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Online Donations: Technology Doesn’t Inspire People to Give

By May 22, 2019 No Comments
Online Donations

So many companies these days have lost touch with the communities and causes they're trying to reach. Many of them are selling the idea that technology is the answer to increasing donations to your church. However, we've found that the bells and whistles that come with church apps and websites don't inspire people to invest in your ministry.

While these are essential channels to have, opening them up in itself doesn't encourage giving. Rather, they provide the people you have inspired to give a means by which to do so. Of course, if adding a button on your website or starting a text-to-give campaign won't increase giving, what will?

Do You Need Online Donation Channels?

Gone are the days of passing around an offertory basket and collecting enough to cover your church's everyday operations. While your congregation may still make offerings on Sunday, there's no doubt that this method is growing increasingly less common. But it's not because of people's unwillingness to give.

In 2018, church giving experienced an increase of an incredible 18.1 percent. That means, amongst all forms of charitable giving, churches have seen the largest increase. This speaks to people's continued and growing desire to support their local community churches. So, why aren't your offertory baskets paying the bills any longer?

The reason is simple. Times are changing, and so are the ways people handle money. For 80 percent of Americans, debit and credit cards are the go-to way to pay for everything they want and need. Year over year, cash and checks have seen less and less usage.

One study found that 50 percent of people carry cash with them less than half the time when they go out. When people do carry cash, over three in four say they keep less than $50 on them. Almost half said they keep less than $20. An incredible 46 percent of people say they use cash fewer than eight times a month, while 5 percent never use it at all.

There's no getting around it. While Americans are continuing to spend and give, they're doing it in different ways than before. This is why you need to begin opening up new channels to receive donations in a way that is more convenient for your congregation.

That will open doors for potentially higher donations from those who currently donate in cash. And it will also give way for other members to donate who may not do so regularly due to the inaccessibility of cash and check donations. With that in mind, you shouldn't look to replace the traditional ways of giving.

Online Donations Are Only Supplementary

You shouldn't see online donations as a way to replace the traditional ways of giving. While not everyone may put money in the basket as it's passed from one pew to the next, there are members of your congregation who will happily do so.

It's important to realize that each member of your congregation has a preferred form of giving. Some will prefer the offertory basket, but limiting your entire congregation to this method requires the great majority of them to go well out of their way in order to donate. They'd have to find an ATM or visit the bank, get out cash, and carry it with them each week if they were to regularly participate in giving.

This makes for inconsistent and inconvenient donations that don't tend to please donors. That's why you need to add new channels that expand the ways by which people can donate to your church. In doing so, you give members young and old a refreshing way to give that's simpler for them.

Do Not Limit Your Church to One Channel

Having several channels is, by far, the most effective way to see church giving stats increase. Text-to-give is certainly one of the most popular forms of online donations today thanks to its high availability amongst nearly all generations. But having a simple online form is also essential for web-based donations on both desktop and mobile.

In fact, adding a donation button to your website can increase giving. Also, optimizing that page for mobile can increase pledges by 126 percent on average. These are major results that will make a major impact on your church. However, as suggested earlier, simply adding a new donation button or making a form mobile-friendly isn't enough to make people donate in and of itself.

How to Increase Giving Through New Channels

Opening up a new donation channel is a fantastic first step to increasing giving amongst your congregation. But it's not the only thing that needs to happen. In order for people to actually start taking advantage of the new channels you open, you need to do some basic outreach and accomplish a few things.

1. Make Your Congregation Aware of the Channels

Your congregation should know all of the ways they can give to your church so that they can easily decide which one is best for them. There are many ways to inform your congregation about all of the methods you have available. Featuring them on your website in an obvious spot is a good method, but you should also try more direct methods.

In order to reach as many members of your congregation as possible, consider the ways in which you contact donors (and potential donors) who may not visit your website. Think about your social media channels and, perhaps even more so, within the church itself.

Announcing the exciting launch of a new donation channel before or after a service is a good way to promote adoption of your channel. You should also hang posters and/or flyers within your church's entryway, informing all members of your congregation about the various ways they can give.

2. Educate Your Congregation on How the Channels Work

The great thing about text-to-give software and similar donation channels is how simple it truly is for everyone to get involved. It's as easy as texting a short number, clicking a link, and filling out an extremely short, simple form with payment details. But illustrating the real ease of this process is key to getting donors to try it for themselves. Once they do, they'll get hooked on its speed and straightforward nature.

Of course, before they ever try the donation channels for themselves, you will usually have to demonstrate all of these things for them. You will need to make certain that all of your potential donors know why they should choose to use this new channel. They should know what exactly they need to do in order to start taking advantage of it.

A great way to do this is through simple social media posts showing a short video walk-through or even photos that illustrate how the channel works and what it looks like. Short descriptions accompanied by clear, branded imagery will do wonders for educating your congregation.

3. Keep in Touch With Your Donors and Potential Donors

As a church, you already seek to build a rapport with each and every person who comes through your doors. This is where your marketing practices should really begin to shine. If you are doing things correctly, you will be able to collect key information about your donors through the various channels they interact with you on.

This is important because it allows you to get to know your donors better, thus allowing you to provide them with better service. It also helps you direct the right messaging their way when it comes to fundraising and other campaigns at your church.

Collecting information about every donor, ranging from their name to their birthday, will help you better personalize your messaging to them. In turn, they will be able to build a stronger connection with you and you with them.

These notes will help you maintain the personal connection that many think gets lost when they switch from in-person giving to online giving. Going the extra mile to help make sure that your church members feel individually appreciated, valued, and recognized will do wonders for encouraging regular giving and support in general.

4. Design Cause-driven Campaigns

One of the best ways to get a person to donate is by setting a goal and specifying a cause. To get more church members actively supporting your church and its programs, you can set up various campaigns throughout the year that have a finite goal in mind. This helps to get these church members participating, even if they are unable to set up a regular recurring monthly donation for general church support.

Cause-driven campaigns create a sense of urgency amongst donors and are also very inspiring. Because you'll have a set amount of money you need to raise and a deadline for doing so, it helps get everyone moving more quickly. By telling them how much you need, donors often get a much deeper sense of impact when they are able to cover a portion of the goal themselves.

These campaigns could have funding goals big and small and deadlines ranging from a week to a few months. Ideally, they'll be short-term and very actionable with a clear description of what you are trying to accomplish.

For instance, you might fundraise to send the youth group off on a mission trip next summer. In this case, you not only should specify how much you need and when you need it by, but you should also share the stories of the youth group members to help churchgoers connect with them.

It's highly likely, especially in today's larger congregations, that many people won't know the youth group members and their families personally. As such, sharing some information about each of them can help your congregation really feel like a close-knit community — just as it should.

In this case, you could even incorporate some quotes and comments from the members and counselors themselves. This will help get across why this mission trip is so important while emphasizing everyone it will impact.

5. Update Donors on Progress and Impact

Yet another way to help encourage giving and maintain that personal connection even with online channels is to keep donors updated at all times. Have a subscription list that they can easily opt into when making a donation and from your website. This allows members of your congregation to stay updated on what you are fundraising for and where their donations are going.

Aside from the daily operations of your church, highlighting where donations go within the community and beyond will really help donors feel as though they are making an impact. And that's exactly what they are after. They want reassurance that your organization, as a local community church, is doing things for the greater good.

You can share progress reports through weekly or monthly emails. You can also include highlights in pamphlets that you pass out at service. These methods will help spread awareness across your entire congregation and so, too, will posts on social media.

When you use donations for a large event or contribution, showcase it through a blog post and share it everywhere so that donors know their funds are going to wonderful causes that aren't far from home. Include images and videos where possible to really foster the human connection.

Additionally, you can send text updates to donors when they participate in short-term campaigns. These text updates can both help to create a sense of urgency, encouraging them to share the campaign with friends and family, and also help them feel appreciated.

Personalizing text updates to reflect whether or not the recipient has donated, how much they have donated, and the impact they have had will go very far in helping your church meet future campaign goals. People want to feel involved and they want to know that they are making a real difference.

6. Set Giving Expectations and Speak About Them

This is tough advice to follow for some pastors who feel that it comes across as greedy or perhaps legalistic, but setting expectations for giving and speaking about them often will prove highly effective. Your new church member meeting is one good place to go over giving expectations. And you can do so in a very friendly way that doesn't come across as forceful or exclusive.

One good way to bring up giving expectations is to simply talk about the past causes that your church has supported. You can also talk about financial requirements for youth groups and other programs you run.

By doing so, it naturally opens the doors for speaking about how much you need from donors in order to keep these things going. And by introducing the giving expectations in this way, it makes it clear to even brand new members that donations are going somewhere worthwhile.

Pastors can take the same approach during service to bring up giving expectations and speak about the church's financial needs. Sermons surrounding the topics of giving and generosity provide a great platform for talking about this topic in a way that's very approachable and not at all reminiscent of soliciting.

Of course, one major part of garnering recurring donations and new donors is leading by example. When setting giving expectations for churchgoers, also set expectations for church leaders that at least match what you're requesting donors to put down.

This will help your church avoid the all-too-common misconception that the majority of donations go straight into the leaders' pockets. In turn, this will help further build up that feeling of a strong sense of trust, shared goals, and community.

7. Always Find Ways to Say Thank You

Appreciating those who donate to your church will go a long way in encouraging new and old members alike to give. Your method of appreciation will often reflect the method of donating.

For instance, if a person donates via a text-to-give campaign, you'll likely send a text message in response. Meanwhile, if they give online, they may receive an emailed thank you message. Furthermore, if they give in person, you should do your best to provide a handwritten note or direct thank you.

Additionally, you should show appreciation for church donors through public forms. Many churches publicly thank their most loyal and largest donors at service. Of course, always ask the donor before doing so in order to respect their privacy and humility.

You should, however, include a thank you message to all donors on your public financial statements. Also, make sure your church sends out thank you cards to accompany end-of-year giving forms that every donor receives.

Set up a process that enables you to easily thank your donors and you'll find that it goes far in helping them to feel appreciated and recognized. This will encourage them to give even more as you continue to build a strong relationship with them and other church members.

8. Ask for Feedback From Your Congregation

Every congregation is different, but most today feature a long list of churchgoers that range from young to old with all different types of life circumstances. The fact is, the majority of your church members would be willing to donate. But are you making it clear enough to them how they can do so? More importantly, are you making it easy?

These are the questions you need to be asking. In order to really know the answer, it may be best to talk to your church members directly about how they want to see your church open its doors up to new kinds of interactions. There are likely plenty of churchgoers who would happily share their opinions with you.

Your questions shouldn't be limited to only donations, either. Ask how your congregation wants to be able to engage with the church and its projects, be it on social media, your website, or somewhere else entirely. Such valuable feedback will take only moments to collect. But it will truly pay off as your church continues to grow and change to accommodate your growing and changing congregation.

NewFire Giving's Promise

NewFire Giving can help your church discover the power of digital donations. Give us 30 minutes and we promise to increase your church's donations by 10 percent in the next six months. That's how confident we are about the effectiveness of NewFire Giving's text-to-give software. Click here to learn more.

Stu Baker

About Stu Baker