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Online, on-site, in hand

By Rez Gopez-Sindac

By offering multiple giving options, churches take the hassle out of giving and pave the way for members to exercise greater generosity.

If you want to increase your church’s level of generosity, make giving easy. Remove the barriers that keep many people from blessing your church financially.

For Lakeside Church, Folsom, CA, it started seven years ago with an option for its members to set up ACH (automated clearing house) fund transfers through their banks. Their church contributions were debited automatically from their checking or savings accounts on a regular basis. But wanting to provide donors with more giving options, Lakeside took another step to making giving easy and accessible by using the services of FellowshipOne, a Web-based church management software that allows people to manage their online giving anytime, anywhere.

“The initial roll-out was slow and a little cumbersome, but has greatly improved,” says Mike Klockenbrink, chief operating officer. “Many people were skeptics at first and were worried, but today approximately 33 percent of all our giving is online.”

At Seacoast Church in Charleston, SC, there were only a handful of people donating online when the church introduced online giving in 2005. But the percentage has grown significantly since, says Glenn Wood, church administrator. “For 2011 we had some 20,000 individual contributions given online – that percentage was more than 32 percent.”

NewSpring, a multicampus church in South Carolina, boasts a similar experience. Katie Bailey, assistant for strategic giving, says “38 percent of our offering this year have been received online.”

NewSpring introduced online giving to its members in 2005 “to tear down a barrier for giving since people don’t typically carry cash and checks,” says Bailey. Recently, the church added more giving options through SecureGive kiosks and PayPal.

“Online giving works because most people use debit or credit cards to complete their transactions in their everyday life,” says Bailey. “Giving is no exception.”

Online giving also helps reduce hours spent counting and entering donations, which then helps eliminate data entry errors, adds Klockenbrink.
Another important benefit for churches is that giving is stabilized, says Nicole Vander Meulen, MinistryLINQ’s marketing and communications specialist. “A church is able to plan strategically, anticipate budget ebbs and flows and, ultimately, fuel its mission.”

Web-based online giving
Giving through a church website is safe and easy. But churches need to find a reputable database software provider to help them track ministry statistics such as contributions and membership, and ensure safe and efficient transactions. Churches will also need a merchant account provider that will take care of credit and debit cards processing.

Donors click on the “Online Giving” button on their church website and follow simple steps to create an account and set up giving schedules that fit their needs.

When choosing an online database system, Bailey says every church should make sure that whatever giving software they choose integrates well into their accounting software.

“Using tools that aren’t connected to your church management software leads to silos and disconnected data, causing donors to fall through the cracks,” says Steve Caton, Church Community Builder’s vice president for sales and marketing.

Online giving and online payments through the Church Community Builder software is a simple process – collecting only the necessary information, thus eliminating barriers to new givers and streamlining the process for regular givers. It allows the church to provide multiple giving options, such as ACH payment processing, credit/debit cards, and one-time or recurring gifts. Donors can control their own contribution strategy and schedules as well as gain real-time access to their giving commitments and year-to-date activity.

“Because a congregant can create and manage their own recurring contributions, the management workload for church staff is diminished as is the embarrassment for a donor if they must reduce or discontinue their recurring contributions as a result of financial hardship,” says Caton.

Ease and accessibility also are among the features of EasyDraft, a fully integrated system with reporting and refund capabilities. Steve Contino, chief operating officer, says EasyDraft uses a consultative approach when working with churches, “and we listen to them so we can suggest the products that we feel will work best for them.” Contributors can store multiple checking and credit card accounts so they can choose how they want to pay for different contribution types.

“No need for on-site IT staff, as we host the secure site, manage the site and support the church for free, allowing churches to serve while we handle all the processing,” says Contino. And when ministry leaders need assistance, Contino says they have access to friendly live agents.

To use the services of EasyDraft, churches will have to fill out a questionnaire and provide their logos, colors and payment options. Equipment is not needed for web-based solutions. A typical set-up cost is a one-time fee of $150 and includes free customer service for the life of the relationship.

If a church is interested in further increasing its revenue through online giving, it can choose a merchant account provider that offers a referral program. One example is Holy Processing, a subsidiary of Capital Merchant Solutions, Inc. (CMS). A church can sign up as a reseller, and for each business that signs up for a merchant account that is referred by the church, CMS will give the church 20 percent of the profit from the processing for each business. The church will also get an up-front referral fee.

“This extra money can be used to feed the hungry, provide clothing, provide shelter, build youth programs, build ministries and build churches,” says Jeremiah Davis, vice president of Holy Processing.

On-location giving
Online giving is a first step in a congregation’s digital giving plan, says Marty Baker, founder of SecureGive, a turnkey digital giving solution providing online, kiosk, iPad and mobile phone options. A common next step, adds Baker, is installing a giving kiosk. Baker says having a kiosk in the church property allows members who are prompted to donate while at church to give easily, enabling the church to receive donations throughout the week.

Baker is also the founding and lead pastor of Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, GA. When the church launched its SecureGive kiosk, Baker says the administrative team could not figure out why donations were coming in on Tuesdays. It turned out that a women’s small group was meeting at the church, and the kiosk provided them a way to make a donation during the week. “It is not uncommon for people to stop by the church during the week and make a donation at the giving kiosk,” says Baker. “When giving is convenient, people give more.”

Baker says churches that use kiosks have reported increases in excess of 40 percent of new donors to the church.

Another huge benefit of a giving kiosk, Baker adds, is the savings in bank fees. Because a SecureGive kiosk uses a retail merchant account (and not an e-commerce merchant account used by Web-based online giving service), it means people are physically swiping their bank card and keying in their PIN to complete the transaction. Baker says retail or card-present transactions will save the church money in processing fees.

Yet, when it comes to flexibility and multiple applications, Qgiv claims it’s the only kiosk that allows both donations and multi-event registrations on the same unit. For example, church members can make a donation, purchase tickets to an event or register for the latest bulletins in one transaction.

Todd Baylis, president of Qgiv, Inc., says Qgiv is the first complete tablet-based kiosk in the donation market. The kiosk head, he says, can be quickly disconnected for mobile and portable use, and is self-contained with an iPad card reader – enabling it to be used anywhere on location with internal battery power. The kiosk also includes 3G wireless, which means that payments can be processed anywhere. Baylis says churches have been able to use the kiosk at outdoor events, such as bake sales and picnics.

Qgiv provides flexible payment options so that churches can customize their donation preferences. But if a church is concerned about the use of credit cards, Baylis says the kiosk can be locked to ACH/eCheck only.

“Our technology establishes an ease of donating not provided by any other charitable donation company or website,” says Baylis. “By providing on-location, secure and card-ready options, Qgiv takes the hassle out of giving, paving the way for patrons to increase the frequency and oftentimes even the dollar amount of their gifts.”

Based on year-over-year transaction volume and metrics from a random sample of Qgiv’s faith-based clients, Baylis says statistics for January-August 2011 to January-August 2012 show a 34 percent increase in online donations.

Mobile giving solutions
While kiosk machines meet a need, often a big drawback is they can be expensive because of the cost of the hardware, and there are usually additional costs associated with these devices, says R. Wayne Steiger, president/CEO of FlowPay Corporation.

FlowPay is a payment-processing technology company that offers online, on-site and mobile giving solutions. It also provides on-site check conversion.

“There is no longer any excuse for a person not to give,” says Steiger. “You cannot say you forgot your checkbook or don’t have any cash, because you don’t need to have either; plus everyone today has a cell phone.”

Steiger says the mobile phone will become the primary means most people will use to give their tithes and offerings.

One of the biggest mistakes churches are making today, says Steiger, is that they are demanding people to give the way they want to receive instead of the way people pay. This holds especially true for those under the age of 30 – who, says Steigler, give the least or don’t give at all.

“If you offer a way for them to begin to give, and they give a bare minimum of $10 each week, the cumulative result at the end of the year is impacting,” says Steigler.

Getting churches mobile-ready to fully engage with today’s generation is the goal of Your Mobile Church. Its Mobile Wallet service enables churches to collect tithes and donations in any amount via text message. “We make it easy to connect with and collect from anyone who owns a cell phone anywhere, at any time,” says Dana Simons, CEO of Your Mobile Church.

Building a relationship with their donors and becoming a part of their “mobile routine” are benefits that Your Mobile Church provides to its clients, says Simons. She adds that not only can churches provide their members the option to donate in any amount; they can also integrate donating with a routine of regular text messages, a visit to the app to access a sermon or submit a prayer request, or simply an automated text message reminder to securely confirm a weekly tithe.

“Donors may receive an email or text message on their phone with a request to support a cause, and rather than going home, browsing the church’s website and entering their credit card information, they simply send a text message to make their donation,” Simons says.

And they can give from anywhere in the world, notes Jen DeLaPorte, chief of business development at iGivings, LLC. iGivings has designed a mobile app platform that allows users to give from their phones. “They can be in church, on a beach, in an airport, hospital, or they can even be at church without their wallets and still be able to give their tithes and offerings,” says DeLaPorte.

A great value to churches, adds DeLaPorte, is that the iGivings app can help build their community and feeling of connectedness that makes members want to be generous when the church body is in need.

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Before getting into online giving

  • Plan merchant fees into your budget. Online giving is not free.
  • Shop around for a merchant supplier. Fees can be negotiated.
  • Develop a plan on how you are going to respond to questions and concerns from your contributors.
  • Talk to other churches in your area that are doing online giving to get their perspective.

— Mike Klockenbrink, COO, Lakeside Church

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What to watch out for

Churches should be careful not to overpay for simple services. Shop around, start small and don’t get locked into a long contract. You can always change or add on services as needed.
— Jeremiah Davis, VP of Holy Processing, Capital Merchant Solutions, Inc.
In today’s busy society, the fewer steps or hoops churches ask their congregation to go through to give, the more likely they are to do so – and on a regular basis.
— Todd Baylis, president, Qgiv, Inc.
If a church were purchasing an online giving tool, it would be important to make sure that it integrates with mobile technology. The iGivings app connects with the merchant account the church already has in place to provide seamless integration and ease for not only the church member, but the church staff as well.
— Jen DeLaPorte, chief of business development, iGivings, LLC
When choosing an online giving solution, the product needs to be simple and secure. If the process is too complicated, people will not complete the transaction.
— Marty Baker, SecureGive founder
A church would not want a payment service provider who also provides payment services for adult websites, or provides payment services for illicit activities.
— R. Wayne Steiger, president/CEO, FlowPay Corporation
When shopping for an online giving tool be sure to look for a solution that offers options for donating from a phone, so each member of the congregation can give on-the-go.
— Dana Simons, Your Mobile Church CEO

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