Electronic Giving

The virtual 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, especially in times like these. Statistics indicate that, normally, more than 30 percent of consumers no longer use checks. Instead, they rely on electronic fund transfers or online debit and credit card payments. During this time of the coronavirus pandemic, that number is close to 100 percent.

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 staff processing checks. 

Online giving tools

The United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration (GCFA) endorses Vanco Services, which provides a broad selection of e-giving solutions for churches.

Make Giving Easier  -- UM Communications provides a comprehensive look at how to create different alternatives to the offering plate for your church-- including links to a variety of online giving options.

A quick-start guide to online giving   -- It’s vital for every church to offer an option for online giving. As the church continues its ministry, members sheltering in place at home can continue to support the church. Here's how.

10 Ideas for Church Financial Leaders Amid the COVID-19 Crisis  -- A collection of ideas to immediately respond to the needs of the church and community.

Understanding e-giving -- an interactive guide from the General Council on Finance and Administration.

Vanco: For congregational giving and the management of gifts, used by more than 20,000 churches 

Venmo: Make and share payments. 

Givelify: Make donations to your organization with a three-tap experience.

Tithe-ly: Helps you increase giving and stewardship engagement.

Stripe: An online giving platform. Set up is relatively easy. There is a 2.9% plus 30 cents transaction fee for every donation, but no monthly fees or hidden fees. You will need to enter your bank account information to receive deposits.

Text to give

One easy way for church members to contribute is through texting. The Rev. Chris Bishop, pastor at Faithpoint UMC in Urbana and also leader of an online church (http://commontable.online) for the past several years, uses Kindrid.  Other service providers include Tithe-ly, PayPal, and many more. As with other services, text to give providers charge monthly and/or per donation fees; check around for your best deal.

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.

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 are convenient and allow 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. 

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. For all types of electronic giving, there is typically a 35-45 cent cost per transaction. For Credit card payments there an additional cost of 2.35 to 2.75 percent of the transaction amount. For ACH/EFT payments there is an additional cost of 0.80 to 1.00 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.