Creating generosity: Technology doesn’t have to be SCARYChurch Growth, Communication, FINANCE, Financial Services, Giving, Latest News, LEADERSHIP, Outreach Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
ExperienceChurch.tv® in Puyallup, WA, isn’t afraid of technology. Early adopters of live streaming (hence, the .tv), digital child check-in and more, Senior Pastor Dennis Cummins and his team embrace tools and technologies that simplify processes and free up resources for ministry.
Mobile giving, then, was a natural fit.
The need for a better, easier way to give presented itself to church leaders in a number of impossible-to-ignore ways. The long-standing option of giving by credit card — by writing the card information on an offering envelope — had obvious issues. And, though the church had adopted an online giving option, people often accessed it with their smartphones. It took them to a URL — and that’s where things got tedious.
“They had to enlarge [the screen], pinch and squeeze, put in their address — it required all kinds of information,” he explains. “By the time they were done, it was just too difficult.”
That’s not the case anymore: After rolling out a mobile giving option from Seattle-based Pushpay, the church has seen an astounding 1,000-percent increase in mobile giving.
Cummins and his team recognized the truth: texting and mobile giving is part of the culture.
“People will respond to a text before they’ll respond to an email, a voicemail or even a phone call,” he points out. Now, in terms of giving, they just perform a few simple steps and they’re in.”
A smooth transition
While the results are definitely a big deal, Cummins says that getting mobile giving going wasn’t.
“It’s not like we integrated Pushpay and did a big mobile giving campaign; we didn’t change anything,” he recalls. “We just let the system do its job.”
By its design, Cummins adds, mobile giving engages first-time givers and makes recurring gifts easier to set up.
On the ministry side, mobile giving lets the worship team get back to the message quicker. “We talk less about the giving process and more about the giving reasons” Cummins explains. “It lets us focus on the main things.”
In April 2015, one of those things was crisis response following a 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal that killed more than 8,000 people and injured more than 21,000. The church is involved in fighting sex trafficking in the country; in fact, a team had just returned when disaster struck.
“Immediately, we were able to set up Pushpay to support our crisis response efforts, but also to support our anti-sex trafficking efforts,” he says. “It engaged people who weren’t even part of our church. The simplicity of being able to engage them to give at that level was tremendous.”
A better mousetrap
Prior to Pushpay, church staff was reconciling deposits to several different giving channels — a point-of-sale system in the bookstore; a merchant giving account; PayPal; the then-current database giving system; and cash and checks. From a bookkeeping standpoint, it was time-consuming and frustrating. Not to mention, endless possibilities for mistakes and errors.
“We found ourselves asking, What came in? What was it for? Who gave it?” Cummins recalls.
While an integrated giving platform seemed like the solution, there were quite a few options. In the end, simplicity won the day.
“Now the staff has one administrative dashboard to go to, and that’s it,” he explains. “When I took that capability to them initially, they were, like, ‘Yes! Let’s do it! Quick!’”
Today, church staff can see a quick week-to-week snapshot of giving activity. This is especially helpful for the finance director, who produces a weekly report. “It’s so quick to just pull that up and pop it into the Excel spreadsheet,” Cummins says.
Recently, the church added a credit card swiper to its giving options. This data is immediately input into the dashboard.
It has also implemented API, or application programming interface, with its church management system, UCare. “With the integration of Pushpay into [this system], it has only taken a few months and we’re light years ahead of where we were.”
While Cummins says a lot of pastors he works with in the Pacific Northwest still accept gifts in more traditional ways, he’s surprised at how many haven’t yet embraced mobile giving in their churches. As he talks with them, he tries to convey the benefits.
“Whatever giving options they’re considering, they have to think about how quick and easy the process will be,” he says. “I guess that’s what I champion — that there could be something better out there for them, but it’s not actually ‘better’ if it’s not simple.”
And at Cummins’ church, the mobile giving approach isn’t just simple; it’s proven.
“I look at the numbers, and it just blows me away,” he says. “It creates consistent cash flow, which is so critical in churches.”
— Reporting by RaeAnn Slaybaugh