Like many of you from the Boomer generation, I vividly recall the moment at the end of each service when it was time to pass the offering basket (or plate) down each row of pews at the church I attended as a young follower of Jesus. It was a regular part of the Sunday church experience. After all, a church service is a time to worship God through songs, the teaching of the Word, prayer, and a time to worship God with our tithes and offerings. If I’m being honest, that time at the end of the service when the church received the offering was always a bit awkward. There was pressure (some may say guilt) to put something in the basket as it went by. Giving needs to be from the heart and cheerful, not out of guilt. When I began my career in ministry, online giving was in its early stages, and I saw an opportunity. As someone who embraces technology, I was excited to figure out how to offer online giving to our church. It was a little frustrating as I learned that our church didn’t readily adapt to this change; it took years before online giving became a significant part of our donation total. And as our church began to embrace digital giving, it amplified the awkward moment at the end of each service. Watching an empty basket make its way up through the rows of chairs was uncomfortable for everyone. Then it hit us; if taking up 5 minutes at the end of each service to pass empty baskets is no longer necessary, why do it? So, we stopped, and it’s been amazing.
Digital Giving Benefits
Passing the plate relied on people being on campus and having cash or their checkbook, and neither of those conditions is a given in the post-pandemic world. Conversely, digital or online giving allows people to donate anytime and anywhere. A 2019 study by The National Study of Congregations’ Economic Practices (NSCEP), published by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, provides fascinating insights into the benefits of digital giving.
- Digital giving is rapidly becoming a standard way to give. Half of the churches surveyed received donations mid-service via a digital format. On average, congregations receive 22% of their giving digitally, and I strongly suspect that number has increased dramatically since the global pandemic.
- Recurring gifts provide financial stability for the church. Of the churches surveyed, 55% offered a recurring option through their digital giving service. The survey shows that the churches offering recurring giving have higher donations than those not adopting digital giving solutions.
There is a Cost
Before digital giving became an option, there was no need to budget for transaction fees; the church would deposit the cash and checks into their bank account – end of the story. But, digital giving changed all of that. Digital giving allowed the use of credit cards, debit cards, and ACH (Automated Clearing House) transactions, which require processing companies. And processing digital transactions is not free – even for churches. The cost to process transactions varies depending on the church’s digital solution. Most digital processing solutions charge rates based on a percentage of the total amount processed and may include additional transaction fees. It is essential to understand these fees when selecting a third-party partner.
In the same way that many churches use technology to safely check in the kids to Sunday school and project the lyrics of the worship songs for all to read, churches need to embrace the benefits of digital giving. However, when churches adopt a digital giving strategy, it can be easy to omit the processing fees as a line item in the budget. Transaction fees are an administrative cost to running the church and need to have a line item. When calculating the processing fees for the budget, churches should base it on actual digital giving plus a plan for continued acceptance and increase in digital giving. Digital giving may have transaction fees, but it is a way for churches to embrace technology, reach the next generation, increase giving flexibility, and position themselves for long-term stability.short url: