Hopefully, you’re thrilled with the service your church’s current vendor provides. However, it’s always wise to conduct a periodic evaluation of your current vendor and see how they stack up against others. You might find another company with lower fees and enhanced features that would greatly benefit your church.
Here’s how to get started evaluating your current provider:
Step #1: Find out exactly what you’re paying
Now, of course, you see the bill each month from your online giving provider. However, have you ever looked at it in detail? There are a myriad of different fees, and the calculations aren’t always easy to decipher.
Here are the main types of fees you can expect to pay:
Fee #1: Monthly Fee
Some vendors charge a flat monthly fee for their services to be available to your church. This fee usually isn’t impacted by how much you receive in online giving, the size of your congregation, or any other metric.
Fee #2: Processing Fee
The processing fee is based on a percentage of each transaction. For example, if you received a donation of $100 and the processing fee is 3 percent, the total cost on that transaction to the church would be $3.
Fee #3: Transaction Fee
Many providers will also charge a fee per transaction. This is in addition to the processing fee and tends to be a flat rate such as $0.25.
Look at your recent invoices and see what fees the vendor is charging your church. If it isn’t clear, talk with your provider to get more information. You have a right to know what they’re charging. Understanding the fees and how your current vendor compares to others is part of stewarding church finances. The time you invest in getting clarity on fees can save your church money over the long run.
Step #2: Find out what your church receives for those fees
If you started with online giving to simply “try it out,” then you may have selected a vendor with minimal services. While that can work initially, you may find that a vendor who offers a broader array of services could be very helpful.
However, you first need to find out what you’re paying for now.
Here are a few questions to consider:
- Does your current vendor offer any discounts as the church’s online giving volume increases?
- Does your vendor offer any services in addition to processing cards? Do they provide any templates for promoting online giving? Do they contact you periodically to see if you have any questions or need assistance?
- Do they provide a quick and easy way to import card transactions into your accounting software or church management system (ChMS)?
- Do you feel as though they want to partner with your church and want to see you succeed or do they view you as just another customer?
- Does the vendor provide a way for donors to “cover the fees” when they give?
Step #3: How do givers view the online giving experience?
Even if the vendor offers low fees and excellent service, that doesn’t help if the user experience isn’t stellar. Now, you may find the process of giving online to be easy. However, you might be more technologically savvy than others, so you need to ask around.
Start by talking with those in your congregation who haven’t given online yet.
- Why do they give via check or cash but not online?
- Did they try to donate online and got frustrated with the process? If so, where in the process did they get stuck?
- Are they concerned about the security of their card information?
Next, talk with folks who give online at least periodically.
- What do they think about the process? Is it simple to use?
- Was the first time they gave online easy? Did the initial setup process seem complicated?
- Why do they give online?
Once you’ve gathered some feedback (at least from a dozen people, depending on the size of the congregation), consider what that tells you.
- Is the online giving tool doing what it should?
- Do you need to provide more detailed communication, so people understand how online giving works and how to use it?
- Should you consider looking at other providers to see if there’s a vendor that offers a more user-friendly interface?
Step #4: Talk with the accounting team
Perhaps this is you (and possibly a few staff members). Unfortunately, accounting tends to be the last thing considered when evaluating new software or tools. However, it’s important that an online giving vendor offers a service that supports excellent accounting and doesn’t make it more difficult.
- Is the process of importing card transactions into the church’s accounting software and/or ChMS easy?
- Are you able to get sufficient data into the church management system so you have up-to-date donation records per person?
- Are you also able to get data into your accounting software to make month-end reconciliations with the bank statement straight forward?
Step #5: Consider whether it’s time to look elsewhere
Based on the information you’ve gathered, is the church getting a fair value for the fees it’s paying? If you’re not sure, then perhaps it’s time to shop around and see what you could get with another provider.
- Take your time researching other online giving vendors.
- Evaluate each one using the steps outlined above.
- Ask to see a few invoice examples. Is it easy to see each type of fee on that vendor’s invoice?
- Find out if a prospective vendor offers volume discounts.
- Request a demo of each vendor’s online portal for the accounting team. Does that vendor offer an easier method for getting data into your church’s accounting software and/or ChMS than your current vendor?
- Ask about the process of migrating from your current vendor to a new vendor. What support do they offer in that process? Do they give you sample emails and announcements you can use to communicate the change with your congregation?
Offering the ability to give online, via text message, or a mobile app is an ideal way to help people be faithful givers (especially when they rarely carry a checkbook). A vital aspect to a successful online giving strategy is to find a vendor who can be more than just a vendor – they become a partner in helping your church succeed.
Taking the time to evaluate your church’s current provider periodically will help you ensure you’re getting the best service possible for the money. Don’t settle for “just a payment method”. Find a vendor who will make the setup and rollout process simple; who will walk your team through the process and ensure you’re set up for success from day one.