Is Online Giving For Your Church?

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Studies indicate that online giving will continue to grow as we embrace digitization of our lives. Madison Square CRC recently set up online giving at their church. The following is a recap of the process that Madison went through in setting up online giving for their church members.

Our church was hesitant to get into online giving, primarily because of some of the negative connotations associated with credit card giving.

Our pastor asked us to explore the possibilities, and this is what we found:

Online giving can be done using ACH (e checks) or credit/debit cards. A church can use one or both. We chose to use both, along with instructions that discourage the irresponsible use of credit cards.

You do not have to be a technical wizard to choose an online giving application (app). There are many apps available. We narrowed down the number to two by checking with our church software supplier to find out which apps were most compatible with our software. Then we checked with several users of the various apps and found out how each worked best for them. The final decision was based by comparing the operating costs for each acceptable app.

The app suppliers are eager to help whoever is responsible for your church installing the app on your church web site. After this is done, the gifts start coming in.

The app supplier takes care of all of the thank you emails, etc. and periodically makes deposits into your bank account. It also supplies the data you need for your accounting records.

It is important to keep your church decision makers involved in the evaluation process so that neither you nor they get any surprises at the end of the process.

The online giving option was promoted heavily to help it launch successfully. We used mass e-mails, bulletin inserts, verbal announcements, PowerPoint graphics in the lobby and in the sanctuary, website graphics, and Facebook updates.

So far, our system is working well for us. It worked exceptionally well for end of year giving. We had one person who made a contribution right before midnight on New Year’s Eve.

Our giving is averaging about ½ ACH and ½ credit cards. Our average cost has been less than 1 ½ %.

- Dick Ammons, Madison Square CRC

Posted in: Church Admin & Finance > Finance > Contributions; Blog Photo courtesy Tim Green - http://www.flickr.com/photos/atoach/5056751407/ Image: See Credit

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Thanks Dick for relating your church's experience with on-line giving.  In Canada, the Christian Reformed Church offers a value-added service to the churches to facilitate giving by electronic funds.  It's referred to as the Pre-Authorized Remittance or PAR program.  While on-line giving is generally considered a "push" system, as the donor determines when and how much to give and initiates the transaction on-line, the PAR program is a "pull" system, whereby, based on a pre-authorization by the donor, the church initiates the transaction.  There are no costs for churches participating in the PAR program.  About 90 CRC congregations are currently participating.

A brochure providing details regarding the Christian Reformed Church's PAR program in Canada can be accessed at http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/admintools/ParBrochure.pdf 

There are also charity service providers which provide on-line giving services on behalf of other charities.  The fee for such a service is generally a percentage of gifts processed.  CanadaHelps is probably the best known and largest organization of this kind in Canada, having processed over $54,000,000 in gifts to other charities in 2011.

Terry Veldboom

Thank you for the good information.  Our church church accepts ACH donations, but when we considered accepting contributions via credit card we couldn't get past the concerns that we might be contributing to members' credit card debt and those negative connotations surrounding credit cards that you referred to .  How did your church get past those concerns?  And has your giving increased or stayed the same, or is it too early to tell?

Do you still have a time during the service to acknowledge the communal act of giving?  Does most of the church give this way?

Thanks for your help, Kyle 

Kyle - Why does giving have to be communal?  From what I've read in the Bible, the tithe and offering are always referenced as an individual act.

This new system works well for our family. We do our serious giving electronically. During each worship service we give a token representation of what we gave quietly through the online system.

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