What method works best for online or "non-check" giving?

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Like many small- to mid-sized churches, I'm guessing, our church has stuck with the traditional weekly collections, passing a plate and praying that we get enough for our weekly expenses. These days, though, so many of us do most of our banking either online or through an automated service like bill pay--I know that before I became a deacon and realized the heart-burn I was causing, I would frequently forget for weeks at a time to write out a check on Sunday morning, and then after a few months of this (and when the deacon appeals became difficult to ignore) I'd try to scramble to catch up. Checks just aren't something I frequently use. For those a decade younger than me, as they graduate from college and begin their jobs, I'm guessing this will be even more the case (and not just the younger generations, either, as this discussion was actually sparked by a much older couple in our church). All of which is a long way of introducing my question here. As our diaconate reviews our stewardship approaches, we're trying a few different things to adjust to the changing times, and one of those is to include an online donation option on our website. I'd like to hear any advice from those who have that at their church (or even those who don't but who have related experience that would be helpful), whether it's things to watch out for from those whose churches have had this for awhile or steps on how best to begin from those who experienced that. I'm pretty familiar with Paypal for my personal use, and it would be quite easy to set something like that up. But is that the best way? On the websites of bigger churches and nonprofits, I see a form to donate directly through a credit card. Is that feasible to set up for a mid-sized church like ours? What kind of encryption would our webmaster need to keep that secure? And what kind of administrative work does accepting credit card payments through the web require? What other things should we be aware of or take into account as we set something like this up? Thanks for any and all advice!

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Sorry for the delay in responding, but I just recently started paying attention to this forum and not just the blog.

I would encourage you to start out with Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) rather than online credit card donations. The fees associated with credit card donations may be relatively high for a small/mid-size church. My church has been using EFT for a few years and it has worked well (although not a lot people have participated). I recommend Vanco Services (http://www.vancoservices.com/), which provides EFT, website payments, and donations by text.

In our congregation we have started using (with much success and growing popularity)  PAR, an EFT program available through the denominational office.  I'm not sure if this is also available in the US, or if there might be a similar program like it. http://www.crcna.org/site_uploads/uploads/admintools/ParBrochure.pdf