How much can online giving really help your ministry?
Without question the Lord provides the provision for the vision He plants in those called to "go" in His kingdom. Modern payment pathways—or in the case of ministries, "giving pathways"—aren't gimmicks for gain but normal and necessary tools in today's culture to continue to accomplish the work of the kingdom.
The trend toward online giving has gained ground among churches and parachurch ministries, yet many Christians remain hesitant to use a method they believe is susceptible to fraud, theft and error. The truth is, online payments are technically more secure than putting a check in the mail.
So why should it matter whether someone gives to your church or ministry via a regular check or an "e-check"? The answer starts with one of a church's most powerful stewardship tools: recurring giving. An average church usually begins its financial journey in pledge mode (members giving toward specific projects), which then evolves into a tithe. The parachurch ministry, however, uses such "pledges" to sustain itself.
For both, we've found that 95 percent of those who give electronically (e-givers) are still viable five years later. Parachurch organizations typically spend 15 percent to 25 percent of their budget raising funds each year. Yet it costs less than 1 percent of an e-giver's gift to maintain that person as a donor. Moreover, e-giving provides you, the ministry leader, more room for effective planning. If you know the funds will be there in a faster and more reliable manner, you have more liberty and potential for growth in planning how certain resources can be applied.
Thus, it's advantageous to transition your ministry online and provide people a reason to use your online giving system. Occasional e-mail updates and a Web site that truly ministers to and allows interaction with individuals will increase opportunity for online giving. This is especially true when you include tools that allow your people to set up their own online giving accounts for recurring payments.
Once you've done this, you can begin to merge your donation management system with other online opportunities. For instance, the more online-exclusive content you have on your Web site, the more reason you give users to return and the more value your site has. This opens the door for upgrading your Web-hosted system to include shopping carts, events registrations and integrated accounting.
A word of caution for those leading parachurch ministries: Churches are relationship-builders. People meet regularly and come face-to-face with each other. By contrast, it's easy for your ministry to be "out of sight, out of mind" for potential ministry partners, simply from a lack of connecting points.
Because recurring giving is your most powerful tool and key to your ministry's health, you must use these relational intersections to your advantage. Establish a donation system that requires partners to contact you when changing their recurring gift amount. Doing this gives you the opportunity to connect one-on-one with these vital ministry helpers and voice your appreciation.
Proper use of online giving tools will increase giving. We encourage leaders, however, to speak more about the value these tools bring to expanding the kingdom and less about "giver convenience" and "E-Z giving," which appeals to the flesh. We give to bless the Lord, not to make life easier.
GEORGE EUSTERMAN is the founder and director of Egiving Systems (Egivingsystems.org), a financial ministry dedicated to strengthening funding for ministries and organizations that protect and promote basic Christian values.