By Derek Gillette
A few months ago, I sat down for coffee with a young executive pastor. He was technologically savvy, ambitious and full of positivity as his church had seen triple-digit growth in the last few years.
As soon as the topic of church software came up, his countenance changed.
“We tried this church database company, but no one used it, so we dropped it,” the XP told me. “Then, we tried this accounting software, and it was a lot harder to implement than they told us, so we’re switching.”
His point: It’s safer to do nothing than to risk making the wrong decision.
It seems like everywhere you turn, there’s another article or conference session being conducted around the importance of online and mobile giving for churches. These articles advise about the need to relate to the next generation and use the technology people are already using on a regular basis.
But, how well does this giving technology actually work? And, is it worth the time and money to implement?
To get some data behind this, we partnered with Church Executive and put together a giving survey that asked pastors to disclose if their giving had gone up or down in the last quarter, which giving methods they used, and how concerned they were about their church’s giving levels.
Surprisingly, we found almost no correlation between increased giving and offering a mobile way for people to give.
Let me walk you through what we did find.
Of the 150 or so churches we surveyed, 32% offer giving through a mobile app. Their answers paralleled those of churches without a mobile giving option:
• 96% of those with mobile giving said their giving last quarter increased or stayed the same. Those without mobile giving reported a 92% increase.
• 56% of those with mobile giving said they were concerned or very concerned with their current giving levels, compared to 68% concern by those who did not.
• Among those with mobile giving, 70% admitted that less than 30% of their total contributions came through online or mobile methods.
These results make it very clear: Simply adding a mobile giving option to your church does not guarantee an increase in giving or a reduction in worry.
So what’s the answer?
Why do some churches see dramatic giving increases when adding a mobile option, while others see no change?
To better understand this, we personally reviewed the digital giving of each of the 48 churches in our survey. After visiting each church’s website — and trying to give to each church as a first-time giver — we found:
• 21% offered giving through multiple vendors
• 53% required a login to give
• Only 15% showed a text-to-give option on the giving page.
And, the most shocking discovery: Of the 48 churches that said they offered giving through a mobile app, only 9% showed a mobile option on the giving page.
Based on this data, and after consulting with thousands of churches to implement successful mobile giving, we advise that your church heed the following tenets before implementing mobile giving.
3 common mistakes
1) Clicking on “giving” takes people straight to the giving form, with no context or instructions. Besides just being impersonal, this practice doesn’t afford first-time givers any context about your church’s beliefs, the security of its online giving, or even how to give for the first time. Frederick Church of the Brethren (Frederick, MD) offers a great example of how a giving page should look and read: http://fcob.net/giving.
2) Including a lengthy fill-out form on the “guest” giving page. We know the importance of reducing barriers at church, and online giving should be no different. Don’t expect first-time givers to fill out lengthy forms that take more than three minutes to complete.
3) Asking people to sign up for ACH by printing a form and returning it to the church. Expecting this is not only incredibly insecure, but also time-consuming.
3 best practices
1) Having one digital giving vendor that offers multiple giving options. Using a different vendor for each giving option creates confusion — not only for givers, but also for your bookkeeper. Find a vendor that offers all-in-one giving through text, mobile, online and ACH.
2) Not requiring login or account creation for first-time givers. Remove barriers by only asking for minimal information to make that first gift: email address, name, phone number (optional), amount, fund and credit card information. Anything else is too much.
3) Having a clear strategy around growing three things: ACH, recurring gifts and first-time givers. This is the final, but most important, best practice. To accomplish it, be sure to partner with a vendor that offers education, talking points and instructional videos, and uses a system that encourages recurring gifts. Ask about these things when doing your research.