From museum stores to gift shops, organizations with retail storefronts need Point Of Sale solutions that help process transactions, provide reporting, and manage inventory. What are the options in this area?

Point of Sale, or POS, systems help manage the transaction between a buyer and seller, and typically support physical rather than online storefronts. Far more than just a cash register or credit card processing machine, POS systems consist of various combinations of software, hardware and services to keep track of everything from items, prices, taxes, sale date and time, discounts and payments.

They can also handle returns and voided transactions, and some POS software will support related needs ranging from inventory management to sales and accounting reports.

Transactions can’t live in a vacuum—they’ve got to be tracked to keep your books balanced, and many POS systems connect or report out to separate accounting software. Some have their own built-in e-commerce systems or can connect to your existing system to allow merchants to integrate point-of-sales information with online storefronts.

Part of the appeal of POS software is that it can be run on a variety of computer hardware, from standard desktop systems and laptops to mobile devices like Android phones and tablets, iPhones and iPads, making it a viable and affordable choice for small businesses and organizations. Some can be combined with cash drawers or price display monitors to make them more “customer-friendly.” They’re often sold as “all in one” or “integrated” systems that contain all the hardware needed to process sales, including a computer, a touchscreen keypad for data entry, a receipt printer, POS software, a cash drawer, bar code scanner, “price poles” that display prices to customers, and a credit card terminal.

You don’t need a POS to take credit card payments—some card readers, like the Square (, plug in directly to your smartphone or table, and there are a number of other ways to accept credit card payments. (For more information, see “A Few Good Methods For Processing Credit Cards.”) But if you want to use your POS to take credit card payments, you’ll need a payment processing service and merchant account to collect money from customer accounts, and a credit card reader, or terminals, to swipe cards on site.

All-Around POS Choices

Intuit QuickBooks POS (

A popular all-around choice, the Intuit POS solution provides an easy user interface that makes it one of the simplest systems to adopt. It integrates with other QuickBooks products, making it easy to import from or share with QuickBooks account systems, and supports inventory management with alert features to signal when inventory is low.

QuickBooks POS tracks customer data at the point of sale, and when coupled with the customer rewards system built-in to the Pro version, can track loyal customers and provide them with incentives to return. Intuit provides a turnkey credit payment processing solution, making it easy to get a payment processor and merchant account system in place.

QuickBooks POS comes at three price points—$1,100, $1,600 and $1,800 per license—and is installed locally rather than hosted. The least expensive Basic package lacks some features for managing employees, shipping integration, customization for price tags, and more, but covers the core POS needs required for most stores. The most-expensive package supports multiple store locations that require centralized management.

Microsoft Dynamics POS (

Microsoft Dynamics RMS (

Microsoft Dynamics bills itself as an “Enterprise Resource Planning” (ERP) software suite, and contains several packages for managing both constituent and transactional information. Both Dynamics POS system and Retail Management System (RMS) are designed to support store transaction information, though Dynamics POS is the more affordable of the two, targeting key point of sales needs for smaller stores.

Less-customizable than the more advanced RMS solution, Dynamics POS features support for running a single storefront, including sales reports, purchase orders and receipt generation, customer purchase history, role-based security, and  time tracking. Additional features include inventory management and integration with Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting and QuickBooks. Dynamics POS costs about $1,400 per license.

Dynamics RMS is better suited for multisite store support, and for nonprofits who may need additional software customizations and integrations to improve the efficiency of the entire POS process. RMS includes options for customizing reports and receipts, more-advanced integration to support connections to e-commerce solutions for online storefronts, and the ability to manage more complex sale items—for example, clothing with size-and-color information that affects pricing and inventory. Dynamics RMS integrates with a variety of accounting systems including MYOB (, Peachtree ( and Blackbaud ( products. Dynamics RMS costs approximately $3,000 for the first two licenses, and approximately $500 per license thereafter.

Cloud-Based Services

Cloud-based solutions are becoming increasingly popular for the ease of setup and affordable, predictable pricing they offer. These systems offer easier integrations with multiple storefronts, social media promotion and support for mobile devices.

Posterita (

Posterita is a newer cloud based point of sales solution, offered for free to clients. They profit through means other than licensing to clients, including ecommerce integration, customizations, support and developer app development fees. They have preferred payment processors used for payment transactions – nonprofits may need to switch payment processors if they are not on their list.

ZingCheckout (

ZingCheckout is a simple POS system with a free version that’s appropriate for cash-only single-store, single-user storefronts. To use ZingCheckout to process credit card payments through the vendor’s preferred payment processors, additional licensing is required at $50 per year.

Cashier Live (

Cashier Live starts at $20 per month for a single store with up to three registers and unlimited users. The vendor offers hardware bundles that work with the service, including stationary and mobile POS register systems.

POS Systems Specialized for Nonprofit Needs

A few systems stand out for their efforts to support POS processes common to many nonprofits.

Blackbaud’s Altru (

Blackbaud’s Altru is designed to comprehensively support museum management, one component of which is storefront POS, including museum gift shops, ticketing and facilities reservations. In addition, Altru serves as a constituent management system for managing a museum’s donor and membership management, volunteer management, mass email marketing and more. The system starts at $10,000 per year including unlimited users, setup and training, and can increase in price depending on the level of configuration or customization support required to meet specific needs.

Cougar Mountain Denali (

Cougar Mountain has developed the “Denali” suite of software targeting accounting and POS needs for businesses. The system software integrates with Cougar Mountain’s Denali accounting systems and connects with its Denali FUND + Accounting system for nonprofits. The POS system lets nonprofits designate products to apply to specific funds, which can help in cases where restricted grants require specific tracking of sold items. Cougar Mountain offers hardware bundles, as well, providing the touchscreen, computer, price poles, scanners and receipt printers needed to complete a POS system. Cougar Mountain software and service is tailored to each client’s needs, and they do not offer predetermined pricing. Pricing for a single register software system starts at $5,000, including accounting integration.

Open Source Systems

Many open source solutions may be appropriate for nonprofits with a strong technology development team, as significant customization will be needed to support a unique POS process. One of them, Openbravo (, is a mature and well-adopted free ERP software package with a strong POS component. Developer teams can implement their own system using Openbravo, or work with a service provider using a professional version of the product. Expect to pay about $10,000 and up for 10 users.

How To Choose

When choosing a Point of Sale system, it’s important to first look closely at your specific point of sales process and define what you expect of POS software and hardware to provide the greatest efficiency for your needs.

Create a plan to help you understand your goals for your new software, and have the funds available to invest in implementation, training and support. Identify what you will you need in the way of reporting—customer receipts, purchase orders, or sales and inventory reports—and make sure the solution you choose supports it.

If you’re not buying an all-in-one package and plan to use your own hardware, be sure the POS system will work with it. Make sure it will also work with any other transaction-related software you plan to use, including e-commerce systems and your current accounting software.

A good POS system will make transaction-related tasks easy, allowing you to focus on the bigger picture of managing your organization’s retail presence and interacting with customers.


This article was originally published by TechSoup. We’re grateful to them for the financial support of this article, as well as to the following nonprofit technology professionals for providing recommendations, advice and other help:

Peter Campbell, Earth Justice (

Tamara Page, Habitat for Humanity (


Eric Leland is a partner at FivePaths ( He worked with Idealware ( to research and write this article.