in. This requires that your bank account be verified by “instant bank verification” (see below). If you’re setting up a recurring gift, your bank account will be saved automatically as a payment method on your donor profile.
- Via the donor interface after logging in – If you know you’ll be using your bank account to donate in the future, you may want to save your bank information. In this case, you would log into the donor interface, visit your profile, and add the account as a payment method. Once your bank account has been verified it can be used as a payment method for ACH donations.
- An admin can add the account for the donor in the admin interface – This is really a backup method of adding bank accounts to donor profiles. It’s less ideal because it required verification by “micro-deposit” (see below). Once your bank account has been verified it can be used as a payment method for ACH donations.
The lifecycle of an ACH donation
After a bank account has been verified by a donor, the lifecycle of an ACH donation looks like this:
- An ACH donation is initiated (by the donor themselves, by an admin on the donor’s behalf, or by the system in the case of an automatic recurring donation).
- The ACH donation is marked “pending” as we wait for the donor’s bank to complete the charge. During this time, the donation can neither be edited or refunded.
- If it fails, the donor is notified via email and the donation is marked as failed in the donor’s account history.
- If it succeeds, then the pending status is removed. The donation can now be refunded by an admin. The fund allocation can also be edited by the admin, providing the total amount of the donation is the same after editing.
ACH donations are cheap, but slow
ACH is a very old, very slow banking system. When compared to credit card or debit card donations, expect your ACH donations to take a number of days to complete. The upside is that it’s considerably cheaper at $.25 per transaction.
ACH donations can take anywhere from 2 to 5 business days to post to Stripe (and Giving) as successful donations. Some banks add an additional 2-3 business days if it’s the very first time the donor has initiated an ACH donation over PCO Giving to your church. It’s common for a bank to take extra caution when someone new (in this case, Stripe) is making an ACH withdrawal request for the very first time.
In practice, it takes about a week for an ACH donation to actually make its way into your Stripe account. Stripe has a rolling 2 day payout schedule, so expect an ACH donation to sit at Stripe for another day or two before it’s queued for a payout to your bank (Stripe calls this a “transfer”). Stripe transfers are… you guessed it… ACH payments. That means it will take another 5 business days for a Stripe transfer to make its way to your church bank account. This makes the complete lifecycle of the donation around 2 full weeks (or longer if there’s a US Federal holiday during those weeks) from the time the gift is given to the time you actually see those funds in your church bank account. Again, the upside is that it costs you $.25 in processing fees to transfer a $10,000 donation.
Why bank account verification is required
If a donor has a bank account and they give a 3rd party authority to reach into that account and withdraw money, the 3rd party system needs to know that they actually control that bank account. Because they’re giving it the authority to withdraw funds, it’s different than a payroll company (for example) which typically makes deposits and with whom banks have a relationship with.
Examples of 3rd party transactional systems:
- Investment brokers (like Vanguard and Fidelity)
- Payment processors (like Stripe)
- Other banks
Verification shows that the donor has access to the bank account being connected, they’ve given permission to withdraw money, and they have the right account. It lowers the chance of fraud and incurring fees from the bank for errant withdrawals.
Instant account verification
By default, Giving will prompt the donor to select from one of the 13 largest banks in the US. The interface looks like this:
The banks that support instant verification are:
If your organization is based in the US, there’s a statistically good chance that this will cover at least half of your donors. If a donor does not bank with one of these institutions, they’ll be asked to log in and verify their bank the standard way: “micro-deposit” verification.
“Micro-deposit” account verification
If the donor couldn’t find their bank or instant verification failed for some reason, they can use this alternate method of verifying their bank account.
Step 1: Submit the routing and account numbers
Here’s what that prompt looks like:
Step 2: Receive email instructions
After adding the account, they’ll get an email that looks like this:
As it says in that email above, the donor will receive 2 tiny deposits to their account within a few days.
Step 3: Wait for the micro-deposits to post to the donor’s bank account
Here’s an example of how these deposits might appear on a bank’s ledger:
Some banks show these micro-deposits within a day or two. Some take 4 or 5 business days to show them. A few days after posting the micro-deposits, Stripe will recoup those deposits in a single withdrawal. The donor should ignore this third item.
For most donors, it will take a couple business days for these micro-deposits to post to their account. Slow banks can even take three or four. If a week goes by and the account is still unverified, Giving will send the donor a gentle email reminder to go check their account and complete the verification process.
Step 4: Enter these deposit amounts
The donor will need to come back to the donor interface, click the blue “verify” button, and enter those amounts:
If the deposited amounts match, the account will appear as a payment method option when donating:
Or, they can communicate the micro-deposit amounts to you, the admin, and let you enter them on the admin side of Giving:
Your screen on the admin side of Giving will look similar:
If the donor is ever unsure of the status of a verification, you can check for them in their donor profile on the “Pay Methods” tab: