By Gina Calvert

Straight Talk about Online Giving for Churches

Although online giving for churches has been around for more than a decade, there are still people and churches resisting the trend. But as the world faced down COVID-19 in 2020, many churches realized the importance of having an easily accessible way for people to tithe when they couldn’t attend.

You’ve likely heard some stories about the value of online giving for churches … some good, some perhaps not-so-good, leading you to wonder if it’s all it’s hyped up to be:

  • Does online giving for churches really raise overall giving levels?
  • Is it secure for givers?
  • Will it be worth it after processing and vendor fees are factored in?
  • Are all platforms pretty much the same?

Glad you asked. Because there are a few inside secrets about online giving for churches that most online giving vendors don’t share.

1. Online giving for churches can feel scary for some people

Older generations have turned out to be as digitally active as teenagers, but that doesn’t mean their trust levels for online financial transactions are as high. Seniors are more likely to balk at frustrating forms or anything that makes them feel insecure. One very common thing they hate is clicking your ‘give’ button and then being taken at the last minute from the church’s website to a third-party site to finalize their gift. They wonder if they’ve been scammed when they receive an impersonal thank you email from an organization they don’t recognize instead of the church.

Yet, the majority of online giving platforms for churches operate this way.

With Baby Boomers currently holding 70% of the wealth in the US, this is one group you want to feel secure and confident in the trust they have in your church. This headstrong demographic is one that won’t tolerate having to resolve an accidental gift with a third-party vendor who doesn’t give refunds, rather than simply asking the church to reverse the transaction.

2. Online giving for churches can be frustrating for givers

The #1 reason for implementing online giving is a convenience for givers. Yet, we’ve discovered a number of features in many church online giving platforms that are so frustrating many givers actually drop off without completing their gifts. In addition to the one mentioned above, other frustrations that can be deal-breakers for givers include:

  • Requiring them to create an account/Not having a guest check-out option
  • Forms with too many steps
  • A limit in gift size

As a side note, there can be frustrations on the church’s side, too, including:

  • Limits on how many gifts can be processed at one time
  • Giving platform vendors’ fees that increase as gifts increase
  • Giving platform vendors who are unable to help resolve an issue because they have farmed out the transaction process to yet another third-party (their payment processor)
  • The nightmare of reconciliation batch-matching (matching individual gifts in your system against the bank’s “total”)
  • Ridiculously long waits for gift funds to hit the church’s bank account

3. Online giving for churches doesn’t necessarily raise overall giving rates

For a long time, the assumption has been that if you build it, they will come. Some vendors tout examples of giving increases other churches have seen, slap a ‘give’ button on your website, and ride off into the sunset. The church waits and watches for a flood of online gifts that don’t come.

This could have to do with the church’s unique giving potential, failure to promote online giving well, poorly constructed giving paths on your website (which is your giving vendor’s responsibility), or any of the barriers we’ve already discussed that cause givers to abandon their gifts. We’ve seen another lost opportunity with some churches and with most online giving platforms: Failing to inspire givers.

Your givers are discerning about where their hard-earned dollars go. A giving platform that simply lists a few ministry funds with no details isn’t very inspiring. Online, givers are accustomed to dynamic content and visuals and are more likely to get involved when they can browse, choose and get excited about where their gifts are going.

4. Not all platforms are built to really help the church

The success of online giving for churches is dependent on the partner you have. How the software is built and how much of the behind-the-scenes gift processing is managed by the software vendor matters!

Your expertise is ministry. Their expertise should be overseeing your giving page itself, the gift form, each transaction at every step, continual transfer of gift data into your ChMS and subledger (and back), and any and all bank transactions, including NSFs, chargebacks, etc.

They should have deep experience with the church and its challenges. They should take responsibility for every gift…to the penny…from start to finish. They should remove artificial giving limits, eliminate monthly fees, and get your funds to you within a day or so. They should help you understand and take action on your reports and analytics so that you’re always growing generosity in your church.

The Good News about Online Giving

Churches need an ongoing partnership with a team of tech, giving and accounting experts who have innovated a new approach to the traditional ‘give’ button and form and are committed to managing all the peripherals around it.

Vision2’s exciting new approach to online giving for churches addresses each of these uncomfortable truths about most online giving platforms. Our clients see an average of 23% lift in gifts.