By Gina Calvert

Navigating the “High” Cost of Online Giving

One of the top complaints we hear about online giving is the cost. And it perplexes us because we know it doesn’t have to be expensive.

Let’s Start With Credit Card Fees

Some folks believe the transactional fees charged for all online transactions are unacceptable, but there’s no getting around those. It’s the unavoidable cost of online commerce for every organization.

But there are two silver linings here:

1) The transaction fee is always a very small percentage of the overall gift, meaning that—unlike contract fees—you’ll never be at risk for paying out more in fees than you receive in gifts.

2) Some vendors can now ask givers at checkout if they want to pay the small transaction fee themselves, and many of them will.

These two things together mean their gift costs you nothing. But even if the church ends up paying the transaction fee, you have to consider that some of those gifts wouldn’t have come your way without an online option, so it’s still a net gain.

Of course, a vendor that doesn’t charge a contract or usage fee has to stay in business somehow, so this is done by adding a tiny percentage to the transaction fees. This is the cost that churches should pay close attention to and compare with other vendors.

Where to Look for Hidden or High Costs

If a vendor charges a monthly fee and tacks on all kinds of other fees, these can add up to a pretty big bite out of your givers’ donations. It’s scary to think that in the event of something catastrophic that drastically reduces your offering, you could end up owing more than you received. That could be happening even now with the pandemic.

But the most egregious “costs” we’ve seen are in monthly contracts and slippery giving increase guarantees.

Contracts exist to level out the vendor’s revenue, not the churches. In theory, they can provide some level of efficiency and cost control, but they can also hide untold restrictions, limits and obligations. Many a church has felt trapped by a vendor (even when their multi-year contract expired) because the vendor wouldn’t let them take their giving data with them if they left!

How can that be, for an organization that serves the church!?

Givers are also unknowingly tied to contracts. One vendor we know requires givers to implicitly consent to a 19-page contract that has some truly scary stipulations, like credit checks for givers and no refunds even in the case of an accidental gift (i.e. $1500 instead of $150).

Churches can’t help the giver in cases like this because the contract is between the giver and the vendor. Try explaining that situation to a giver who innocently thought they were giving to your church on your website, not to a credit card company. A mistake like that could cause a lot of damage to someone’s life before it got resolved.

Vision2 Offers A Better Way

What churches need is a vendor that operates invisibly on the church’s website. In order for that to happen, the online giving vendor must partner with churches throughout the whole gift processing journey.

Vision2’s Managed Services provides this kind of insight and visibility for every gift at every step of its journey to your bank account. Any gift can be quickly reversed without the giver having to get involved with anyone other than your staff.

We’re dedicated to restoring your faith in organizations serving the church, especially among online giving platforms.

We’d love for you to download our new resource, Giving Growing Pains, a before-and-after case study of the typical Vision2 client.