Giving Kiosks and donation software are starting to make some major headway throughout the world of churches and religious communities. Is this a good thing? The jury is still out on this question, but it is obvious that these relatively new tools have, in fact, been financially beneficial for many of the churches that have taken the plunge and started using them.
For those of us that are not familiar with this new technology, giving kiosks are generally touch screen devices used for easily giving monetary donations to local churches. The kiosks are usually placed throughout the lobby or common areas of churches and they allow for church goers to make debit or credit card donations with just a simple swipe of their cards. After swiping, there are usually some instructions to follow on the touch screen, and then the donation is automatically deducted from the person's account.
About a decade ago, when giving kiosks first came on the scene, they were big and bulky. The devices actually had a strong resemblance to ATM machines. Today's giving kiosks are much smaller and simpler. The modern kiosks generally look very similar to any standard tablet device or touch screen computer monitor.
Giving kiosks not only make donating to churches easier for the giver, but they also reduce time and resources that churches have to spend on processing contributions. Use of the devices seems to be a win-win for both the giver and the church. There are those out there, however, that are still against implementing giving kiosks.
Detractors of the devices generally point to the use of the credit card as the main reason they do not want to install the kiosks. One common argument is that the church could unintentionally foster a culture of debt and cause individuals in their congregations to donate more than they can afford. Another issue that those against the kiosks point to is the added cost to churches that is associated with accepting credit card transactions as a form of payment.
While these arguments both have some validity, they seem rather weak when faced with some facts. First, for example, in terms of the possibility of fostering a debt culture; while it is true that credit card use can promote debt, there is very little, if any evidence that credit card users have gotten into financial trouble because of their charitable giving. Generally speaking the debt part comes from living beyond means, not giving beyond means. Secondly, as for the cost argument, yes, it will cost some money to accept credit cards. On the flipside, however, churches that have implemented giving kiosks have reported an average increase of 10 to 20 percent in their giving totals. In this instance the kiosks have more than paid for the minimal costs of credit card transactions and have actually been advantageous for their users.