The Dilemma

Change isn’t risky, being stagnant is…
As the Executive Pastor, one of Jim’s biggest challenges is stretching the budget to cover operational expenses, community outreach and, hopefully — one day — the new campus the Senior Pastor has envisioned. And now the issues surrounding the pandemic poses even greater hurdles.

With the addition of online services, attendance is actually up slightly. However, giving has been flat for the past 6 months. Lack of growth, combined with the uncertainty of the times and the inability to accurately forecast revenue are causing a great deal of stress.

It’s time to do something about it.

A staff meeting to discuss ideas for how to boost donations results in a few oft-repeated fundraising ideas and possible budget cuts, but nothing sounds promising.

They sit in silence. Jim and the staff feel helpless.

Then Stephanie the Stewardship Pastor shares that their web guru has noticed WAY more visits to the giving page than completed gifts. For every 100 people who start to give, less than 20 of them complete the gift! “He thinks the issue may actually be with the online giving system itself,” she says.

Ramona, the finance person, jumps on that idea. “I agree! Our current platform gives me fits in the back office. Check processing and bank reconciliation are a nightmare!” Pastor Chuck chimes in that he really needs better real-time reports on the church’s giving trends to help him plan the church’s direction.

The Pain of Change

Growth happens when the pain of staying the same becomes greater than the pain of changing.

Jim had inherited the current giving system and hadn’t ever really given it much thought. He assumed it was working fine … “no news, is good news,” right?

He schedules meetings with each staff member individually to hear their priorities for a new system. The team’s feedback is surprising.

Jim summarizes the “pains” the staff had shared about their current system.

The pain of lost revenue and uninspired givers

Jim is shocked to learn that 83% of the people who visit the church’s giving page leave without ever making a donation.

A survey reveals that members are uninspired by generic, text-only, giving options; they are worried about security and privacy; and they find the current giving platform confusing and frustrating.

The fact that their thank you emails come from the payment processor, not the church, is also troubling.

The pain of expensive and onerous vendors

Jim is painfully aware of the high monthly fees the church is paying for their giving software (more than $8,000 per month!). The church could certainly use the $100K a year more effectively, but the current contract he inherited from his predecessor still has 12 more months on it.

What upsets Jim even more is discovering that the current giving system requires each potential giver to agree to 19 pages of legalese before making their first donation. No wonder so many of their members, especially the Baby Boomers, are wary of the system.

The pain of a woefully laborious back office

A closer review with the Finance team reveals that processing paper checks requires way too many volunteers and is often not completed until several days after the weekend services.

Reconciling the cash, check, and credit card deposits with the bank is a nightmare, with batched donations that don’t correspond to individual gift amounts. And when there is an issue such as refunds or insufficient funds, the church staff lacks the ability to handle it themselves … everything is controlled by the credit card processor, which is not exactly “church friendly.”

The pain of flying blind without a map

The Senior Pastor had reiterated his need for robust reports on giving trends. Jim agrees wholeheartedly. He knows he couldn’t live without financial trend reports in his business career, so how could he effectively lead a large church with multiple campuses and thousands of members and visitors without accurate forecasts on giving, especially during a pandemic crisis?

Jim adds his own dream feature to the list … for the giving data to sync seamlessly with their Church Management System so he can see a holistic view of each members’ personal journey.

The pain of an unplanned change

Everyone dreads the disruption of switching solutions and worries they’ll be called upon to perform technology tasks outside their skill levels. How steep will the learning curve be? Will they be able to keep their current ChMS and online giving schedules?

Down deep, Jim knows they are at a critical point now.

Change is required in order to begin growing again.

The Search for a Solution

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them. – Albert Einstein

Jim spends his morning researching giving software. By the end of the day, he feels frustrated and no closer to a solution. Giving should be easy and affordable, shouldn’t it, so churches can focus their time, energy and finances on ministry?

He makes a few calls to other churches in their network. Surprisingly, none seem pleased with their current giving system. Many share similar “pains” as those Jim had documented. They wish him well with his search, saying “Let us know if you find something better. We would definitely make the switch!”

The Answer Emerges

Change is inevitable. Growth is optional. – John Maxwell

Jim’s final call is to Saddleback Church in California. At last, a glimmer of hope! They are very happy with their current solution, and understandably so, it had been developed in cooperation with a company called Vision2 Systems.

Jim isn’t ready for an aggressive sales pitch, so he’s pleased he can quietly download a whitepaper from Vision2 called “5 Surprising Obstacles of Online Giving.”

It explains how Vision2’s giving software was built specifically to help avoid gift abandonment – something most giving platforms aren’t even addressing. He has to
admit he’d been turned off from online transactions in the past by the very hurdles described in the document.

Could this be happening with their givers?

Jim takes a closer look at Vision2’s church and business partners and is pleased with what he finds. Other notable churches such as Central Church, Menlo Park and Concord Church rely on Vision2’s giving platform.

Vision2 is the preferred solution by the Christian Stewardship Network and works closely with Acct2, Enable Ministries, and PCOGuru.

Vision2 is integrated closely with all of the leading ChMS solutions as well as accounting solutions like Intacct, Great Plains and Quickbooks to easily push updates without having to touch the ChMS.

Next he decides to take advantage of the free Online Giving Experience Audit that Vision2 offers.

He doesn’t have to do a thing, just sign up online and the team at Vision2 will (attempt to) give a gift using the church’s online giving.

They will then send Jim a written assessment of his current giving experience against more than 60 of the most common obstacles that get in the way of a giver’s generosity.

The Final Decision

According to the pain is the gain. – Ben Hei Hei

After seeing Vision2, Jim invites a Vision2 representative to demonstrate the software to the staff and answer their questions. Each staff member’s concerns, questions and wish lists are addressed.

Some of the highlights they noted are …

Best for the Giver

The giving form is seamlessly embedded right into the church’s website, ensuring the donor feels safe and secure.

Giving options are displayed with rich imagery and descriptions, which inspires greater generosity.

Personalized communications help to make the giver feel “known” by the church and meet them at the right place on their giving journey.

An intuitive self-service portal allows donor to manage their giving schedules, print tax statements and more.

Best for the Back Office

Fully integrated check processing is extremely fast and accurate; they should easily complete the weekend offering the same day.

Proprietary “AutoReconcile” makes it easy to match cash, check, and credit card gifts to bank deposits.

Previously complex tasks like refunds and chargebacks are a breeze because Vision2 is connected directly to the bank.

Fully customizable tax statements can finally reflect the church voice, branding, detailed giving, pledge details, and more.

Best for the Church Leaders

Real-time, bi-directional integration with their Church Management System helps to eliminate duplicate records and provide a holistic picture of each member’s giving journey.

Church Analytics delivers real-time giving reports, such as First Time Givers, Recurring Giving Patterns, and Lapsed Donors, that are invaluable for forecasting revenue and targeting specific donor segments.

No monthly fees or giving limits of any kind mean those resources can be reallocated to ministries that sorely need it.

The Smooth Transition

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. – Lao Tzu

The final hurdle for the church—the one no one looked forward to—turns out to be a blessing.

The Vision2 transition team works so efficiently and so closely with Jim’s staff, explaining complex concepts in language they can understand, that he can feel their excitement growing as launch day approaches.

Even their Finance Director Greg, the last one on board with the change, has to admit he’s impressed with Vision2, with its unique partnership and integration of the giving forms, the church management system, the accounting platform and the bank. Plus, with Vision2’s Managed Service model, their team will be his team.

Launch day arrives sooner than they could have imagined. Vision2 seamlessly transfers any existing recurring gifts into the new system. They equip Stephanie and Julie, the Communications Director, with all the content they need to successfully promote the church’s new and improved giving experience on the church’s website, via email and on social media.

Within hours, gifts begin to roll in. Jim is pleasantly surprised to see how many Baby Boomers give online with no trouble at all. On Sunday, Pastor Chuck models the new giving system for the church, showing them exciting new ways to become actively involved in ministry. Ramona reports that processing the offering takes a fraction of the time it had before, freeing up both volunteers and finance staff.

The Glorious Transformation

There is no growth without change. – Rick Warren

Jim settles in at his desk. He recalls that not long ago he’d been filled with concern about how they would meet the obligations they already had. Expansion hadn’t even seemed like a possibility.

Now, he turns to the folder on his desk, a proposal for the new campus remodel. It’s still early days on this project, but Jim feels encouraged by the way things have gone during this potentially disruptive transition.

Vision2 made it easy. They are saving the church thousands of dollars every month and giving is increasing. They helped his team collaborate together on a common project. And they made him look like the hero. Pastor Chuck had complimented his decision and leadership through the transition.

With the foundation laid for growth and the ability to forecast revenue with the new analytics reports, Jim knows the team is ready to step out in other areas. He’s confident they’re ready for the church’s future.

Jim recalls his conversations with other Executive Pastors who shared similar struggles to those he once had.

Excited to share what he’s learned, he picks up the phone …

Vision2 Systems

Vision 2 is a comprehensive giving solution for effective stewardship that helps churches connect with their congregation in the same engaging way they would in person.

Vision2 increases donations to the church by providing a seamless and frictionless connection with your congregation that eliminates the most common obstacles to online giving.

Vision2 offers a complete set of Marketing and Communication tools that help churches connect with their congregation in the same engaging way they would in person.

Vision2 establishes trust with church finance and leadership teams with Level 1 PCI compliance, seamless integration to church management and accounting systems, plus giving analytics and insights.