SEPA stands for “Single Euro Payment Area”: Mix in a little bit of Standardisation, a pinch of Europe and a truck load of Bank processes; add a bit of XML, stir for decades and don't forget to pour in copious amounts of meetings full of white middle aged men all wearing grey suits. What you get is a scrumptious recipe guaranteed to insure that almost no one in the NGO community is going to be remotely involved or interested.
Until now that is. Because SEPA might be the solution you are looking for:
allows your members to automatically pay their fees on time
get more donors contributing small monthly amounts
makes it easy to let donors give an extra contribution when they like
makes it easier to raise money from supporters in other European countries (more than 30 countries use it)
All the while you are paying much lower fees to the credit card providers and spending less of your precious admin time on dealing with payments.
With SEPA, it's so cheap to set up a direct debit that you can afford to do it even for an amount as low as a few euros per month.
Four providers in Germany, France and Belgium have teamed up to integrate SEPA into CiviCRM and we have already found enough users to cover the cost of most of the development.
Project60, as our group is called, is working on:
Creating a new SEPA Payment Processor (allowing both single and recurring contributions)
Generating the SEPA mandate (the document that your supporter needs to sign to authorise the direct debit)
Storing all the needed information (IBAN, BIC...)
Generating the needed files in the proper format to transmit to the bank to process the debits.
In short, all you need to benefit from cheap direct debit.
Detlev Sieber from digitalcourage told me than more than 80% of all member fees and donations come through the existing EVL Direct Debit System in Germany. This system is extremely easy to handle and associated with very low fees - for non-profits, most german banks even process the regular transactions free of any charge. By February 2014, the current system will be replaced by SEPA Direct Debit. This will extend the advantages of Direct Debit all over Europe, but forces many german organisations to upgrade their fundraising systems... or would give them the opportunity to switch to CiviCRM.
German users have a deadline to migrate to SEPA but banks all around Europe are ready to use it today. If you are a CiviCRM user, you should consider contributing financially to the make it happen to fund its integration with CiviCRM.
In order to get their CiviCRM implementations ready for this change, the association "Software für Engagierte", which was founded by 7 German NGO's, takes part in the implementation of the CiviCRM extensions for SEPA DD and banking import. Their president, Ronald Pabst from Democracy International “If enough additional funding comes in, we want to create a solution which not only fits for our special requirements, but can be published as an extension usable for any CiviCRM user“
We have started to work on it already, we will have a first version ready before the summer and if enough of you contribute, a fully fledged extension and a handbook to make it easier for you to set up all the complete SEPA Direct Process with your bank and civicrm will be available on Q4.
Sebastian Baijard explained "At wikimedia France, we contributed to fund SEPA integration with civicrm to be able to offer our supporters an option to contribute monthly. Beside a more sustainable and predictable income, the processing costs are going to be vastly reduced. If you are in Europe and do fundraising, you should contribute to this make it happen too".
I suggest you to estimate how much monthly donations of a few euros you could get and add that to how much you spend processing your membership fees. That's how much money your organisation isn't getting.
Consider giving a small percentage of this amount to the make it happen so you can finally handle in a cost efficient way these contributions. You'll make civicrm stronger in Europe, not to mention making your organisation more sustainable.