How a recurring donation is processed

Your website can accept monthly donations, or you can process monthly donations in person and over the phone. You can also allow people to make installment payments on a donation. Both types of transactions are categorized as recurring subscriptions. A monthly donation is a recurring subscription with no end date, whereas installment payments have an end date.

These transactions must be handled by a payment processor that supports recurring subscriptions. If you own multiple nations, do not use one payment processor for multiple nations. All recurring donations that go through that payment processor will appear in your nation. Also, each payment processor handles recurring subscriptions slightly differently.

PayPal Express validates and charges the donor's credit card for the initial payment before attempting to set up recurring payments. Even though these actions are completed separately, both the initial payment and subsequent payments will be included as part of the recurring subscription in your records on PayPal and within your control panel. Remember that a donor must complete her monthly donation on PayPal's website when using PayPal Express.

With PayPal Payflow Pro and Authorize.net, your nation communicates twice to set up a monthly donation. First, we ask the processor to authorize the initial payment. When we receive a successful response, we ask the processor to setup a recurring subscription and charge the initial payment.

Keep in mind that the transactions are handled differently by each provider after the initial payment is communicated from your control panel. Authorize.net does not associate the initial payment as part of the recurring subscription. Therefore, if you login to Authorize.net and look up a particular monthly donation, the initial payment will not be listed. Instead, it will be listed as a separate transaction.

On the other hand, using PayPal Payflow Pro, the initial payment and subsequent payments will be listed as part of the monthly donation both on PayPal's website and in your control panel. Within your nation's control panel, all payments will be listed as part of the monthly donation.