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Trends in Online Giving
By: Krystal Weaver

You may be asking yourself how the current economy is impacting online giving. In 2008, online donations continued to be up, between 30 and 40 percent from 2007. Nobody knows whether that trend will continue in 2009, but economic conditions are causing ministries and churches to find more ways to be seen by their donors.   

Here are four trends you may want to consider.

1. Improved Giving Solutions
It is no secret that online giving tools are maturing. Over the last couple of years, fundraising tools have become more user-friendly and no longer require training or advanced technical experience on the organization's part. This advancement in the giving world has opened the door for smaller organizations to utilize online giving resources, allowing them to communicate more effectively with prospective donors, which, in turn, helps to increase contributions.

Donors are increasingly more sophisticated and are looking for easy-to-use and feature-rich systems. Donor management programs now include options for different types of payments, direct payment solutions, and more extensive account options. The donors have options to set up an account with a user name and a password so that they can manage their own giving. With more and more people moving to online giving, the solutions being offered will only continue to have more features and extended functionality.

2. Social Media
Statistics show that 22 percent of Americans use some sort of social networking site. That's close to 65,000,000 people in America who are on Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, or other networking sites. It's no wonder nonprofits are looking for ways to use these avenues to promote their organization and to stay connected with their donors.

Twitter is another type of social media that ministries and churches are using. Twitter keeps its users connected by asking the question, "What are you doing?" A user's answer to this question is called a tweet. Users can update their tweet at any time. Since Twitter allows you to follow specific profiles, churches have started notifying their congregations of their Twitter profile and then updating it with events or prayer requests. With more than 11 million people using Twitter, and no cost to set up a profile, it's a great way to stay connected with your donors and an even better way to build a more personal relationship with them.

As social media continues to grow, the larger networking sites are now offering applications for accepting donations as well. Applications such as "causes" on Facebook allow nonprofits to set up a profile in which Facebook users can give. The unique part of this application is that Facebook helps the organization promote itself by asking donors to recommend the organization to its Facebook friends.

3. Mobile Payments
Mobile payments are a rising trend mainly because of the iPhone. There is now an application that acts like a virtual terminal that is available on the iPhone, iPod Touch, or over a WiFi or 3G connection. The technology works as a handheld terminal that connects to the Internet using the browser on your phone. This feature is pretty costly, but it can be very useful for taking payments on the go. There are not many online giving applications out there using this type of technology, especially ones that focus specifically on the ministry market. However, it will be an ever-increasing focus as more companies expand their services to include mobile payments.   

If you decide to use this technology, security should be on your mind. The connection between a cell phone, a cell tower, and a server all have to be secured against hacking. Most wireless technology has certain levels of encryption, but can still be tapped. This has been a concern for most software providers because hardwired transmissions are far more secure than wireless. This trend is something to watch as it develops.

4. Donor Confidence
When the option for online giving first came out, donors were a little hesitant, but new studies show online giving is on the rise across the board. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, "On an average, 920,000 people donate online every day. That's more than 27 million people a month."

Donor confidence has increased because of the ease of giving online, but they still care about security. Hearing news of Heartland Payments high-profile breach in early January 2009 makes donors wary when making online transactions. The trend in the payment card industry is an increased focus on security.    

The PCI security requirements created by MasterCard and Visa have placed more emphasis on ensuring that software providers that store or transmit credit card data meet requirements. What that means for ministries and churches is that they have a responsibility to validate that their software providers are compliant with the rules.

The trends in online giving point toward a better donor experience all the way around. By providing a decent online giving solution and increased security, it significantly enhances donor confidence. No matter the trends, keep focused on the mission and message of your church and leave the rest to God!

Krystal Weaver is the marketing coordinator for The CashLINQ Group, www.cashlinq.com. The company offers MinistryLINQ, which exists to provide the latest technology in electronic processing to ministries and churches.

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