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Is there a simple, inexpensive, electronic way for a community association to receive dues and other payments?
September 2, 2010 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Is there a simple, inexpensive, electronic way for a community association to receive dues and other payments?

I am the treasurer of my community association. My duties include:

• Collecting dues from residents.
• Collecting admission fees for social events and two charitable fundraisers, a 5K race and neighborhood festival.
• Reimbursing those neighbors who purchase items out of pocket for the setup/decoration/food preparation for social events.
• Paying bills for landscaping and other contractors. (Most of the voluntary dues go to landscaping.)

I have been able to pay the landscaper and some of the other vendors electronically, using the online bill-paying offered by our bank. Otherwise everything I do is via checks. This is difficult enough when I’m paying people (usually my neighbors, who’ve come to expect a personal check from the treasurer), but much more so when it comes to depositing checks I’ve received. The problem is most acute with the dues checks, but, after every social event, I wind up manually depositing a few hundred checks.

My question: I’d like to know if there is a secure, reliable and simple online method for my neighbors to pay their dues and social event fees online.

Some thoughts/comments:

• We’re classified as a 501(c)(4) organization – as I understand it, this means that we are a tax-exempt community association, but also means that those who pay money to us may not deduct their payments if they itemize their deductions on their personal income tax returns. Such itemized deductions are apparently limited to contributions to 501(c)(3) charitable organizations. I think our 501(c)(4) status renders options like Network for Good unavailable or inappropriate – please advise if you disagree, however!
• Some of my fellow board members have expressed concern about having residents tie their online payments to credit cards. They’d prefer that the residents use an online system that is only connected to the residents’ bank accounts. I believe PayPal can work this way, but I’m unaware of other options that might work. If this is totally unrealistic, I’d appreciate knowing that, too.
• Online payment processing is a subject about which I know very little – the simpler the explanation, the better! I’ve perused the various PayPal questions and this one in particular, but I don’t think this specific question has been raised. I looked at the links identified in this question to see if any of the listed neighborhood web sites use online payment, but I didn’t see anything promising. This sounded promising and was the only seemingly relevant link I found through Google, but (for me, at least) the site is down.

Many thanks in advance for any thoughts or suggestions.
posted by cheapskatebay to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Why does the board care about the cards? They are not at any extra risk. Your options will expand greatly if they are persuadable on this issue.

I'm not familiar with 501(c)(4) organizations, but every charity I donate to online, except my church, uses PayPal.
posted by SMPA at 8:32 AM on September 2, 2010


Not a 100% solution to you problem, but anyway check Google Checkout
posted by WizKid at 8:34 AM on September 2, 2010


We're a 501(c)(3) and we use Google Checkout. You don't have to have a Google account (Gmail) to use it, you can use any email address. You never see anyone's credit card information or bank account information, or anything other than a process this/do not process this option.

If you have events "in the field" and want to be able to process payments on the fly with an iphone or something similar, look at Square but be aware you may have to wait awhile to get a reader.
posted by Medieval Maven at 8:41 AM on September 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Check out WePay? I'm using it for a group trip right now, and it's been great.
posted by snickerdoodle at 10:52 AM on September 2, 2010


@SMPA: I imagine the board is not keen on credit cards because the payee must pay a fee (several percent) to accept the cards. Bank account drafting does not result in a fee to the payee.
posted by cecic at 12:50 PM on September 2, 2010


Our Homeowner's Association outsources all this stuff to a property management company--your Board must be much more involved than ours to have the Treasurer directly responsible for this. Our property management company does offer a program for automatic withdrawal of dues payments from bank accounts (but not credit cards), and they use a company called "Retail Lockbox, Inc."

I've never had any interaction with this company and so can't vouch for them myself. However, it does seem to work smoothly. Two caveats: One, the PM company is large and handles many buildings, so I have no idea if this solution would scale down to your needs; and two, our enrollment form for the automatic dues payment program looks like it was drafted by a lawyer, so that may not be something you want to write yourself.

Anyway, that's how we do it. Hope that helps.
posted by kprincehouse at 9:13 PM on September 2, 2010


Thanks to everyone who posted... there is a lot of research I can now do!

Unfortunately, WizKid and Medieval Maven, it turns out that Google Checkout isn't available for 501(c)(4)s. I do appreciate the suggestion.

cecic is correct about the nature of the board's issue with credit cards - the fees.

Thank you very much, everyone! If I find something that works I'll be sure to let you know.
posted by cheapskatebay at 5:38 AM on September 3, 2010


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