Whether it results from an unexpected weather cancellation or a pandemic social distancing order, it’s vital for every church to offer an option for online giving. As the church continues its ministry, members sheltering in place at home can continue to support the church.
Finding the right tool to empower online giving is important, but the key to making it work is communicating about it effectively. Read on to help your online giving thrive.
Getting off the ground quickly
If you find yourself in immediate need of accepting online contributions, you’ll need to defer full-service solutions for later. For now, begin with your website host. Whether it’s Wordpress or Squarespace, most website hosts have a built-in tool to allow customers to collect donations or sell goods. Read your provider’s how-to and decide whether the setup process seems easy enough to enable by your set deadline. The advantage to this is that people won’t have to navigate away from your site to make a donation. Most of these will not be your best long-term solution as allowing recurring donations and other common needs for churches are often more complicated to implement.
If your website host doesn’t have built-in e-commerce functionality or if it is overly complicated, PayPal is the best bet for a quick start. They are one of the world’s biggest online payment platforms. Many of your members already have an account, are used to using PayPal and trust its security. Once you’ve set up an account with PayPal, creating a donate button for your website is incredibly simple:
- Log in to PayPal.
- Follow this link.
- Follow the site's prompts to get your personalized HTML code.
- Paste the HTML code into your site where you want the button to display.
Finding a full online giving solution
Paypal is great, but it’s not the full online giving solution you want to use forever. Paypal will collect money for you, but there are other online giving companies more attuned to the needs of churches and nonprofits. They can make giving quicker and easier for your members. These tools can help them track how they are giving toward a pledge and download giving statements. For those more tech savvy, they can also allow people to give via text.
Two of the major online giving solutions for churches are PushPay and Tithe.ly. Each company has a different approach with Tithe.ly collecting a simple 2.9% +$0.30 per transaction fee and PushPay charging a monthly fee.
A favorite benefit of these giving solutions is that they allow members to set up recurring gift payments. This allows virtual, and in-person, attendees to participate as automatic, regular givers with a couple taps on their smartphone.
Non-church based tools can still be a good option for your church. Highly-trusted tools like DonorPerfect and Bloomerang offer similar functionality though focused on the broader nonprofit sector. Their larger footprint lets them offer additional features like Customer Relationship Management and Pledge Management that the church-based solutions don’t.
Creating a compelling “ask”
When conditions keep members inside, church leaders can respond with a sense of desperation rather than focusing on the power of giving. While it is important to be transparent about ongoing expenses, how you communicate that need can make the difference between someone giving or not.
Make sure you are casting a vision worthy of support. A compelling ask for a donation has three parts:
- Something wonderful your church is doing
- A reminder that it is supported by gifts
- An intentional ask
For example, you might say “This week we spent hours calling every church member to check on them and discover the needs that this difficult time has created. All of these people were cared for because of your generosity. That is why we are asking you to give this morning to allow us to continue addressing these needs.” The important element is that people are asked to give to a vision of a hopeful future.
Online giving requests add one final piece — simple, consistent instruction on how to give. The shorter the better. You might just say “Go to [yourchurchsite.com/give] to use our secure online giving tool.” As long as you have set up a safe and simple solution, that’s all the instructions you should need.
Reminding people to give whenever they receive
In the internet age, churches are constantly creating inspiration content like devotions, video content, streaming live prayer moments with their pastors, etc. Members can receive instruction and participate in worship throughout the week and the same is true for giving.
Whenever churches create and offer content, an opportunity to give should be included. It can be as simple as adding a message similar to, “We hope that you enjoyed reading this devotion. Please help us continue our ongoing efforts to create tools like this by donating via our website: [yourchurchsite.com/give]” to the end of a blog post or as a comment at the end of your livestreamed prayer service.
Online giving is essential in the digital age. When done well, it can help your church thrive in difficult times. Whether you’re starting with a PayPal donate button or taking the plunge with a full-featured solution, communication is key and will help you empower your people to support the ministry they love!
Jeremy Steele is the teaching pastor at Christ UMC in Mobile, Alabama, as well as a writer and speaker. You can find a list of all his books, articles and resources for churches, including his most recent book All the Best Questions, at his website: JeremyWords.com.