Passing the plate takes on new forms as the years roll by. From coins to bills to personal checks, the giving plate has been no stranger to advancement. While the finance industry continues to evolve alongside that of technology, so does the act of worship through giving. Whether through your church's website, in person at an iPad kiosk in the church lobby or through your mobile phone right from the palm of your hand, giving has changed quite a bit since Jesus' time to say the least.
How is a church supposed to keep up? This is one tough question that pastors keep asking themselves.
Multi-Site Church, Multi-Format Online Giving
For New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, Illinois, growth has become something they're accustomed to. When the church began with just a few hundred people meeting in the high school gym, little did they know that in 10 years, they'd be operating as a multi-site campus spanning the Chicago area and offering a variety of ways to give.
"It was all a manual process of passing the plate for a long time," says Alex Navas, digital media coordinator for New Life.
In 2013 Navas was preparing to help move the church to its new building to house the incredible growth—currently 17,000 attendees at three campuses—and did a complete church technology overhaul to update the church's website and find better online giving options.
"As I looked around at what we had in place, our giving solution wasn't mobile responsive and didn't offer text giving," Navas says. "Plus, we had many people taking donations and payments for events in lots of different places. There were also problems with reporting functionality.
"We had so many accounts to keep track of—from retreats to Sunday donations. We had also leased two kiosks which gave us separate reports."
New Life brought in Mogiv to help unify their giving options and streamline the reporting on the backend—both of which were critical to New Life, given their incredible season of growth.
Now, New Life offers giving on their website through a page that doesn't navigate visitors away from it site. They also offer text and mobile giving.
"We still have a manual process via collection plate, but we also ask people to pull out their phones and give via text. Plus, people are aware we have iPads on stands in the lobby and ushers ready to help them," says Navas.
Since offering a more streamlined approach to giving online, New Life saw a 23 percent increase in giving between February 2013 and February 2014 and the numbers continue to climb.
Navas admits trepidation when rolling out text and mobile giving to New Life's Hispanic congregation that reaches many first-generation Americans. But by educating people through video announcements and walking them through the text-to-give process, they were able to harness the power of the mobile phones easily and give everyone a helping hand.
Statistics show that most people do not carry checks and few people carry much cash in their wallets. Debit cards and the prevalence of digital payments for everything at every store everywhere have virtually eliminated the need to carry cash, checks or even visit your bank in person. This said, many churches still expect people to operate as they did 50 years ago.
There is an incredible amount of options available to churches today.
Some of the options churches have at their fingertips are text-to-give or short code giving, dedicated church apps, mobile responsive websites that easily scale from computer to tablet to smartphone, online recurring giving, and of course the trusty ACH withdrawal or bank bill-pay features which require no work from the church since it is sent through the donor's bank website.
While some service providers offer similar methods of giving, the reporting features, in addition to the merchant and transaction fees, can vary quite a bit. It's good to do your homework. Churches must also take into account their audience and provide giving options that reach the people in the pews.
"The general populous of our community is not very tech-driven, so we had to combat some culture paradigms and dispel the myth that online giving was not safe. We started with one payment gateway, but after attending a conference, our lead pastor challenged us to find a payment platform that offered text-message giving," says Brian Sisneros, associate pastor of Living Stone Worship Center.
The pastors at Living Stone felt that choosing an online giving platform that was congruent with their giving philosophy was of paramount importance.
"Another part of our giving philosophy is what I call the 'integrity of transparency.' When our supporters click on that [giving] link, they are seamlessly directed to the dashboard where they can monitor the progress of each campaign. They can see what is coming and what is not coming in," Sisneros says. "As of right now, digital giving accounts for about 30 percent of our monthly income and we have seen it steadily increase over the last six months."
Like many others, churches are seeing the wave of mobile technology continue to grip their congregations. Many feel that giving via text message will become the norm in the years to come.
"We foresaw that texting was the future of banking and giving in general, and we wanted to get ahead of the curve. We believe that the majority of our giving will eventually be through text messaging," Sisneros says.
While some churches are still wary of the fees involved in offering online giving, if they begin to think about it in terms of losing 30 percent of their donations because they don't have any way for people to give digitally, it might change their perspective.
Technology and online giving aren't going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, more people than ever have access to technology and desire to use it for good.
Lauren Hunter is a freelance writer, consultant and blogger who desires to encourage churches to better use technology to improve every aspect of ministry. Her blog, ChurchTechToday, was born from a need for a place to discuss how technology can impact the church in positive ways.
Digital Giving Solutions and Surprising Statistics
Here are some digital giving solutions that offer mobile app, kiosk and text-to-giving options:
Easy Tithe | easytithe.com
E-zekiel | e-zekiel.com
Kindrid | kindrid.com
Mogiv | mogiv.com
Qgiv | qgiv.com
SecureGive | securegive.com
SimpleGive | simplegive.com
- Two out of five people carry less than $20 on their person (Bankrate).
- Consumers never write checks are up to 38 percent. Another 20 percent only write a few per year (The Financial Brand).
- Six in 10 Millennials do not have a credit card (Washington Post).
- Branded giving pages [pages embedded on church's website] account for 54 percent of online giving. Branded giving pages raise six times more in contributions than generic giving pages (Charity Navigator).
- Website traffic for nonprofit websites rose 16 percent from the year prior (M+R 2014 Benchmark Study).
- Charitable giving revenue grew 4.9 percent in 2013, the largest gain since the 2008 recession (Forbes).
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