By Derek Gillette
An interview with Rick Dunham, president and CEO of Dunham + Company
Only 42% of churches accept online donations. This stat was one of the eye-opening revelations uncovered by Dunham + Company in their latest church survey.
Perhaps more startling though, is that of those churches who do offer a digital option, they only see 11 percent to 13 percent of their total contributions come through that method, on average.
To better understand these numbers, and what churches can do to improve upon them, I jumped on a call with Rick Dunham, president and CEO of Dunham + Company.
Q: What made you want to commission this study?
We do quite a bit of work in the faith-based sector, including churches, and we wanted to get an objective feel about where the Church is in facilitating online giving. The movement to online giving is very customer-driven, and churches need to respond to changing consumer behavior, which favors a mobile-centered solution for just about everything.
Q: Why do you think the 42-percent number is so low?
This number was shockingly low for us. I expected to see it closer to 60 percent. But honestly, there’s a big gap between large and small churches in the study. Only 29 percent of smaller churches (less than 200 in weekly attendance) allow for online giving, while 70 percent of larger churches provide the option.
Q: What are the major barriers for churches, especially those with fewer than 200 members?
People are becoming more and more comfortable with online transactions, both social and commerce. The barrier for churches is simply the time and resources required to execute on this change in consumer behavior. When, as a church, you’ve had a tried-and-true method for years, it’s hard to want to change that overnight.
Q: Why do you think nonprofits have made the jump so much faster than churches?
Funding sources. Both churches and nonprofits rely on charitable donations, but the way in which people give to churches uses the weekly, consistent, in-person interactions. Nonprofits don’t have the same amount of weekly contact, so the need for facilitating giving from a distance is different. Also, direct response efforts (mailings and emails) are a significant source for donations for many nonprofits, which means they have to create an online landing page to drive donations.
Q: The 11-percent-of-total-giving is so low. Even with nonprofits, it’s only 6 percent. Why?
You must remember that the 6 percent and 11 percent numbers are weighted averages. Large donation options, such as estate giving and planned giving, skew the percentage down, away from digital, for nonprofits.
Regardless, these numbers are low for the Church. I’m not sure what the best practice number would be, but I did get an email in response to our survey from a gentleman who used to be in charge of online giving for his church. They grew their digital giving to 30 percent. So, numbers like these are possible when a digital giving strategy is properly executed.
Q: Based on this information, what are three tips for churches looking to increase their digital giving above that 11-percent number?
First, the church website must be optimized to facilitate online giving with as little friction as possible. For the churches that currently don’t have such an option, they need to create it. For those that do, they need to ensure it’s optimized. Our online scorecard can provide that direction.
Mobile optimization is everything. Transactions are increasingly done through a mobile device and just having an online form is not enough. It needs to be mobile-friendly. From start to finish, make sure your digital giving process is easy to complete on a mobile device.
What are you saying in the actual service itself? This is the secret tip that many pastors don’t think about. The best digital and traditional communication strategy will never take the place of that in-person appeal from the stage. Make it clear how to give digitally, with instructions on-screen. And, ensure you’re talking about the impact donations are making through the work of the church.
Q: How important is the difference between online and mobile giving options?
As I mentioned above, people prefer a mobile-friendly experience. Text-to-give and mobile giving apps, such as Pushpay, are great options, and they need to be able to capture donor information along with receiving the gift. This is crucial, as it keeps donor records clean and makes it easy for the giver to donate again the next time. As long as it’s promoted in the service, once I’m set up, I’m more likely to give again.
Q: What role do you think mobile-specific giving could play?
For those churches not sure if digital giving is for them, take a peek around next time the giving portion of your service comes around. Notice the people scrambling to pull out their wallets, looking for a checkbook, indicating they’ve not thought in advance about giving, but they’re still motivated to contribute. Mobile giving puts a method in front of them which allows a spontaneous gift easily and simply.
Q: What’s the one practical step a church who is considering digital giving should take next?
I recommend three things. First, make sure you have a simple online giving form with the least friction possible, including the number of fields, login requirements, etc.
Then, make sure it’s mobile-optimized, meaning specifically formatted to be filled out on a phone or tablet.
Finally, make sure you’re effectively communicating that to your audience.
Derek Gillette is the communications manager for Pushpay and eChurch. Pushpay is the 10-second mobile giving solution. Ninety-percent who download the app, give with it; 45 percent of gifts happen on days other than Sunday; and the average gift size is $176. Continue the conversation with Gillette on Twitter.