In recent years, we have seen electronic giving programs quickly gain popularity among parishioners across the United States. Whether you currently offer an electronic giving program or plan to implement one in the near future, we offer six ways to successfully enhance church online giving:

  1. Create a marketing strategy to introduce Electronic Giving to families and encourage them to enroll.
    Many churches already have a program in place to accept donations electronically, but if few families are using it, they assume the interest is low for such a service. In fact, it is likely that families are either unaware the service exists or simply need encouragement to change a deeply ingrained behavior pattern of contributing through the envelope system. Since families who move to Electronic Giving significantly increase the amount they contribute annually, a successful strategy to introduce Electronic Giving is essential for a church to realize the full potential benefit.
  2. Choose a program that works with both bank accounts and credit cards.
    Electronic Giving programs that transfer funds from bank accounts are typically preferred by churches because of the low cost. However, they are less popular with families for a variety of reasons. For many, a credit card is the preferred option for managing their financial affairs. In addition, in an era of heightened awareness of stolen identities and fraudulent charges, security experts recommend using a credit card for online payments rather than providing direct access to bank accounts in order to take advantage of the layer of security provided by the card issuer networks.
  3. Provide donation slips for families to place in the collection plate during the service.
    The offertory is more than a transfer of funds or a payment or even a donation. It is how we return to God a portion of the blessings He has bestowed. Giving families an option to make that donation electronically, but failing to recognize the significant role the faithful place on participating in the offertory collection during the service, creates a strong disincentive for families considering whether Electronic Giving makes sense for them.
  4. Present additional giving options outside of the traditional weekly system.
    The idea of giving to the Lord a portion of His gifts to you on a weekly basis did not arise from the honoring of the Sabbath, but instead was an adaptation to a time when most people received weekly paychecks. The initial offertory of fruits from the harvest only occurred when the harvest was conducted. Up until about 30 years ago, the vast majority of people received a weekly paycheck, and many of the other common financial responsibilities that a family had were met weekly as well. Today however, pay cycles are widely varied and nearly all other financial priorities occur on a monthly cycle (mortgage, car payments, utility bills, cell phone bills, etc.) Moving families from the weekly envelope to a program of Electronic Giving is an excellent opportunity to also ask families to consider their giving as a monthly, budgeted financial responsibility. Studies show monthly givers give significantly more annually than weekly givers.  Programs that simply recreate the weekly envelope practice often miss out on the types of increases churches see when they take the opportunity to ask families to give differently both in form and in timing.
  5. Select a service that can accommodate special collections, Christmas and Easter giving, and one-time donations for special causes.
    As important as the offertory collection is, churches invite support in many ways throughout the liturgical year. Families who choose to utilize an Electronic Giving option want to manage all of their church support in this manner.
  6. Offer a giving method that integrates with a smartphone.
    Fewer people register with a church, or they attend services at multiple churches for more convenient church service times. Offering these families an easy way to give electronically through an app can help them express their stewardship in a manner consistent with how they manage many of their other financial obligations.

This article was originally published in the February 2017 edition of “Wisdom from ICSC Strategic Partners,” a monthly publication of the International Catholic Stewardship Council. CCS is a proud partner and supporter of the ICSC.

About the Author

Timothy J. Dockery, CFRE is a Vice President with CCS. He has led successful campaigns for several dioceses as well as numerous parishes. Tim has presented on stewardship and fundraising topics to the National Catholic Development Conference (NCDC), the International Catholic Stewardship Conference (ICSC), the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference (DFMC), and numerous regional meetings of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP).