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Finance : Beyond the Collection Plate

Finance : Beyond the Collection Plate

Donations are going digital at more and more churches across the country

A Texas company’s Web-based giving and donor-management system empowers donors to easily give one-time or to give recurrently, online, to multiple church funds and campuses. The system also helps church officials keep track of donations and thank those that give for their generosity.

Meanwhile, a California-based company provides software and services that help churches and other non-profits make the most of the latest in mobile technology and customer relationship management (CRM) tools in their fundraising efforts.

Augmenting the time-tested collection plate, churches are increasingly connecting with contributors via electronic and Webbased avenues, according to Brian Kluth, pastor, national/international generosity speaker, author and radio commentator, and founder of the www.maximumgenerosity. org and www.GenerousLife.info websites.

Kluth reports that among some 1,500 churches his organization recently surveyed, roughly 40% are offering donors some level of electronic or online giving method, including kiosks, Web-based programs, mobile phones, and electronic funds transfer, or EFT.

These channels help open up a whole new group of donors—namely, people in their 20s and early 30s, according to Kluth.

Technology helps open wallets

“Churches that don’t look at these options limit the younger generation’s capacity to give,” says Kluth, “because this group as a whole doesn’t carry a lot of cash or checks— but they do a lot of online transactions with credit and debit cards.”

Convincing members of the older generation to utilize these new ways to give can be harder than getting tech-savvy younger people to participate, but it is far from impossible. “You let the older parishioners know that you are not telling them how to give, but that you are giving them options outside the offering plate and the envelope,” Kluth says.

In the current hierarchy of new ways to give, EFTs and online giving websites are the most popular, according to Kluth. No matter the level of technology you’re talking about, though, “Scripture instructs us as ministers to collect offerings,” he says, “so the more options we offer people to make their offerings, the more we are helping them be faithful givers—and the more we are doing the right thing.”

Web-based giving improves tracking

MyGivingSolutions.com is a Web-based church donor management system originally designed by Pastor Doug Walker of Fellowship of the Parks Church in Keller, Texas, according to Brandon New with the Colleyville, Texas-based company.

While signed on to his personal brokerage account one day, Walker thought to himself, “Why can I not see my eternal investments the same way I can my earthly investments?” New recounts. “His vision was to create a system which would dramatically increase the church’s ability to communicate with its members/supporters, and provide givers with tools, reports, access to specific types of information, and a simple, convenient means of not only giving, but also tracking and managing their giving.”

New reports that churches currently making use of MyGivingSolutions.com include Springboro Baptist Church in Springboro, Ohio; First Baptist Church of Colleyville in Colleyville, Texas; First Assembly of God in Montgomery, Ala.; and CrossRoads Church of Fort Worth in North Richland Hills, Texas.

One popular feature of the system (in these days of household de-leveraging) is its ability to give churches the option of accepting debit cards only for online giving, according to New.

“If the church has elected debit-only giving, the system will return a message to anyone trying to give by credit card that expresses appreciation for their financial support,” he says, “[yet] explains that it is the church’s policy to only accept debit cards, and asks the donor to please try again using a debit card.”

Mobile goes to church

Churches are increasingly harnessing explosive growth in the use of Internet-enabled mobile devices to increase opportunities for giving, keep track of those who give, and for a variety of other functions, according to Doug Plank, CEO of Calabasas, Calif.-based MobileCause, a provider of Internet technologies for mobile fundraising, constituency relationship management (CRM), donor cultivation and communication.

“The mobile device has become so ubiquitous that, in addition to the fundraising aspect, our church clients are using them during services in a number of ways,” Plank says, “such as asking parishioners to use their mobile phones and text replies to questions on a screen, or sending out daily devotionals via texting.”

Mobile made its first big splash in the nonprofit fundraising world during the recent earthquake in Haiti, according to Plank, providing a quick and easy way for individuals to contribute to the relief effort in response to simple text messages.

Taking the concept several steps further, smartphones can be used as “portable kiosks” that expedite donations in response to a church-issued call to action, to parishioners, he notes, providing a secure platform for credit-or-debit card donations, with the added benefits to the church of being able to better track donors and donations.

Making better use of mobile technology also positions non-profits (including churches) to address their member base of the future, according to “Mobile Technology & Nonprofits: Where Are We Headed?” (http://www. mobilecause.com/White_paper_v9.pdf) a MobileCause Nonprofit Research and Education white paper.

Mobile “is proving especially attractive to younger generations—precisely the audience many nonprofits are attempting to engage—especially as older supporters retire and otherwise become less engaged,” the report says. And it adds, “If a nonprofit wants a relationship with younger, mobile donors, it needs to reach them through the communication channel of their choice.”

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