In this regular column, longtime executive pastor and XPastor.org founder David Fletcher takes on readers’ questions about finances, staffing, communications, and more. Submit your questions using the subject line "Hey, Fletch" to email@example.com.
Our church is considering starting online giving. What are the kinds of things that we should be looking for?
From a user’s perspective, the number one thing I desire in an online giving platform is its ease of use. If I’m a new online donor, I want a system that works easily for me. Along with that is security. I want to know that the donation processing is secure and that my donation data is secure. Brad Leeper, president of Generis, and I recently talked about online giving. I asked him to share his thoughts here:
Your question highlights four important values that church leaders should consider and execute for their churches:
Many people prefer digital giving. As wise leaders, we should make giving as easy as possible. Dealing with the issue of giving and the heart is demanding enough, so eliminating barriers to giving is something we have to incorporate into our generosity culture. We tell clients they should aim to generate at least 60 percent of their giving from channels outside of the actual worship experience. Financial leaders tend to balk at the fees built into digital giving, and a church leader will need to concede these fees as a market reality. There is good news, though: the market seems to be forcing vendors to charge lower fees.
Industry consolidation is underway. Whether because of acquisitions or attrition, there is trend toward few providers in the industry. Be alert as to who stands behind a platform; verify (among other things) there is an owner providing service to clients and there are constant improvements to the tool. Even with consolidation in the space, new tools are frequently emerging into the market.
Simple integration is vital. Verify the platform integrates with your church database and its accounting system, making sure the platform works with your current configuration. The primary goal here is to increase giving by making the process easier and ensuring the experience for people works seamlessly with their usual financial activities. If a better giving app increases your giving, then implementing a few additional steps internally is well worth the time, effort, and resources. I’d rather take a few extra steps to achieve $5,000 a month in giving, rather than settle for what is easiest internally and generate only $800 a month.
An app is not a magic solution to instantly increase giving. Each platform will provide you with a process to announce the tool and to integrate it. Successful installations, however, take far more time and repeated emphasis than many expect to see giving increase through the tool. People need time to accept something as normal. But the additional work is well worth it because an app will elevate giving over time. And many times, a giver will choose to set up recurring giving, extending that boost.
To go deeper on online giving, check out these Church Law & Tax articles:
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