While passing the offering plate and putting in a check or cash is certainly still a viable option, you could be missing out on donations if you aren't providing online options for your congregation.
One finding from the State of the Plate survey is related to weekly attendance: "On any given weekend, one third of a church's regular attendees are not there." Consider the young mother with a sick infant. She might watch the service online since she can't attend church that week. If your church provides a digital giving option, she could donate after watching the service or setup reoccurring giving so she won't forget.
Also, consider this: How many checks do you write each month? Probably not very many, right? Do you pay your bills online? Have you purchased airline tickets, music, or other items from your mobile phone?
The people in your church service on Sunday morning are probably used to making purchases online or on their phone. They might pay certain bills automatically or have a set amount transferred into savings each month. Why not meet them where they already are and enable them to setup monthly tithing or a one-time special gift?
If you're considering digital giving, here are several factors to consider:
#1 What types of digital giving options could you provide?
Digital giving includes several options:
Online giving - A donation made from your church's website.
Text-to-give - The donor sends a text message with the amount he/she wants to give to a specific number.
Mobile app - Giving options through your church mobile app.
Kiosk Your church would rent a kiosk to place in your church lobby that people could use to handle their tithes and offerings.
#2 Why offer digital giving options?
Brian Byersdorf with Pushpay put it this way, "The world is already mobile. If you're not offering digital giving, you're missing out on where your congregation is. Also, consider those who're new to church. Church leaders forget what it's like to be new and don't recognize what it's like to walk into a church and not know where to sit, what tithing is about, etc. Many people don't carry cash or checks anymore. It's a great first impression to show your church is up-to-date on technology and lowers the entry point on where people are comfortable. Cast a broader net to more people so they can give however they'd like to give."
In a prior church administration role, Stephanie Carroll's church experienced an increase in overall giving after they implemented digital giving options. The biggest increase was from people setting up reoccurring gifts.
#3 What does the setup process look like?
Setup will depend on the vendor you choose for processing digital gifts.
Brian Byersdorf with Pushpay recommends working with a provider who does most of the setup work for you. Pushpay provides their client churches with a coach to help them through the launch process.
While the main focus for setting up digital giving tends to be on getting church-goers comfortable with the new options, don't forget the back office aspects. Setting up merchant accounts, creating new web pages, and making sure money is correctly deposited into the church's account are a few items to consider.
Talk with potential vendors about how they'll help train your accounting staff to import transactions into your church's accounting software and handle the bank reconciliation process. You'll also need to make sure each donation is properly recorded under the donor's record in your church database.
#4 What should church leaders look for in a potential vendor?
Brian Byersdorf recommends the following when evaluating potential vendors:
1. You don't want to buy multiple platforms.
Instead, find one that does everything you need. This makes it easier for your staff to manage the process of recording and reconciling donations. It's also easier for those who're giving. If you have a single provider / platform for each digital giving option, a donor only has to create their login profile one time. With multiple platforms, you could see a lower usage since you're making people create different accounts (one for each platform).
2. Also, consider each vendor's development pipeline.
Are they developing their technology and consistently innovating?
3. Consider the security measures each vendor has in-place.
For example, at PushPay credit card numbers aren't stored on devices. Also, administrators don't have access to credit card numbers.
4. Find out how many churches each vendor currently serves.
5. Ask how each vendor helps their clients with the setup and rollout process.
Ask potential vendors about PCI Compliance. PCI is the Payment Card Industry and they've established security standards for payment processors to protect the data of credit card holders.
#5 What about credit card processing fees?
Yes, with digital giving you will pay fees to process each transaction. Those fees are typically between 1% - 3% out of each donation. While that does lower what your church receives out of each donation, you're still likely to increase overall donations by providing digital giving options.
#6 How can we get our congregation to adopt this quickly?
Any significant change requires some extra communication effort. Providing digital giving options is no exception. Work with your vendor to document how to create an account and make a donation. Create a simple graphic to use on-screen during the giving part of the worship service. Provide that information in an email to church attendees, in the bulletin, on your church website, and in church social media posts. Repeat this process for several weeks to give people time to familiarize themselves with the new options.
Stephanie Carroll's church used a variety of methods to communicate the addition of digital giving. They announced it before services, included information in the bulletin, and mentioned digital giving options in quarterly giving updates.
Brian Byersdorf advises announcing to your church for four weeks in a row that you have online giving available. Also, make sure you have a communication strategy as you roll out the options.
As Thom Rainer points out in his post, Seven Traits of Churches with Increasing Per Member Giving, "Per member giving increases as churches offer more giving venues." He recommends giving during services, online giving, mailing offering envelopes to members and givers, and automated reoccurring gifts (deducted from church member bank accounts).
With fewer people attending on a weekly basis and fewer carrying cash or checks, providing digital giving options can increase giving by making it more convenient for your attendees. The time it takes to find a vendor and setup a few digital giving options could be well worth the effort.