Beyond the offering plate: A brief tutorial
Relying on the more than 2,000-year-old model of passing the collection plate on Sunday morning may not be the best option for your church’s stewardship efforts. Statistics indicate that more than 30 percent of consumers no longer use checks. Instead, they rely on electronic fund transfers or debit and credit cards.
Allowing people to give electronically provides them with the opportunity to give even when they’re not physically present in worship. It also makes people’s budgeting easier and is more secure than cash and checks. For the church, e-giving means less work for the staff processing checks.
Electronic Fund Transfers
Electronic Fund Transfers allow people to have money deducted, on a regularly scheduled basis, from their savings or checking accounts and sent electronically to the church. This service can help you or the church reduce fluctuations in giving throughout the year while making it easier and more convenient for members to honor their pledges.
Enabling people to give electronically is also a good investment for the church. Among churches and other non-profits that rely on donations, the National Automated Clearinghouse reports, fulfillment rates for pledges average 98 percent among those who use EFT, which is 58 percent higher than those who collected funds by other methods.
The United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration endorses Vanco Services and provides a service on its website for churches wishing to use United Methodist Electronic Fund Transfer (UM EFT) services.
There is a one-time authorization fee of 50 cents per member and a per transaction fee of 25 cents. However, through The United Methodist Church, there is no set or monthly service fee. This service (UM EFT) is easy to get started, easy to maintain and can be cancelled at any time.
Seven easy steps to get the church started
- Contact Jan Palmer or 651-288-1124 and let her know you’re interested in UM EFT.
- Determine if there are other giving options to offer.
- Get church leaders on board.
- Complete application forms.
- Gather a promotion team to educate the congregation about the possibilities.
- Enter your givers’ authorizations.
- Celebrate the results.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What are the benefits of electronic giving for churches?
The most compelling benefit is the increase in church revenues produced when donations are received automatically on a scheduled basis uninterrupted by travel and other commitments. Statistics show that in many churches, 25 to 30 percent of regular worshippers are gone each weekend. Sickness, family commitments, sports, vacations and a variety of other things sometimes take them away from worship. E-giving allows them to be faithful to their pledged giving. It also streamlines the task of manual processing collections and is paperless and more environmentally friendly.
- What are the benefits to givers?
Electronic giving is a growing trend. It is not going away as our culture becomes an increasingly “cashless” one and fewer people write checks. Electronic fund transfers and providing the means to give through credit and debit cards is convenient and allows people to be generous and faithful in their financial response to God’s blessings.
- Will electronic giving alienate more traditional givers?
No. Churches can adopt electronic giving and still accommodate members who want to make offerings using a hand-written, hand-delivered check. These are not mutually exclusive. The more options a church provides for people to give, the more gifts they are likely to receive.
- How does a church know which provider to select for electronic donation services?
There are a number of requirements to consider. Money must move securely. Churches should use PCI Level 1 Compliant Service Providers only. Money must be able to move quickly and money should be segregated into the appropriate funds at all times. The United Methodist Church offers e-giving services, in conjunction with Vanco Services. Vanco provides a comprehensive list of FAQs to answer any question about their services.
- Are electronic contributions risky?
No. They are actually safer than writing a check, which can be lost or stolen. In addition, electronic transactions contain less personal information than is on a typical check.
- Is there a cost to e-giving?
Yes. A small fee is charged (25 cents per transaction) in Electronic Fund Transfers and there are flat-rate fees incurred with credit cards, usually about 2.5 percent of the transaction amount. However, the Kintera/Luth Nonprofit Trend Report shows that e-givers contribute as much as 50 percent more than those who give through traditional means.
- What should churches consider when starting e-giving?
In addition to carefully selecting the provider, promotion of the possibilities for giving is essential. Pastors need to promote it from the pulpit, and information about the specifics of e-giving need to be provided in many different sources and in a variety of ways.