From fundraisers to field trips or school lunches to extracurricular activities, schools need an efficient way to process payments for multiple functions. Traditionally, this meant appointing someone to hold the cash box, check off names on a list, and count bills at the end of the day. But that’s an inefficient, ineffective process, especially in today’s digital world. The solution? Going cashless.
Going cashless means you no longer rely solely on paper cash or checks. Instead, your payments are electronic, whether they’re for large items like tuition or small ones like lunch costs. The benefits of going cashless speak for themselves. Here are a few big ones:
- Teachers or staff no longer have to handle and keep track of money brought in by students
- You don’t have to worry about providing change, keeping a stash of bills handy or insulating against loss or theft
- Students, parents and alumni register for events more frequently and contribute more money when it’s easier for them to pay
- You’ll have a digital way to track how much money comes in from where
Even if you maintain some traditional payment methods and don’t go fully cashless, enabling digital payments comes with a boatload of benefits. And cashless schools are achievable at every level of education with the right school payments provider. So how do you get there?
Going Cashless: Optimizing an Existing System
Traditionally, becoming a cashless school hasn’t been a particularly smooth process. It’s often reactive, with different payment systems adopted haphazardly by separate departments. As a result, the “system” is costly, messy and decentralized — limiting the benefits of going cashless.
Scattered Payment Providers
The push to become cashless is often driven by one department that frequently handles payments, such as the alumni office. That department digitizes its systems to capture more donations. Then a separate office speaks up, asking for a better process to track which students have paid fees — so they invest in a separate payment system. The process spirals from there until one school relies on multiple disparate payment providers.
Relying on numerous providers is inefficient, frustrating for end-users, costly, messy and sometimes even impossible. The business office will need to take days or weeks to figure out where the money is coming from; it’s difficult to track which event or activity is driving that payment.
As a result, having conflicting payment systems cancels out a key benefit of going cashless: a centralized, digital database of payment activities. With one central system, you can automatically track any payments that come in and link those payments to a student or parent. You, therefore, have increased insight into student activities: rather than relying on departments to self-report or consolidate information, you can see that a particular student has paid for a sport, lunches and a field trip, all in one place. However, this benefit vanishes when you’re stuck with multiple providers, because you’ll have to track down, consolidate and reconcile that data manually.
Moreover, your community will have a frustrating and disjointed payment experience. Parents need to log into individual third-party systems for each payment type when Vendor A handles tuition, Vendor B manages lunch payments and Vendor C is used for collecting donations. Those parents also need to monitor their transaction history from multiple accounts and passwords with minimal flexibility across platforms. This halting process creates substantial friction, dissuading them from participating.
Consolidating Payment Providers
To address these frustrations and capture all the benefits of going cashless, you need to consolidate your payment providers into one cohesive system. Consolidating providers boosts the impact and success of going cashless:
- You minimize waste and reduce costs so that your payment provider ultimately pays for itself
- You establish a strong brand with the consistency of message and seamless experiences — payments are a crucial, though often overlooked, aspect of those efforts
- You streamline payment tracking on one central platform, from recording transactions to registering which students have paid for an event or field trip
- You achieve a more unified view into the activity of students, parents, and alumni by centralizing your database and tracking all payment data in one system
If you’re burdened by numerous, disconnected providers, your first step should be taking an inventory of all the systems you’re currently using. From there, you can prioritize which ones you need, which systems to keep and which vendor to centralize. Check out our blog post on how to consolidate payment providers to learn more.
Going Cashless: Starting From Scratch
Organizations that are just starting their journey toward becoming a cashless school can learn from the traditionally muddled experience. Here are some key steps to get you started:
- Identify all the events, departments and places that need or will need payment capabilities
- Plan out how you’ll roll out a payment system
- Strive to limit the number of vendors needed by choosing a provider with a comprehensive offering and flexible payment options
Opting for one main provider enables you to fully benefit from going cashless. With all payments stored on one system, you’ll have complete electronic record keeping. That means you can monitor which events a particular student has registered and paid for in one place, rather than the athletics department tracking ticket sales separately from summer school registrations.
You’ll also establish a cohesive experience for your community so that anyone who needs to can pay with ease. You might be surprised at just how many ways a school can interact with payments, so it’s essential to create a straightforward, unified system to manage them all. To accomplish that, you need to ensure you choose a school payment solution that meets your needs from the beginning.
To learn more about payment platforms and the different ways you can establish online payment systems, check out our resource, How To Accept Payments Online: The Complete Guide. This piece will walk you through what you need to implement cashless payments, how to choose the right payment gateway, which functionalities are essential for your organization and more.