If your church cannot receive donations online, it is time to change. There are dozens of companies and professional platforms from which to choose, many designed particularly with the needs of faith communities in mind. Some even promise a money-back guarantee of increased giving. Seem too good to be true? Too gimmicky? Maybe, but our research continues to demonstrate that faith-based organizations that add online options to their giving platforms almost always see a considerable increase in annual giving. Your organization can no longer afford to remain offline.
WHAT WE KNOW: According to a recent Dunham+Company/Campbell Rinker study, we know that only 42% of all churches allow online giving. That number is significantly below the 70% of all nonprofit organizations that are enabled to receive online gifts. However, when narrowed down to churches of 200 or more in weekly attendance, the percentage of online enabled congregations jumps to 70%. Most larger congregations are online, and many spend significant time promoting these online giving options. The recent Dunham+Company study not only estimated the number of online enabled congregations, they also estimated what percentage of the annual budget online giving represented. For those under 200 attendees, online giving consisted of 11% of a congregation’s budget. For those over 200 attendees, online giving made up 13%.
In The Lake Institute’s own anecdotal research working with congregations, we have found these percentages to be much higher. Most larger congregations average closer to one-third of their budget coming through online giving. Regardless of the percentages of annual budget we use, congregational giving online far exceeds the average percentage of nonprofits’ annual budget (hovering at 6%). Why is this the case? The reason again goes to the regular, systematic giving of faith-based donors to congregations. While much of online giving comes from one-time gifts, much of congregational giving online are made up of EFT or ACH (electronic funds transfer or automatic clearing house) transactions, set up to regularly transfer money from one account to another. Think of those in your organization that automate their weekly or monthly contribution from their bank to their congregation.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN? Online giving is consumer driven. While it may be more expensive and require some initial work for your organization, your members and donors expect it. Take a poll to see how many of your weekly attenders carry cash or checks. My guess is very few. And while online giving is a necessity to connect with younger donors, this is not simply a millennial issue. The shift online is happening among all generations. And online giving does not mean staring at your desktop computer. Online is now increasingly mobile. Last year, Amazon reported that 60% of all holiday shopping on its site was done via mobile device, and the percentage continues to grow.
If your website is not designed to be viewed mobile first, or if it is a hassle to give to your organization via a smartphone, you’re inhibiting giving to your organization. Online giving is more than a single method. In addition to setting up automatic, recurring payments, what other forms of online giving do you want to enable in your organization? What components do you hope to use: text-to-give; a designated app; platforms that enable secure credit card payments; a kiosk or I-pad enabled-option in your building? Think strategically about a full complement of options, how easy they are to access from your home page, and how you plan to promote them.
This is not a benign issue. My problem with the church and online giving/accepting credit cards is a personal one. As I was digging through the remains of my Dad’s life I was thankful that there was no evidence that online giving to the church had contributed to his obsession to live beyond his means that resulted in his death resuscitation and death and concurrent total and complete financial collapse that left his widow with a house in foreclosure and absolutely no money. We were a motley crew of step-survivors of a fractured family that managed to come together and sort out the mess and get his widow comfortably situated and my dad buried with honor. It was the grace of God in full bloom. But it was four hellacious weeks that stretched all of us to the max–when it was done we all scattered to go home and lick our wounds. My instinct was that if I had found any clue that his debt involved giving to the church via credit card then I would have wanted them to see the dark side of credit card use. Later, when my own church was considering the credit card issue, I did research and what I found about the dark side of credit card debt is horrifying, especially in senior citizens. There at a lot of children out there who are going to be ambushed by the same mess we were. At the time I found googling the question “Will I inherit my parent’s debt very enlightening.