Millennials are making up an increasing number of church attendees, and this generation doesn't carry cash or check. Even older folks are choosing debit cards and online payments over paper payments. Churches, however, struggle to find ways to process online donations, gifts, and offerings that do not eat into their bottom line.
There are a variety of good reasons for your church to consider online giving beyond the lack of cash in millennial wallets. In an age of identity theft concerns, many people are reluctant to simply drop a check with their financial information anywhere that doesn't include a lock, key, and security guards. In addition, processing cash and check payments requires time and careful accounting. There is a reason people have moved to digital payments wherever possible: it is easier and more secure. So how can a church make online giving a possibility in their own congregations?
1) Fee Structures for Online Donations
One thing that scares many churches away from online giving is the prospect of fees. Companies do not process payments for nothing; some charge a small percentage of the payment, some charge a monthly or annual fee, and still others charge both. If you decide to accept credit cards without a third party, for example, you will pay a flat monthly fee and an interchange fee covering the cost of moving the donation from their bank to yours, which is a percentage of the donation. Churches of course want to use donations for ministry rather than making a website richer. However, there are options that are affordable and even pay for themselves.
2) Benefits of Entering the Digital Age
The main reason to assume the cost of online giving is that there is a cost to forgoing online donations. It takes time to process and sort cash and check donations. While some churches tightly control the process, some have ways of handling offerings that leave them open to scandal. A check left on a desk could become a member's identity stolen. In addition, churches are not immune to embezzling and other scandals. However, the most important factor to remember is that online giving usually comes with a steep jump in donations. These more than pay for small fees associated with act.
How many of your parishioners give a ten percent tithe every month? Many churches adopting online giving use programs that allow people to make individual donations or to set up a set amount taken at regular intervals. This makes it easier for people to follow the commandments to tithe, as they do not physically have to hand over cash. In addition, most of us have been in the embarrassing situation where you reach into your pocket as the offering basket approaches and find only a five dollar bill. Modern people simply don't carry a lot of cash and may not be giving as much as they would like to.
3) Options for Online Donations
There are probably more online giving programs for churches and nonprofits than can be listed, but these are a few favorites:
- Continue to Give offers low rates to churches, especially start-up churches, that are just a little more than what credit card companies charge. Rates can be as little as a quarter of a percent, and the company offers a variety of online giving options such as forms, kiosks, text to give, and apps.
- MyWell offers credit card processing and online giving services at no cost to churches. The cost of interchange is covered by donations. Unlike many other options, this is a Christian nonprofit that puts their income toward ministries.
- PayPal is a popular website for transferring money, used by a variety of large corporations. It offers ease of use, is familiar to many people, and charges 2.5-3.5% of each donation.
- Mogiv offers mobile and online giving payments with no signup fees, subscription fees, service fees or contracts.
- Tithe.ly offers a variety of options, including paying by smartphone or even putting up a payment kiosk in your lobby.
Lastly, it's important to take into consideration the online giving company that your church chooses to work with. While some companies have your church's best intentions at heart and seek to serve, other companies are looking to profit from the Church and do not offer good support and service. It's always wise to ask other churches what they use and what their experiences are.
In a world where almost every item or service can be bought with a single tap from your laptop or smartphone, churches need to get with the program or see offerings dwindle. Making it easy and routine for people to give generously will increase your donations while reducing the time spent in processing cash donations.