21st Century Congregations
New Ways to Fund Ministry in the 21st Century
APRIL 2016-- Canon Steve Abdow

We have a huge opportunity to increase giving in our churches by taking advantage of technology that is readily available, easy to use, here to stay, and familiar to most of us.  

Checks are disappearing. The younger generation doesn't even own checks. Cash in the offering plate is no longer tax-deductible without documentation.  77.4% of the population of North American is already online. Studies have shown that implementing online giving well at a church can increase overall giving by 10-30%. Yet so many churches continue to resist the online, digital revolution taking place.  

Consider the following reasons to think differently about how you leverage digital solutions to support the ministry of your church. The people in your pews...

·     Are already online.

·     Are already giving online to other non-profit organizations.

·     Want to give in ways that are part of their normal process.

·     Won't jump through unnecessary hoops.

·     Are prompted to give online even when presented with traditional offering  envelopes and direct mail.

A common objection to offering online giving options in church is an aversion on behalf of leadership to credit cards, as they have become a symbol for debt. What's important to remember is that offering online giving and using credit cards to donate are two separate issues. Online giving accounts for any exchange of funds outside of paper money (that means cash or check). This includes automated bank drafts, online bill pay, credit cards, debit cards, etc. According to a 2010 study published by the Federal Reserve System, more than 75 percent of funds were exchanged electronically. It is possible for your church to encourage the use of online giving while discouraging the use of credit cards as a means to do that. Many companies offer “debit only” giving that eliminates this worry and presents a chance to overcome giving obstacles. 

E-Giving takes the following forms:

·     Recurring pledge payments made through automatic bill pay through one’s bank or through online giving programs

·     Donate buttons on your website

·     Giving on your mobile device inside or outside your church building (Text to Give)

·     Kiosk giving inside the building (for larger parishes)

Summer is as expensive as the rest of the year in a church, yet it comes with the most inconsistent giving patters in a 12 month giving period. Recurring pledge payments are a way to overcome the summer giving slump.  Text to Give (mobile giving) is easy to implement and easy to offer. It’s ideal for guests, visiting grandparents, and younger people. You provide a number (in the bulletin or on a pew card) to send a text to, and users are provided a link to donate online from their device. People are most likely to have their smart phones with them, and mobile giving offers the opportunity for those without cash or a checkbook to give in the service. Often a donor will be led to make a gift on the spur of the moment – perhaps due to the sermon they just heard. With Text to Give they can do so quickly and easily.  

There are small fees to process electronic giving. However, the costs incurred will be far less than what you gain.  

Online giving is a rapidly growing giving channel for the person in the pew, but it's not a magic bullet. Leadership has to embrace and encourage these new ways to donate. Leaders must be strategic about implementation, adoption, and promotion for online giving to become an essential part of the funding model. 

Online giving is here to stay. It’s easy to implement, simple to maintain, and cost effective. Reporting is excellent, and can be integrated with your current donation software. Why not embrace technology that provides an easy way to give and meet their stewardship commitments? Today, more churches than ever are turning to electronic-donation companies to offer that ease of giving. I see it as a way to find sorely needed, low hanging fruit to fund ministry.

Click HERE for an outstanding comparison of five electronic donation vendors with links to demos on their websites. Simple Give and Faith Street have been recommended to me. If you are interested in learning more please contact me. I am putting together a kit with additional resources and information. Please don’t hesitate to contact me.  

Canon Steve Abdow


413-737-4786, x 121

The Episcopal DIocese of Western Massachusetts
37 Chestnut Street
Springfield, MA 01103
(413) 737 - 4786