It’s common knowledge that smartphone ownership and mobile internet usage are skyrocketing globally. It’s also common knowledge that, on average, people attend church less frequently and that people tend to write very few checks or carry much cash.

These three factors – smartphone usage growth, slowing of cash and check usage, and lack of regular weekend attendance – make it clear that the Church needs a mobile-first strategy.

Part of the mobile strategy for churches includes looking for and evaluating mobile-giving solutions, but what should you look for when evaluating mobile giving apps?

Here are twelve features you should look for in a giving app for your church:

Feature #1 – Security Importance

This one sounds obvious, but it’s probably the most important of them all. Your members will be using this app to store payment information and make financial transactions online. Be sure all the proper security requirements are met – 256 Bit SSL for data transmission over the internet, PCI DSS Level 1 for storage of card information, etc. If you get a sense that security isn’t extremely important, move on to the next provider.

Feature #2 – iOS & Android Support

Your mobile giving app MUST work on iOS (iPhone) and Android (Google Play) operating systems. Of the 432 million smartphones sold in the last quarter of 2016, 352 million ran Android and 77 million ran iOS. That makes up over 99% (source) of all smartphones. The point, make sure your church mobile giving app works for iPhone and Android devices and don’t worry about Windows phone, Blackberry, Amazon, and others. No one uses those!

Feature #3 – Giving is Simple and Done in Seconds

Although there are quite a few giving app options, there are not as many that make giving truly simple. When you’re evaluating, download each app and go through the entire process. Setup an account, store your payment information, make a donation, come back a second time to give another donation, set up recurring giving, delete a payment method and add another one, rinse and repeat. Doing this will help you really get a sense of how simple it will be for your members to give. It should only take a minute or so to give the very first time and the subsequent gifts (second, third, fourth) should be accomplished in seconds.

Feature #4 – 2-Tap In-App Giving

Related to the point above, Tithe.ly offers the only 2-tap (aka QuickGive™) giving experience in a mobile giving app. We’ve specifically focused on ensuring the moment of giving isn’t complicated or hard in any way. In fact, we’ve made it so simple that you can give in two taps of the thumb. When shopping for a giving app be sure to look for features like this as they’re a good sign of the company’s focus on innovation and continuous improvement of their product.

Feature #5 – Easy-to-Store and Manage Payment Info

As mentioned in point number three above, your giving app should allow people store their preferred payment info. Do they want to give using their credit card, debit card, or bank account (ACH/eCheck)? Make sure all those giving options are supported, but also be sure they can save and remove their payment information simply. The reason this is important is that having their payment info stored (aka “on file”) allows people to give much faster as they won’t have to re-enter their bank account/routing or card numbers each and every time, which is a real headache.

Feature #6 – Multiple Fund/Designation Support

You want to be sure that people have the ability to support the building fund, missions, summer camp, the weekly offering, their tithe, and any other option you offer at your church. Make sure your mobile giving app allows you to easily add, delete, and modify your funds/designations whenever you need to without having to reach out to the company to do it for you.

Feature #7 – Single and Multi-Fund Gifts

Of course, people should be able to give a gift and designate it to a fund (eg. general fund, tithe, offering, missions, building, etc), but you should also be sure people can give to multiple funds in one giving session. Meaning, if a person wants to give $100 to their weekly tithe, $50 to the missions fund, and $250 to the building fund, all at one time, they should be able to do that. Be sure to see if this is possible through the giving app providers you’re evaluating.

Feature #8 – Recurring Giving Setup and Management

Recurring giving is one of the most important and effective ways to improve giving at a church. Be sure your mobile giving app supports simple recurring giving set up: weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, etc. You should also look into how simple it is for people to manage their recurring giving. Can they stop their own recurring gift or do they have to call the church? Can they have more than one recurring gift set up? In addition to the donor side of things in the app, sometimes those on recurring giving will call into the church for help and you should be able to accommodate. Be sure the giving solution allows your church office to see who is set up on recurring giving and that they can manage recurring gifts on behalf of individuals that call or email you for help.

Feature #9 – Cover the fees™

Increasingly, the world is becoming aware of the fact that there are fees associated with making “payments” convenient for patrons. Restaurants, coffee shops, retail, grocery stores all pay fees for accepting various forms of payment. When churches add mobile giving to their capabilities it comes with new costs associated that churches didn’t have prior. Hopefully, the costs are reasonable, but in addition to having reasonable pricing, the giving app should allow donors to “cover the fees” so that more funds make it to the church at the end of the day. Be sure to ask about this feature as it can make a big difference to your bottom line.

Feature #10 – Immediate Email Confirmation

Like recurring giving, this one is also a no-brainer. Make sure your giving app sends an immediate email confirmation of the gift to the donor. You should make sure that the gift email confirmations can be customized with your church branding, message, and contact information so that it makes sense to those giving when they receive it.

Feature #11 – Smart Giving Alerts

The beauty of an app installed on the phones of your members is that it gives you the ability to communicate with them. Now, most giving apps are not full communications suites, but the good ones will have thought about how to use app notifications to increase giving. Check to see if the app providers you’re looking at have what we call “giving alerts” where the app gently reminds people about giving. Tithe.ly takes a smart approach to this where we alert people based on their giving history. For example, if a person gives on the 15th of every month, they’ll receive a notification saying “Don’t forget to give…” right around the 15th! It’s a very simple way to help use technology to spur people on.

Feature #12 – Continuous Innovation and Product Updates

Lastly, be sure you’re choosing a giving app provider that is continuing to build more features into the product and innovate in the area of mobile giving. As mentioned earlier in this article, there are plenty of giving apps, but there are few that check all the boxes above and even fewer that are continuing to focus on continuous product improvements. You want to be sure you pick a company that will have an even better mobile giving app six, nine, twelve months from now — and not one that has gone stagnant.

Your turn …

We hope the 12 points above give you a lot of food for thought and aid you in your evaluation of mobile giving app providers. It’s a big decision and there is a lot to think about.