Churches turn to tech to fill collection plates during the pandemic
By Aaron Senneff
Congregations large and small are feeling the financial impact of the pandemic. With in-person services suspended for months and collection plates idle, churches are turning to technology to bring in revenue to fund their ministries.
The COVID-19 environment is accelerating the digital transformation of churches, necessitating a shift to a digital-first strategy to connect and engage with their congregations during the pandemic. From live streaming services to online giving platforms, technology is helping faith groups maximize participation and grow generosity.
Prior to the pandemic, about half of congregations had the capacity to accept electronic donations according to a National Congregations Study cited in a recent Associated Press (AP) wire report. The study’s principal investigator, Duke University professor Mark Chaves, Ph.D., noted in the AP story that the study found a third of churches have no savings accounts, endowments or reserve funds. Chaves also told AP that donations from churchgoers are “by far the most important income stream for the vast majority of churches [and] churches with electronic donations set up before the pandemic were in a better position to keep the giving flowing compared to those starting from scratch.”
Whether churches have been using digital platforms for some time or are just starting their digital transformation, these platforms are allowing them to sustain income streams by offering a contactless, frictionless way for congregants to give. The inflow of regular, reliable donations is critical for churches to literally and figuratively keep the lights on — especially for the 40% of congregations that essentially receive their entire annual revenue from individual donations.
Churches are using integrated church management systems (ChMS) technology to grow generosity, measure the impact of their ministry, connect with congregants and manage day-to-day operations. With this technology churches are able to facilitate and increase the amount of person-to-person interactions between church members, church leadership, volunteers, and other church members.
By harnessing digital technology, churches are also giving members the option to tithe when and how it is convenient for them. This includes making it easy for members to make one-time tithing payments or set up recurring giving with automatic weekly or monthly payments. Tithing software not only simplifies giving but records dates, times, amounts, and other information, generating a more holistic view of congregant data and providing churches with actionable insights on giving trends.
Churches are also leveraging “there’s an app for that” technology to provide mobile giving and interaction experiences to their congregations. Church management functionality built into mobile applications expands church outreach and makes giving more accessible to an increasingly mobile society made up of more than 260 million smartphone users in the U.S. alone.
Using mobile apps churches are engaging with their congregations when in-person fellowship isn’t possible. This technology provides churches the flexibility to communicate with their congregations any day of the week. Simple, intuitive mobile apps that host text, images, video, audio, giving, and more in a clear, organized format are helping churches deepen their connection with congregants and provide a seamless way for congregants to explore church content, find out what’s going on, and interact with the church.
One of the strategies churches are using to enable people to give through their mobile devices is text engagement. Church leaders are finding that asking congregants to text to a church’s giving keyword is the fastest and easiest way to enable their community to give online. Many churches are using text engagement to start a campaign in response to the pandemic that will allow their community the opportunity to donate or pledge money.
As the pandemic fuels a new era of digital connection in almost every aspect of life, churches are leveraging technology to build stronger relationships with their communities, maximize participation and grow giving.
Aaron Senneff has extensive knowledge and experience leading software development and delivery initiatives for enterprise organizations. As Pushpay’s Chief Technology Officer, he leads the product and engineering teams, who develop and deploy world-class technology solutions to help customers engage and connect with their community more seamlessly.