By Kevin Lee
With as much as one-third of their yearly contributions coming in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, churches’ biggest challenges during the busy holiday season are handling the additional volume and keeping accurate records.
Those two areas are critical for churches that want to make the giving season, as well as their overall stewardship program, strong enough to sustain and grow their ministry.
But such blessings come with challenges, too.
When churches receive such a large chunk of their yearly donations over a span of 6-8 weeks, they’re handling about 2½ to 3 times their average weekly volume.
If much of it comes in as cash and checks, then more staff is needed to count, record and secure donations, increasing processing time and the number of trips that have to be made to the bank.
And, all this is happening during a time of year when staff members already are pressed for time at work and, most likely, at home, too.
Given the alternative, those are great problems to have. But electronic giving can help solve them, both during the holidays and throughout the entire year.
e-Giving keeps gifts flowing smoothly for congregation and staff alike and gets contributions where they need to be sooner – all the better to put them to good use.
Easier and More Efficient
Electronic giving makes processing, recording and tracking contributions easier and more efficient. There’s no question about who made a contribution when it’s done electronically through ACH or credit or debit card.
When e-Giving and church management system software are integrated, they can create an instant record of a gift for the church and the giver, and make pulling a report easier for church administrators. And, because they go directly into an account, electronic gifts are more secure than cash or checks.
Offering more giving options also helps churches meet the diverse needs of their congregations, especially during the holidays when more visitors attend services.
Vanco, which has provided electronic giving services to churches for nearly 20 years, conducted a survey of more than 1,000 churchgoers last year about their giving preferences, and more than 60 percent said they would choose electronic giving if their church made it available.
That preference was strong regardless of age, so it’s not just millennials who want these options – it’s everyone who finds it easier to pay bills and shop using a computer, tablet or smartphone. Electronic giving meets their desire for both choice and convenience.
But not every option works for every church or every member. Offering multiple ways to give can help churches make it easier for all members to contribute anytime, anywhere.
* A mobile app will be more convenient for avid smartphone users.
* Text messaging options will reach people who want to answer immediately when they feel the call to give.
* A kiosk will attract visitors and members who may not carry cash or checks and allow them to donate by swiping a credit or debit card.
And a member who has set up a recurring gift through one electronic option may find another option more convenient for a one-time gift in certain situations.
Within Reach of Every Church
With so many people already accustomed to banking and shopping online and through mobile apps, the opportunity to reach more givers and expand stewardship is within reach of every church.
Once electronic giving is in place, you simply have to keep members of your congregation informed about their options, encourage them to try and use them regularly, then watch your stewardship grow.
During this giving season, churches should begin looking at the options they offer their congregations and the way those options integrate with their church management systems.
Have you made it as simple as possible for your congregation to give, and for you to receive their gifts?
Kevin Lee is CEO of Vanco Payment Solutions, which helps churches responsibly manage and grow stewardship. Working with more than 20,000 churches, Vanco is the largest provider of electronic giving and payment solutions designed especially for faith-based organizations. For more information, visit VancoPayments.com.