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Younger Generations Rely on Online Giving
By: Tim Whitehorn

In this technology-laden age where few people carry cash or a checkbook and nearly everyone pays at least a few, if not all of their bills online, churches must embrace online giving so that they do not leave the next generation of givers behind.

Most young adults in their 20s and 30s rely on their ATM and credit cards, and most likely don't attend their church more than twice a month, yet have a heart willing to support their local church. When a church provides congregants with a way to donate online via the church website, it opens up giving to this generation of youth and meets them with the tools they are familiar with. Online giving is one of the easiest ways to help people give more and give regularly.

According to The Barna Group's 2009 report on the technology gap, every age segment is becoming increasingly dependent on technology: "Even though young people are sometimes called the 'Net Generation,' every age segment is becoming dependent on the Internet. In fact, because Boomers (ages 44-62) and Busters (ages 25-43) represent about two-thirds of the adult population, they are far more numerous users of technology than are adults under the age of 25."

Every church can benefit from giving its members of every age category the ability to give online. Here are five important ways that online donations can help increase your church's overall giving.

1. Increase giving consistency by providing recurring options.
By setting giving recurrences, your church members are more likely to give consistently, to be more faithful in their tithing, and to give when they can't be there in person. This can help your church avoid the dramatic affects of lulls in giving. In addition, online donations provide a better understanding of the cash inflow/receipts and allows for better planning, which helps avoid overdue bills.

2. Offer multiple payment options from your website.
People love to have options. By offering the ability to make payments by ACH/online checks, debit, and credit cards (which are the most used option for online giving), your church members can find the payment option that best meets their needs. This is particularly important to those who no longer carry checkbooks or do their banking online.

3. Make it easy to give.
Church members (and guests!) simply visit your website when it's convenient for them, 24/7, whether your office doors are open or closed. This availability allows your patrons the opportunity to give whenever they feel moved. Put your giving button or link on your home page so that people can find it easily. If patrons have to hunt to find the giving page on your website, the chances of them giving decrease.

4. Make them feel confident with secure, personalized transactions.
Your church members want to know that their personal and financial information is secure. Make sure that your online giving provider is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant so that you and your members can feel confident in using our online tools. In addition, it's important for the online donation pages to be customized to the look and feel of your church's giving page so that it matches your website, giving your patrons more confidence in making transactions online. When the transaction is complete, the user receives a receipt on the screen and via e-mail. Transactions appear on financial statements using your name (not the service provider's).

5. Make your resources go further.
Utilizing resources by installing easy-to-use and affordable software tools that help your staff members function more efficiently is key to an effective online giving program. Choosing a solution that offers customized reporting options to make accounting easier is a huge plus.

Also, being able to export data into Microsoft Excel as well as other program formats is helpful. Working with an online donations provider that will walk you through the set up process and help your organization get set up with a merchant account so that funds are deposited directly into your bank account immediately with no middle man is crucial. This gives your staff more time and energy to focus on other aspects of the church's outreach efforts.

Tim Whitehorn is the founder and chief executive officer of ServiceU Corporation, www.serviceu.com.  Serving churches since 1999, ServiceU is a leader in online event management software used by churches, schools, ministries and all types of nonprofit organizations.

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