PayPal is a well-known platform trusted by many for managing online financial transactions. With its low barrier to entry, choosing PayPal for your church’s online giving can seem like the best option if you’re not ready to take the leap into a dedicated platform for church online giving.
But is it really the best option?
It’s Easy & Inexpensive
PayPal for churches doesn’t cost anything to set up and if all you want to do is accept gifts, there’s not much to learn (except for the fairly simple process for embedding a PayPal button on your website or other locations). You won’t need to use a separate payment processor and PayPal’s fees are lower than most payment processors.
Of course, there’s almost always more to the true cost of a solution than simply the amount of money you pay to use it. It’s important to factor in the cost of church staff (and givers) time, risk, frustration, and potential lost giving opportunities that may arise out of the experience.
PayPal is Secure & Private
Most givers are familiar with PayPal. Many trust its secure reputation and appreciate that they don’t have to have a PayPal account to give to your church. It’s particularly useful for those who don’t have a credit card; they can link their online gift straight to their bank account. The church never sees a givers’ bank account number or credit card number.
The Giver’s Experience
Most of the time, PayPal experiences are easy to complete and transacted without incident on the giver’s side. If that’s the best-case scenario you hope for, your odds are good.
On the downside, PayPal wasn’t built for churches, so there are a few limitations to the experience:
Givers won’t be able to designate their gift for a specific ministry.
Givers won’t be able to give via the popular text-giving platform.
Setting up recurring gift schedules is cumbersome and requires givers to set up a PayPal account. (Some people won’t use PayPal or create an account, so this could mean a loss of steady funding for the church.)
It is possible that PayPal could decide your giver has violated the terms of service and choose to lock or limit accounts for general suspicious activity.
If there’s an issue, your giver has to take it up with PayPal.
The church will not be able to use the online giving experience to connect in the same engaging way you do in person.
It’s Not Great at Customer Service
Using PayPal for churches online giving means settling for a bare-bones platform that successfully transfers gifts. Period. Multiple sources we researched indicated that “PayPal lacks excellent customer service and has a long, frustrating verification process and extra strict policies and guidelines.” (Source) And there’s no dedicated assistance for churches.
PayPal for churches doesn’t sync with any ChMS to allow you to integrate your giving data with people data. If you want to sync gift data to Quickbooks, PayPal offers “Connect to PayPal,” for which there’s a bit more of a learning curve.
There can be a lengthy wait for funds to process.
PayPal levies hefty fees for chargebacks (i.e. when someone reverses their gift). Chargebacks mean the church has to pay fees both ways without keeping the gift.
Accounts can be frozen or suspended for months, with funds held for up to 6 months. This status can be difficult to resolve (see Customer Service above).
To avoid suspension, be sure to avoid PayPal’s “red flags”:
Receiving much more income than your average (either in number of transactions or their volume)
Creating controversial content on your website (Hint: Could religious content ever be considered controversial?)
If someone files a complaint against you or the number of complaints increases
If customers ask for more refunds than usual
Your account information doesn’t match your other public information
Your PayPal account is outdated or not verified
Logging in from suspicious locations or using different IP addresses over time
As you can see, you don’t necessarily have control over all of these.
A Better Way
Vision2 Systems offers a new approach to online giving. With no monthly or annual fees, you gain all the benefits of online giving for the church without the hefty price tag that comes with other giving platforms. As its own payment processor, Vision2 is able to keep fees low and manage every gift from start to finish. And you get more than analytics and reports … you get a fully functional accounting system that syncs with the bank and your ChMS.
For a comparable cost to PayPal, churches can have a giving partner dedicated to your success and your giver’s experience.