Recurring donation processing


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.


When a recurring donation is charged

A recurring donation has an “active” status when a payment processor is actively charging the donor on a monthly basis. The donor is automatically billed by your payment processor on the the same day every month. This is determined by the day her initial payment was processed in your nation. If the date falls on a weekend or holiday, the charge will be processed on the next business day.

You cannot modify the date in your control panel, as the transactions are handled by your payment processor. You may be able to edit the date on your payment processor's portal.


Recurring donation status

In the Finances dashboard you can filter for if a recurring donation is active, inactive, or completed. 

Additionally, all monthly plans are listed at Finances > More > Monthly plans. All installment plans are listed at Finances > More > Installment plans. The status of each recurring donation will be included in these listings. The status will be either pending, active, or canceled.

Pending is the default status when a recurring donation is created. If this status persists, it means the recurring donation was never activated and probably does not have a payment profile ID. A pending status will also occur if the control panel is waiting to confirm a cancelation.

When a donation is actively being processed, the status will be active.

No future charges will be made to a recurring donation with the canceled status. This also means that the cancellation button will not appear on these transactions. 


Notification when a recurring payment happens

When a monthly donation or installment plan is created, an initial payment is charged to the donor's credit card. Then, the recurring donation is activated. The next bill date is a month from the creation date. 

Your payment processor will send a notification to NationBuilder when the next payment occurs. Authorize.net sends a silent post URL, whereas PayPal requires IPN integration. NationBuilder recognizes the transaction as part of a particular recurring donation by matching the payment profile ID. Usually, this process creates a payment transaction on an existing recurring donation in your nation.

If a recurring donation doesn't exist in your nation with that particular payment profile ID, a new recurring donation will be created. The software will try to connect this donation with an existing profile in your nation by matching contact information. If the contact info cannot be matched to someone already in your database, a new person will be created and connected to the recurring donation.

It is not possible to set up a notification for these automated payments. The activity can be found in Dashboard > Activity view and by filtering the Finances section.

Dashboard > Activity view can be sorted to show a specific type of activity within a particular time frame.

sort dashboard to display donations in last 30 days

For example, you can sort for Donations that occurred in the last 30 days.

In the Finances section, transaction filter criteria include:

  • Transaction date is within last month
  • Donation type = Installment
  • Donation type = Monthly 

filter Finances section to find recurring donations in the last month

Using these three criteria, you can find all recurring donations within the last month.


Updating credit card information on a recurring donation

You may want to update credit card information when the card attached to a monthly donation expires. Or perhaps the donor wants to use a different credit card for future payments.

All aspects of charging recurring donations are handled by your payment processor. This is part of the reason full credit card information is never stored on NationBuilder. We recommend updating the recurring donation on your payment processor's website because it provides the most seamless experience for both your donor and your organization. 

Editing credit card information involves different steps based on whether you make the change in your nation or on your payment processor's website.

Updating a recurring donation on the payment processor's website

Log into your payment processor's website and edit the recurring subscription profile with the new credit card information. Your payment processor's customer service and online help will have details on how to complete this task. By updating the card information directly on the payment processor's website, only one recurring subscription is needed. 

Changing credit cards in your nation

Within your nation, to update a card's expiration date or to charge a new credit card, you will need to first cancel the recurring donation. Then, you can add a new recurring donation from the control panel. This means there will be two separate recurring subscriptions for the donor: one in canceled status and another in active status. The new recurring donation will start on the day it is created in your nation rather than continuing on the date of the original recurring donation.

When you don't have the card details

Your donor may be wary of sharing her credit card information with you as this is sensitive data. If you do not have the details of the card update, we recommend canceling the recurring donation. Then you can ask the donor to submit a new monthly donation via your website. 


How to cancel future monthly donations or installment payments

The best way to cancel an active recurring subscription is within your nation. When you cancel future payments within your nation, the information will be passed from NationBuilder to your payment processor. If for some reason you cannot cancel future monthly donations or installment payments from within NationBuilder, you can cancel it on your payment processor's website.

Recommended: cancel future payments within your nation

Go to the donor's profile in the People section of your control panel.

To cancel future monthly donations, from Finances > Monthly plans, click Edit icon next to the active monthly donation you wish to cancel.

Personal profile monthly plans

This will take you to the dashboard of the monthly donation. Click on the "Settings" tab.

Click the "Cancel future donations" button.

Recurring donation settings

Similarly, to cancel future installment payments, from Personal profile > Finances > Installment plans, click Edit icon next to the active installment plan you wish to cancel.

Personal profile installment plans

This will take you to the dashboard of that installment plan. Click on the “Settings” tab.

 Click the "Cancel all future donations" button.

When you cancel future donations in your control panel, your nation sends a cancelation request to your payment processor by passing the payment profile ID of the selected recurring donation. The processor verifies the ID and that the status is active. Then the payment processor cancels the subscription and relays that information to your control panel. The status of the subscription changes to canceled and a cancelation date is added to the subscription. The day you push the "cancel" button is the cancelation date.

Cancel on your payment processor's website only if you cannot complete the cancellation within NationBuilder

If you cannot see the button to cancel future donations as described above, you can cancel it on your payment processor's website. This method is less ideal as it may cause a discrepancy between the transactions expected on each platform.

First, log into your payment processor's website and find a monthly donation or installment plan using a recurring subscription ID. In the detail page for the subscription, you should see the option to suspend or cancel it. Please contact your payment processor's customer service for step-by-step instructions.

Keep in mind, when you cancel a monthly donation or installment plan in this way, there may be data inconsistency between your nation and the payment processor. The status will be consistent within 24 hours if you cancel a subscription on Authorize.net or PayPal Express Checkout.

Automatically updating the status is not supported by PayPal Payflow Pro. Please contact your community strategist or help@nationbuilder.com for help updating your nation's data if you cancel directly on PayPal Payflow Pro.


Payment profile ID

A payment profile ID is a unique identifier used to recognize a monthly donation or installment plan. This ID is generated by the payment processor when your nation submits a recurring subscription request. It is only generated if the payment processor successfully establishes a recurring subscription. It may be called a subscription ID or a profile ID by a particular payment processor.

Your control panel stores this ID as "payment_profile_id" on the recurring donation and marks it as active. This ID is required to determine which monthly payment is associated to which recurring donation in your nation's database.


If you’re unclear on how this feature works, please ask a question. If you would like to see changes to this feature, please submit a suggestion.