Online giving 101

By Ken Stewart

online-givingWhat do Hurricane Sandy, Colorado wildfires and summer vacations have in common? All will disrupt the life of a church through their impact on attendance.

Such events can drastically affect the financial stability of any congregation that experiences them. And, while natural disasters are uncommon, vacations and other seasonal events affect just about every church’s finances.

One of the best ways to lend stability and consistency to a church’s financial status is to set up online giving, which enables members to give by credit card or an e-checking process, such as Automatic Clearing House (ACH). With online giving, information is relayed through an online portal on your website, on your church-specific smartphone app, or at giving-designated kiosks located on your church campus.

When it comes to stabilizing the church’s financial picture, online giving offers several advantages:

Convenience. For the donor, online giving is comparable to the ease of 1-Click ordering from Amazon.com. For your church staff, it means automatic recording of contributions to the donor’s account record in your database, which cuts down on manual entry.

Consistency. Online giving is shown to help church members give more frequently and consistently by removing hurdles to giving. Automatically recurring contributions allow members to take a vacation without unintentionally delaying their contributions while they’re away. Members can also simply open the smartphone app and donate a specific amount to the fund(s) of their choice.

Immediacy. Online giving allows a church to immediately receive and distribute disaster-relief contributions from its community, for example. Taking a page from charitable organizations around the world, this is the most effective way to get a community engaged in recovery and restoration efforts.

Flexibility. A platform-agnostic giving option allows members to access their accounts and give from their laptops, smartphones or tablets, at the moment they think of it.

Visibility. Giving levels can serve as one barometer of a church’s spiritual health. As an example, Elexio’s Fusion church management software [Elexio.com] automatically records giving, and online data gives leaders ready access to patterns and trends in their church’s giving. Reporting provides the visuals necessary to gauge weekly, monthly and annual trends.

Of course, teaching on stewardship shouldn’t be reserved for one or two sermons a year, or for when disaster strikes. Generous giving should be taught frequently in services, classes and small groups.
Giving is a byproduct of spiritual growth. Just like prayer, worship, Bible reading and sharing Christ, giving is a discipline that’s practiced by maturing Christians. Online giving provides a simple way for church members to express their stewardship.

Ken Stewart has spent 31 years in pastoral ministry in Dallas and in his home state of Pennsylvania. He trained for the ministry at Lancaster Bible College & Graduate School, Dallas Theological Seminary, and in life. Stewart works as a freelance writer and editor and plays guitar on the worship team at his church.

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