Q: Is online giving safe?
A: In general, the answer is yes. Money changes hands digitally everyday through debit and credit cards. Every church that enables online giving should be wise to utilize companies that are up to date on cyber security measures. An added bonus of online giving that is stealing money from the offering plate or misreporting information becomes more difficult—it holds the potential to increase integrity.
Q: Should we accept ACH debit, credit cards or both?
A: While fees are lower or sometimes even absent in ACH (it is processed like a check from an account), you’ll want to accept all methods. The reason for this is not for your accounting side, but because offering multiple methods ensures givers can give how they like to give. While we don’t encourage the use of credit cards, some people give via credit to accrue rewards. Leaving a method of payment off will not save you money or teach people about the use of debt; it will reduce the number of givers.
Q: I heard about the fees per transaction—is it worth it?
A: Yes. Financially astute leaders often wonder where the benefit lies in online giving. They will simply look at those already giving and ask why they would want to pay transaction fees on monies already being received without fees. While the question seems legitimate at first, it is the wrong question. The real question is how many givers are you losing by not offering online giving? Churches who embed online giving in their culture will often see 50-75 percent of their funds come via online. Usually, a sizeable portion of these online givers would not have given at all by check or cash. In most instances the amount received from those who would not have given far exceeds the amount of any transaction fees. In this COVID-19 season, even smaller and rural churches will see at least some benefit in using online giving while they cannot meet in person.
Q: What company or online platform should I use?
A: We encourage you to check out a range of options, although SBC LifeWay Giving is worth consideration for SBTC churches. In choosing an online giving platform you will want to consider three things:
- If you know a church or pastor having success with a certain company, you may want to choose that company because you will have local help getting your system up and running.
- If you can choose one that connects directly to your database you will save yourself a lot of work. If you do not have a good online database then you may consider upgrading both the database and the giving platform at the same time. If you do this right, you will be able to print your church giving statements with only a few clicks of the mouse. If you do this wrong, you will create double work when it comes to giving records.
- Ask to test drive the administrative end and the user end of any system before purchasing. Make sure the person who will handle administration can understand batching, gift recording and other features your church may require. If you are at a loss on choosing, Google “online church giving platforms” and read reviews.
Q: What is usually required to set up online giving?
A: You need the Internet, a reliable computer, the church bank account number (and possibly a few other things your bank can provide), a giving platform or database, and a merchant account. Your giving platform or database provider usually recommends a merchant account. Remember YouTube can be a great help providing tutorials once you choose a company. Many companies have well written tutorials and fast customer service to help you get up and running.
Q: How do I communicate the addition of online giving?
A: You will want to prominently feature this on your website. In addition, you can include information on how to give through a church-wide email or make a graphic to announce on your social media accounts. It never hurts to send snail mail to your congregation with the printed information. One of the best ways to get the ball rolling is to ask your leadership team to give with this method. This way, you are asking people to do what you have already done. This provides credibility. Make sure any communication is done with a positive and encouraging tone. You do not have to apologize for utilizing this technology.
Q: Should I add text giving?
A: Yes. Most giving platforms will include an option to offer text giving. It is simply an extension of giving from your website and offers a higher level of convenience. Many people use their phones to give online and texting is an easy way to do it. When text giving is offered some churches see an uptick in scheduled or recurring giving.
Q: What about person-to-person digital transaction apps?
A: Apps like Venmo are rising in popularity. We do not recommend using them for your church giving. For 501c3 status, it must be given directly to the church account and it could create confusion for giving records. They are great if you want to pay your friend for the coffee they bought you, but it really isn’t set up for a church giving system.