Sorry Pastor, I forgot My Checkbook

This Sunday if your members forget to bring their checkbook to church with them could they still tithe to your church? If they are away on holiday does their gift to your church show up in your offering plate? For 86% of US churches the answer is no.

Over the past decade online bill payment has increased by 800%. Paper check usage has declined from 61% of all payments in 2000 to just 26% in 2010. In 2011 the number of checks processed by the Federal Reserve fell at its steepest rate yet, a third of the volume processed 20 years ago. Many now say that paper checks will soon be a thing of the past. Why is it then that only 14% of US churches offer online giving!

Obviously 84% of US churches don’t see online giving as that big of a deal. In my discussions with Christian leaders about this trend I have found a variety of reasons why churches are pushing back against online giving. This post is the first part in dealing with those objections. Let’s look at two of the most common objections churches have to online giving.

Online giving is only a fraction of the total amount a church takes in. One blog posted the following about online giving…

“The slice of the online pie is still a sliver. On average, online donations accounted for 6.3 percent of overall fundraising. Among small organizations (budgets of less than $1 million), the average was slightly higher, at 8.7 percent; among medium organizations (budgets of $1 million to $10 million), it was a tad lower, at 6 percent. This underscores a simple truth: Online giving remains a sliver of the overall pie for organizations.”

First of all the data used from the above quote came not from a scientific survey but an opinion poll. Our experience and findings are that online giving is rising so fast that most professional pollsters are not even tracking the data. Another reason why some churches are not seeing a a large percentage of giving come from online giving is that they do not properly use the tool. If you use the tool of online giving correctly the amount you take in as a percentage of all gifts will rise.

Recently one of my clients emailed me about the online campaign we have been running and said, “The online giving in March was 46k and in April it was 72k – 57% increase in one month, we are on the right track, but need to continue to take it up. We are promoting online giving weekly.” That is the key. I have several clients right now that are seeing online giving represent between 30% to 50% of their total gifts.

Another of the biggest objections to online giving is the belief that online giving does not increase total gifts to the church. Again listen to what a blog post said about this, “What isn’t clear is whether these percentages represent new dollars the organizations otherwise wouldn’t have received, thus making the overall pie grow. If they are new, that’s encouraging. The likelier conclusion, though, is that some of those dollars were given by current donors who would have given anyway, but found the online giving option more convenient.”

Why set up something that will not net you an increase in giving? After all online giving does cost you a fractional percentage fee to the processing companies that allow the ease of use of this new tool. So, unless online giving increases your giving why bother? Online giving does indeed increase your total gifts. One reason why this is true is that online giving allows for recurring gifts to be set up. This allows for consistency in giving and thus brings an increase in giving.

A pastor of a small midwestern church told me this week, “Our summer giving used to really decline causing us all kinds of stress on Monday mornings. We made a concerted effort at the start of the summer to push for online recurring giving. In the past when someone went on vacation they never made up that missed offering. Now their gift comes in through online giving. Our giving this summer has stayed consistent taking the panic out of Monday morning!”

I am hearing this same story from numerous sources. So while it might be that your donors simply use online giving because it is convenient that convenience will build consistency. Consistency builds an increase in giving. Even if that only represents an increase of less than 10%, online giving would more than pay for itself. I believe that as online giving catches on and more professional studies are done we will see that it does increase giving.

One way to see online giving help increase the total amount you bring in is to use the tool. Too many churches simply set up online giving and never advertise its benefits. This is one reason why we help churches build Apps that make it easy for members to give online as well as set up websites to be Mobile friendly.

You have to work at getting people to sign up for online giving. Remember the quote above about the church that saw online giving increase by 57% in one month? Look at this video they put together that emphasized online giving 

It is time the church wakes up and realizes that society is online and doing commerce online. Setting up online giving not only makes you current with the times it will increase your offerings! If you are not online you are behind. Contact us today to see how easy and affordable it is to set up online giving.

Mark Brooks

Founder and President

The Charis Group