Is this the year to consider online giving?


November 29, 2017

The last few years have brought an increased financial pressure on many churches in our Field. Economic trends, cultural and generational attitudes around charity, and a growing comfort—even preference—for online commerce are changing the way people give. This can lead churches to ask: “Is now the time to implement online giving?” This is not only a popular question, but a good question to be asking. There are a lot of options to choose from, and it can seem overwhelming. Each church has a little bit different situation, so there isn’t one solution for everyone. Since there is no perfect option for everyone, below are a list of things to consider as you process this for your church.

If your church is considering online giving, here are a few questions to ask to determine if the benefit (both money out the door and time spent) outweighs the cost:

Will online giving increase your giving? 

If online giving is an option, will your contributors give more money (perhaps more frequently) as a result of the ease of use?

What percentage of your congregation would not contribute without online giving?

If you do not have online giving as an option, will contributor’s not give at all?

If your congregation wants an online option for giving – would they consider paying through their bank account instead of credit card?

Online banking (i.e. paying through their own bank account) doesn’t cost the church and can usually be set-up for one-time or recurring payments.

How much bookkeeping support do you have? 

Tracking giving through online platforms can take more time to manage depending on the platforms, the accounting set-up at the church, and the bookkeeper’s skill level.

 

As you consider different online giving platforms, here are some questions to ask:

How much does it cost?  

What is the per transaction fee? Does the cost change depending on what form of payment a contributor pays with (i.e. credit card, debit card, ACH)? The lower end is around 2.5% per transaction and it can continue upward.

Is there a minimum monthly fee? 

Several of the online giving websites have a minimum monthly fee (like $10 – $20) or they have a flat rate plus a percentage.  If the congregation doesn’t end up utilizing online giving, therefore not increasing giving, churches can end up just paying more in fees.

What does it look on the back-end for bookkeepers?  

Some of the sites are very hard for the bookkeeper to implement into their system and reconcile the deposits into the bank. This then results in more expense for the church (if the bookkeeper is paid hourly).  When considering a platform, ask to see the back-end of the platform your bookkeeper would be utilizing.

How easy is it for contributors to designate where they are contributing money to?

If your church allows for contributors to designate what their contribution goes toward (i.e. benevolence, missions, staff support), be sure to review how easy it is for them to designate their contribution if they pay online.

Does the platform you are looking at only receive payments? 

Some sites just receive the payment, but still require a merchant account to transfer funds. As you review different platforms, be sure to check if both receiving and transferring are available.

 

Here are a few options you may consider (not all platforms have been utilized by the Field Office):

BluePay

BluePay is a larger company set-up for both for-profit and non-profit organizations.  This larger platform offers numerous features & integrations.

Clover Give

Clover Give is a simpler platform designed for ministry and integrates with QuickBooks and various church management systems.

Online Banking

This usually can be done for one-time payments or recurring payments, so people can do it once and be done. Online banking is generally free for both the contributor and the church.

Paypal

Paypal is a familiar option that has a non-profit discount.  Their format (or back-end) is clear and easy for the bookkeeper.  However, designating contributions is not as clear as other platforms (although not impossible).

Pushpay

Pushpay has a mobile giving option that encourages quick giving onsite and has features designed for churches.

SimpleGive

SimpleGive is set-up for ministry.  It does have the drop-down boxes for people to designate the funds, has a nice format on the back-end for bookkeeping, and can sync with QuickBooks.

Tithe.ly

This is an online giving solution that partners with the C&MA National Office.  This platform allows for several other mobile features beyond online giving (i.e. like listening to podcasts). If your congregation would utilize these features, this can be a good option.  However, if you are just utilizing online giving, it may be costlier than another alternative.

These are just a few of the platforms available for online giving and each have positive and negative aspects depending on your church’s situation. As you consider all the options, determine what is most important for your church and then compare against the platforms. If you would like to talk through different aspects of online giving, feel free to contact Julie in our office.