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Getting Started With Online Giving

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How Can Our Giving Survive the Coronavirus?

For many of you, the giant elephant in the room is giving. What’s going to happen during the indeterminate amount of time that churches can’t safely gather? The question raise a very real need and a serious challenge. Honestly, a lot of pastors and church leaders today aren’t great at talking about money outside of our own inner circles. Publicly and from the pulpit there may be a fear of not wanting to take airtime away from Christ to talk about cash. This simply isn’t a fair contrast. And most churches have swung the pendulum so far away from teaching regularly on handling our finances that churchgoers may rarely, if ever, hear a sermon on giving. 

A little voice in our heads, the cartoon devil on our shoulders, argues that it’d be self-serving or a lack of faith to preach, teach, or even ask members to continue giving regularly, if not to increase their giving. There will be more needs than usual from a benevolence standpoint alone. If you’re not hearing that voice, it may be the one that is genuinely scared of running people off if you talk about money. But you not only need to talk about it, you need to make a clear and consistent ask. In fact, the resistance you might be feeling right now may give us a peak behind the curtain, spiritually, at an object of worship in our culture. Arguably, it’s the object of highest praise and devotion in our communities. 

Hard truths:

  • Giving will likely be down beyond the impact timeframe.  People give out of their discretionary income.
  • People give out of their discretionary income.
  • People are worried about the economy and there will be long-term effects.

As you move through these next few months and into the new normal, understand that giving may not return to January 2020 levels until well into 2021.  You might be in for a long road. 

It’s a reason to pay attention, not a time to despair.  Your church needs your leadership and your focus. There is true joy to be found in giving. Jesus spoke plenty on the subject, as has God throughout Scripture.

Here’s the progression to go through if you are looking to get started.

1.  If you use a database provider like Church Community Builder, Realm, or Rock, start there. 

Most of these software solution companies offer digital giving as a part of a package. Since you’re already using their services, this will be the quickest way to get started.

2. If you’re already using Planning Center for volunteers or people, then add their giving module. 

It’s good. And there would be some natural familiarity.

3. Look at giving-specific solutions like Push Pay, Tithe.ly, or Easy Tithe. 

These solutions will all work fine.

When choosing your giving solutions providers, here are the features I would absolutely require.  I would not even consider a solution that didn’t offer these

1. Recurring Transactions. 

This is the most important feature and it’s a must-have.  You need a solution that would allow someone to set up automatic, recurring contributions so they can make one decision and support your church every month.

2. Accepts all forms of payment. 

You need to accept ACH payments but also every form of credit card including American Express.  I know some churches don’t like to promote debt, but American’s don’t GIVE their way into debt. 

3. Mobile friendly. 

Even when people are not sitting in your service, they will use their mobile phone to give.  So whatever you’re using needs to look great and work great from a mobile phone.

It would be easy to discuss, debate, and dissect every feature and cost of these providers.  Get a few smart people together and just make a decision. You’re going to be okay and you can live with whatever decision you make. The important thing is that you get up and running.

What about fees?

Fees for digital giving come in two parts.  First, there are monthly fees charged by some service providers.  This flat fee is sometimes based on church size. Second, there are transaction fees on each donation. The church pays this fee, similar to how every merchant or restaurant pays the fee when you use your card.  Some solutions give you the option to pass this fee on to the donor. While it might work to offer that as an option during the donation process, we don’t recommend forcing it. 

Quite simply…fees are the cost of doing business.  Be wise and be a good steward, but don’t be shortsighted either.

For most churches, a .05% difference in transaction fees is not reason enough to avoid digital giving or make a switch. 

Casey Fulghezi built a tool called Giving Fees that will show you what your monthly and transaction fees would be on each platform at various volume levels.

Grab the link and don’t be afraid to share it out on your feeds, put it out as a lower third. We need to be okay with expressing our needs, not only for our church to stay open but also so we can meet the needs of our community

Depending on what ChMS (Church Management Software) you’re using, you may or may not already have the capability to promote online giving. If your ChMS offers digital giving, make sure it’s enabled and easily accessible. 

Popular ChMS options

If your church management software doesn’t handle online giving, consider making the change now so you don’t have to change again later. Even if your current software doesn’t support online giving, there are several options for services that will enable online giving as an option that are simple enough to incorporate with your existing ChMs: 

How to have “the Talk”

If this is new to your church, create a communications plan to make people aware of the new opportunity. Carefully consider your wording, and make it easy to find.

If you have a mostly older population in your church, you can always encourage them to mail their tithe in. The most important piece here is safety, and you need to reiterate it.  

PLACE TO COMMUNICATE:

  • In an email
  • On social media
  • Landing Page of your website
  • Menu on the landing page of your website
  • In your Email Signatures

SAMPLE SOCIAL MEDIA POST:

GREAT NEWS: We’re mobilizing our church so we can be the church when you need it most.  We are continuing to be faithful with what God has given us, and are grateful that we get to be the church together. 

If you need help during this difficult time, please reach out. We’re here to help.

SAMPLE EMAIL COPY:

Dear ________,

Introduction

Thank them for being a part of (church name). We are so grateful for you, and all that you bring to our church home. 

Share the Update

As you know, we’ve been making a lot of changes to keep our whole church family safe, cared for, and protected. 

So far we’ve implemented.

  1. Thing 1
  2. Thing 2
  3. And we’ve just set up our online giving through (company name). Please create an account and set up either a one-time tithe or ongoing tithe so we can not only attend to the needs of our church, but also our greater community.
  • INSERT STORY OF A NEED YOU’VE RECENTLY MET – 
Conclusion

Whether we are meeting in person or online, we are still called to be the Church. While I’m saddened that we are walking through such a difficult time, I am encouraged that this is when the Church shines its brightest. 

May we be the light together.

(Your Name)

It doesn’t have to be awkward

Choosing the right tool is an important decision, but it’s actually not the most important opportunity in front of you.

A lot of tools will work. It’s how you introduce or emphasize them that makes the difference.  The best digital giving tool in the world that isn’t used by your congregation won’t move the needle. 

So let’s talk practically about what to do.

1.  Ask your people to give online.

The first thing to do is to clearly ask your people to give.  Let them know your church is still meeting, you’re just meeting in a different place.  Let them know you’re still doing ministry. Keep the conversation focused on ministry, not just bills.

Here’s some great  language from RECHURCH:

“While our public services are cancelled for now, the mission and ministry of RECHURCH is moving forward! If you would like to invest in what God is doing in and through Restoration Church, you can click below to give online (it takes just a minute or two)”

When you ask them to give online, make sure you’re are making the process as quick and easy as it can be.  Remember, the easier something is the more likely people are to follow through. People give up after too many clicks.

Amazon knows about the power of one-click purchases.  They know every additional step is a barrier. The same is true for online giving.

When you catch your breath, take a few minutes to make a donation on your own website.  Hit a timer and go through the process on your own. Do the very thing you’re asking others to do.

2.  Ask your people to set up automatic, recurring contributions. 

Not only do you want people to give online, you want to them to set up automatic, recurring contributions.  This is where you want to slow down and really talk them through how to do this. Explain how it really is best for the church.  Show people the exact steps to take.

Recurring donations are better than digital donations.

3.  Communicate REGULARLY with your donor segments.

At first, this will seem like a next level task or something to get to once things quiet down.  But this is a really powerful principle and an important step to take now.

All of the people who give to your church are all equally important to God.  Everyone matters!

But there are people who fund your church at a deeper level.  Wise leaders understand this principle and recognize they have a significant opportunity to speak to regular supporters differently.

The 20% of the people who fund 80% of your ministry are more like family.  You can be more parental or pastoral with them. You can be a little more straight-forward or a little more authentic.

It’s to communicate with your whole congregation, but this group of people needs more personal and more heartfelt communication.  They probably feel more connected to the church so they need a little more attention.

This is not a value questions, it’s just good leadership.  You can also anonymize any reports and not see names and amounts.  There’s a way to do this and still not show favoritism.

4.  Help people who might be unfamiliar or uncomfortable.

No matter the average age of your congregation, there will likely be people in your church who are just unfamiliar or uncomfortable about making transactions online.  Don’t pressure or guilt them, but offer to help them.

We’ve seen churches set up tech support line for seniors (or really anyone) who need help logging onto a webcast or zoom meeting.  And the same thing can apply to helping people get set up with digital giving. Let people know you can walk them through the steps without seeing their banking information or giving amounts.  Help them make a $1 donation if necessary. 

It’s important to remember that people are also worried about their personal financial situation.  While your donors certainly care about the church, there is a lot of their minds. They need to hear positive, encouraging messages. 

Have more questions? Let us know how we can help.

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