A Seattle church automates giving and achieves online communityGiving, Software, TECHNOLOGY Wednesday, July 1st, 2009
Fully one-third of those attending Puget Sound Christian Center give online.
By Lauren Hunter
Puget Sound Christian Center in the greater Seattle area has undergone significant technology updating in its 30 years in order to meet the congregation’s needs and desires to connect and communicate with one another. A component of these changes in the past six months alone includes taking donations in a way that helped to streamline the church’s accounting and records management, on top of providing simple ways for the congregation to worship through giving.
“Accessibility was huge for us,” says Justin Isenhart, pastor at Puget Sound. “We have a culture of people who are open to new things, and we knew that it was time for the church to make some changes in order to increase accessibility — both in community and in giving.”
Although the church already had implemented online giving, it was looking for a way to integrate all online activity into one system. The church staff thought it was best to have one seamlessly integrated approach to membership management, financial records, and online community for both the church staff and members.
After using one provider for a few years, they began their search for a church management solution that incorporated aspects of web-based management together with all the functionality they needed. “We went with Church Community Builder (CCB) because of the way each function tied together so well in one simple-to-use system,” Isenhart says.
Online giving options
Some providers require creating a full profile in order to give, even though the individual might not want to see their history or give again in the future. “One of the reasons why I liked CCB is that people can give without a login, or if they want to see their giving history or set up recurring giving, they can create a login or interact with other CCB functions, if they wish,” notes Isenhart. “Some people just want to click and give, but not set up a profile.”
In CCB setting up a profile is how people become a part of the church community; it is the first step necessary to update contact information, connect to volunteer opportunities, and engage with the online church community.
With online giving, users have the option of giving without setting up a profile, or setting up a full profile first, then giving. Puget Sound Church has branded CCB as “MyPSCC.” Because each church gets its own landing page, the church can make it appear totally integrated.
“If a person logs in to MyPSCC first, then the system auto-populates the giving form and goes through the process to confirm and approve all profile data that’s in the system. This helps keep our records accurate,” Isenhart notes.
Currently one-third of attenders at the church give online. The church also provides envelopes during the in-service offering for those who want to give using a debit or credit card, which the church enters into the giving system manually.
Setting records straight
When gifts come in online, they are easily matched with the profile in the church database. If a person isn’t in the database, adding a new record is fast and straightforward. The matching process helps to prevent duplicate records.
“If a person is logged in when they give, it’s an automatic match, but if the person isn’t logged in, the church can quickly determine whether they are already in the database so that you don’t create duplicate records,” Isenhart says.
In fact, CCB includes a complete and dynamic contribution, pledge tracking and reporting system. It allows givers to divide a contribution into several categories and also set up recurring giving. An individual can securely see their giving record and at the end of the year print out their own giving statement. Church administration can call up batches for deposits, reports and graphs for staff meetings and print out giving statements for those who do not have Internet access in their homes.
CCB uses BluePay Payment Gateway as its merchant and gateway service for processing payments. BluePay is Payment Card Industry Compliant, which means that all transactions are totally secure and your church is completely protected from potential fraud or identity theft.
Summarizing the benefits
Online giving offers a variety of benefits for the church as well as those who support it. Many people today prefer not to carry checkbooks and therefore appreciate the convenience of giving online. Various studies over the years have also shown that people will often give more online than they do offline. Furthermore, when people miss a service because of vacations or other commitments, they can still participate in the weekly offering.
When this benefit is integrated with your overall church management strategy, there are some additional advantages: Members are able to access their own giving records and print out giving statements at the end of the year, thus cutting down on mailing/printing costs. Churches can track and report on giving trends for regular offerings, a building campaign, ministry drive pledges, or to reach other goals.
If recurring gift functionality is made available, congregants can create personalized giving schedules for their tithe as well as other funds that they wish to support, such as missions and benevolences. This in turn helps create more stable and predictable income flow for the church. Bottom line: Today’s churchgoer probably already manages much of his or her personal finances electronically via the Internet. Adding online giving as an option on your church Web site simply meets their expectations. Not providing it simply makes them wonder.
“I’ve talked to many other pastors about implementing online giving, and I always tell them that the consistency outweighs the cost in the end. It’s really worth it,” Isenhart says.
REFERENCE WEB SITES
Puget Sound Christian Center
Church Community Builder
MyPSCC branded site
BluePay Payment Gateway
Payment Card Industry Security Standards
WHY PSCC CHOSE ITS ONLINE GIVING PROVIDER
- Ease of operation for the user — simple and clear, yet thorough
- Availability for people to give whenever and wherever
- Encourages consistency because it’s automated and highly flexible