5 mistakes churches make with their online giving

By Kent Woodyard

In my years serving as the director of business development for a faith-based online and mobile giving platform, I’ve seen it all. The good, the bad, and the VERY ugly.

I’ve seen megachurches with cumbersome forms and ghastly giving portals. (Don’t worry. I won’t list any names.)

I’ve seen tiny, rural congregations with dynamic, mobile responsive pages that work like a dream on any device.

In fact, the one thing I haven’t seen is a church that is doing digital giving perfectly.

And most churches would be the first to admit this. Whichever end of the spectrum your church falls on — big, small, urban, rural, tech-savvy or still improving — I’m sure there are things about your church’s online presence that sometimes make you cringe.

With that in mind,  I’d like to talk about the five most “cringe-worthy” mistakes I see churches make with their digital giving strategies. My intention here is not to “throw stones,” but rather to shine a light on some of the low-hanging fruit in the oft-confusing and ever-changing world of digital giving.

Whatever your church is doing right, if you can avoid doing these five things wrong, you’ll be well on your way to online giving success!

Mistake #1: They’re shy about it

While the number of churches using digital giving has climbed steeply in recent years — 42% of churches in 2012, up from only 11% in 2011 — the number of churches who are “loud and proud” about it has not kept pace. For some reason, many churches continue to treat digital giving like it’s a “dirty little secret.” It’s never mentioned on Sunday mornings, and the link is impossible to find on their website.

While I can understand the motive behind these decisions (not wanting to seem overly focused on money), the effect is that churches end up sabotaging their digital giving before it’s even had a chance. Don’t let this be you! Celebrate the additional giving opportunities that online tools create. Make sure your “Give” link is easily accessible from your website’s homepage. Try this for a few months and see how your congregation responds to your enthusiasm.

Mistake #2: They forget about mobile

In 2015, when we talk about “digital giving,” we’re no longer talking about a ‘donate’ button on your website. Or at least that’s not all we’re talking about. We’re talking about tablets and smartphones and apps and text messaging and whatever the next must-have device or medium is. The Internet has gone mobile, and your giving platform needs to go mobile with it.

From church apps, to text giving, to mobile responsive giving forms, mobile giving can come in many shapes and sizes. Different options will work better for different congregations, but your church cannot afford to ignore this rapidly growing giving channel. When it comes to connecting with disengaged givers — especially young givers — mobile is the way to go!

Mistake #3: They require an account or login before someone can give

One of biggest bummers I run across on church giving pages is a requirement to “login or create an account” requirement before I can even give. Think about it: What if a grocery store required you to join their “Preferred Member Club” before you could even check out? How many of us would decline this request and shop across the street? And yet, this is what so many churches continue to do on their websites.

But why? What if the potential giver isn’t a member of your church? What if they’re short on time? What if they just don’t want one more password to keep up with? In each of these cases, the “create an account” requirement might be enough to prevent them from following through with their gift. By all means, provide an account option for repeat givers, but make sure you also have a “give as a guest” option for everyone else. Remember: In the world of online giving, speed and simplicity are king and queen.

Mistake #4: They stick with PayPal longer than they should

Despite the literally dozens of more effective alternatives, PayPal remains the most popular solution for electronic giving to the church. It’s cheap. It’s easy to setup. It’s a familiar and trusted name. But, if your church is receiving more than $1,000 per month online, you need more from your online giving platform than PayPal can provide.

Embeddable giving forms, direct deposit, robust reporting, multiple giving funds, ACH giving, personalized tech support … the list goes on. For these features and more, you will be much better served by a platform built specifically for the church. I understand why many churches get started with PayPal, but I don’t understand why so many stay there — especially when there are so many better options available for nearly the same price.

Mistake #5: They ignore online giving altogether!

As bad as PayPal is, there is another, even bigger, mistake churches make with digital giving: They skip it altogether! While the statistics and solutions might vary, one thing is certain: online giving works! It expands the “generosity moment” from five minutes on Sunday morning to anytime and anywhere. It allows you to engage with young churchgoers who no longer use cash or checks. Automated giving helps alleviate the seasonal dips in giving, and can turn inconsistent givers into committed tithers.

For these reasons and more, digital giving has been consistently linked to increases in overall giving. Conversely, if you’re holding off on implementing this technology, you’re missing out on giving. Plain and simple.

I encourage you to find a solution that works for your church, and to get started today.

Have you run across any online giving pitfalls that I’ve missed?

KentWoodyardKent Woodyard lives in San Diego, CA, where he serves as the Director of Business Development for Mogiv, a cloud-based, multi-channel giving solution built for the Church. When he’s not talking to pastors about online and mobile giving, he enjoys being outside, drinking coffee, and watching Green Bay Packer football — sometimes all at once.

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