By Aaron Senneff
The global pandemic has had an incredible impact across nearly every industry, and the faith sector is no exception. Nearly overnight, churches had to close their doors as a precautionary measure to keep congregants safe, leading to residual impacts on in-person giving at Sunday service that churches often rely on.
In order for churches to adjust to this new normal, leadership has to get creative to implement new tactics and tools to connect with their congregation and maintain a stream of giving. With that in mind, there are a variety of ways to accomplish this.
Implement a Digital Donation Platform
Prior to the global pandemic, an average of 49 percent of all church giving transactions were made with a card, a number that’s sure to rise as in-person services are closed. The adoption of digital giving solutions follows the same curve you might expect from other technologies.
There are early adopters, early majority, late majority and laggards—churches span across all of these categories. While there has been a great deal of adoption in churches to-date, there are still a number of churches and faith-based organizations using antiquated tools and processes to manage their giving.
The pandemic has exposed for many that offering a digital platform for giving is not only beneficial, but essential to keep donors engaged. Those who relied on in-person giving during Sunday service quickly found themselves in immediate need of a new way to receive donations.
However, implementing new tools and procedures can be a daunting task, especially for smaller, more traditional churches who have been slow to adopt modern technology.
When researching these solutions, it’s important for churches to consider the following:
- Whether the tool will integrate with existing software to provide a smoother transition and be more cost-effective and time-effective
- Determine what kind of member and donor data can be pulled from the tool and how this information will ultimately benefit and streamline internal processes
- How user-friendly the platform is for the end user
Make the Most of Your Tool
Once a church engages a digital donation tool, it’s up to them to ensure they’re making the most of it.
If it’s a newly adopted solution, this begins with making the congregation aware of the new giving platform available to them, and providing adequate information on how to utilize it. Allocating a few minutes at the end of a Sunday service or sending out a member e-newsletter are easy ways to educate congregants and field any questions or concerns.
For churches already engaging the technology, it may be time for a reminder to your congregation that it’s available and a refresher on how to make use of it. On an ongoing basis, be sure to keep this option top-of-mind for congregants by sending email reminders or mentioning it at the end of a service or small group meetings. To encourage and facilitate adoption of the solution, ensure that your people know who to come to with questions or for troubleshooting.
Furthermore, once a digital donation platform is implemented, ensure congregants are aware of the option to set up recurring giving, which can greatly increase the frequency of donor giving by removing the need for manual donations on a weekly basis.
A study from Nonprofit Source reported that “40% of millennial donors are enrolled in a monthly giving program”—further indicating the importance of a recurring giving option, especially as a way to appeal to a younger audience.
Overall, it is important to be sure that once the tool is acquired, its properly implemented to maximize the results for the church.
Using Your ChMS
As churches modernize traditional processes, Church Management Software (ChMS) is the most effective way to manage and engage your congregation.
A strong ChMS allows leadership to regularly monitor and take the temperature of their congregants to determine where each member is at in their faith journey and the best way to reengage them.
Analyzing patterns in data within the ChMS, like individual donor giving, can help determine where the current strengths and weaknesses of a congregation lie, and therefore make informed decisions on what to do next.
Unfortunately, we’re in a time period where a lot of people are experiencing financial challenges, which can be an important window for a church to help care for their people.
One way to identify that is by monitoring changes in giving patterns. A church might have an individual that has regularly given for months, but then their giving abruptly stops or becomes erratic. This may indicate changes in their financial situation, and it can be an indicator for church leadership that it’s time to engage that individual and check in on their well-being.
Demonstrating this level of care for congregants in times of need is not only the right thing to do, but will also serve as a reminder if and when the congregant is financially ready to begin giving again.
Another area leadership may not immediately think to monitor is patterns in attendance at small group and community events. A good ChMS solution has the functionality to allow members to check in at church events, providing leadership insight into who is participating, who may be disengaging, and even who might be in a period of distress.
An individual’s participation with the church through attendance can be an indicator of how they are doing in general. Once again, ensuring the well-being of congregants helps strengthen their tie to the church, and ultimately makes them more inclined to give.
A good suite of tools should be able to look across the data that a church is collecting and call the staff’s attention to “red flags” proactively before it’s too late. It should have the capabilities to assign tasks and follow-ups to church staff that will notify them to reconnect with a congregant in need of attention and provide ways for you to reach out to that person.
Understanding that church leadership have busy schedules, this helps ensure those vital check-ins actually happen, and in the long run will help with retention and helping encourage giving.
This has been a difficult time for all, and in order to weather the storm, churches need to ensure they are equipped with the right tools.
Leveraging digital solutions is vital, as there continues to be concern around in-person gatherings and high touch areas. Through this, churches can stay connected to their people and maintain the giving they need to survive.
Aaron Senneff has extensive knowledge and experience leading software development and delivery initiatives for enterprise organizations. As chief technology officer of Pushpay, he leads the product and engineering teams, who develop and deploy world-class technology solutions to help customers engage and connect with their community more seamlessly, www.pushpay.com.