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Digital Giving Kiosks and Tablets: Creating Acceptance and Participation
By: Doug Braun

As it does in all facets of our life, technology is playing an expanding and significant role in the lives of churches across the United States.  It has already been embraced for the way it can dramatically heighten the worship experience – not only by making it more dynamic with concert-quality sound, lighting and multimedia enhancements, but also by making it more accessible through worship webcasts and streaming of live video from the sanctuary to other parts of the church building and campus. In terms of outreach and information availability, few congregations today don’t find it necessary to have a website, Facebook page and Twitter feed to maintain connection with members, visitors and the public through a variety of social media channels.

Technology is also impacting an aspect of congregational life that’s as old as the loaves and fishes and widow’s mite – the act of giving. Churches are turning to a variety of innovative products that are designed to expand the ability of individuals to offer their gifts at any time and in any form that they prefer, from cash to card to electronic payment forms like PayPal and Google Cash. Such solutions became a natural extension of a church’s online services – and increasingly they’re becoming a physical presence in the form of multi-purpose kiosks or tablet-based products that expand the ability of the church to accept donations not just on Sunday mornings, but at any time members are using the facility for events, activities and meetings. These kiosks, by their very visibility, also can be a form of outreach to members of the broader public that may visit a church’s facilities to attend concerts, lectures of community gatherings.       

Whether a congregation is contemporary or traditional, ‘mainline’ or ‘mega’, interactive, self-service, on-demand giving products and technologies are becoming as essential to the giving experience as websites and social media are to role the  of outreach. Digital donation kiosks and tablet products respond to the new immediacy, accessibility and spontaneity that’s become part of the fabric of our society – and in this respect, may contribute to the relevance and engagement individuals find within the church.

If you’re unfamiliar with these products, a brief description may be useful. Digital giving kiosks typically consist of a freestanding pedestal with interactive touchscreen that enables individuals to submit their tithes or make freewill offerings at their convenience using one of several forms of payment – cash, check, credit/debit card or online payment forms. Tablet iterations of these products can be handheld, wall mounted or mounted to a countertop or desk with secure tethering options. Sturdy, durable construction is important as is an intuitive, logical user interface so that givers are not discouraged by unclear user commands or complicated operations.
Administrative Pastor David Tomb of the Community Church of Joy in Glendale, Arizona, whose congregation has implemented a digital giving kiosk, said, “Stewardship is an important part of the life of our congregation, and we encourage our members to be faithful in their tithes and offerings.  We knew that a giving kiosk could make giving more accessible and more convenient, and we took care in selecting a system that offered the most advantages to our congregation.”

Several kiosk/tablet solutions offer access to church websites or provide multimedia presentation to attract users or instruct them on product use. Kiosks should also offer accounting and reporting features that allow churches to collect user data and monitor kiosk/tablet activity. 

Some congregations may see giving kiosk and tablets as a threat to their traditions, but others find that these technology tools complement their traditions with the ability to engage a highly mobile and more technologically receptive portion of their membership. In both cases, the initial adoption and continuing use of giving kiosks and tablet solutions can be ensured by pre-introduction preparation, facilitation during the introductory period and continuing awareness-building and user support after implementation.

Before Introduction
An ideal starting point in building enthusiasm for digital giving kiosks and tablets is to educate ‘technology ambassadors’ to the congregation. These individuals – which should include those who have influenced and authorized the purchase - must be prepared to clearly articulate all the products benefits and advantages to traditionalists, skeptics and naysayers. Whether members of the technology committee or the church board, it’s critical to the next steps in the process that these ambassadors are not just informative, but excited about the impact that kiosks and tablets can have on stewardship and free-will giving. Enthusiasm is contagious, and this group can help inform and energize church staff, committees and church leaders before a giving kiosk or tablet is installed.
During Introduction
Early adopters are an invaluable asset when the giving kiosk or tablet is first introduced. In addition to the usual ‘first to try’ technology enthusiasts, it’s equally important to have congregational leaders front and center in using the new product – especially if some of them are technology adverse. Presentations to boards of elders and deacons as well as various committees, supplemented by one-on-one tutorials as needed, can make a big difference in ensuring that church leadership is comfortable and confident they use the system. These folks have high visibility, and members of the congregation typically take their cues from them and will follow their lead. 

After Introduction
On an ongoing basis, it’s vital to make personal assistance available to those who need it. This will ensure that the giving kiosk or tablet solution will be well-accepted by members of the congregation, visitors and the public alike. The value of friendly, helpful individuals to introduce first-time users to the system and aid those who need a refresher is immense. Ideally, a team of volunteers, well-trained on all the kiosks capabilities, can be assembled so that one-on-one help can be offered for an extended period after introduction. 

Over time, the use of giving kiosks and tablets will become second-nature and congregations will find that new patterns of giving emerge, free-will and spontaneous giving increase and that giving at events, activities and public use of facilities will occur, even if no overt ‘call-to-give’ has been made.

Doug Braun is senior vice president, sales & marketing, for InLighten, www.inlighten.net.

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