Church Software and Apps for Today’s Giving
With technology changing at a rapid rate, it seems confusing trying to find the right user-friendly software to handle the giving records at church. I wonder what church software the different churches are using and why? Also, what apps and other systems of giving are churches using, and how are they working? Are such avenues creating an increase in donations, and if so, how much? There are so many ways today to give like cash, check, credit card, online, phone apps, etc.
Pastor Thom Fields – Kennewick, WA
We first started using online giving options in 2011 and went with Authorize.net on the recommendation of Connection Power (previous church management database). Because of their increased fees for processing e-checks, we just accepted Visa/Mastercard/Amex online and also if people submitted their credit card information on an offering envelope. They don’t seem too advanced with technology, so there is no app, as of yet. The biggest issues with Authorize.net is that they didn’t save member giving details (they had to reenter everything, every time), and there wasn’t an option to set up recurring giving. Because of these two main issues, it was slow to catch on with the congregation. But after four years, e-giving accounted for approximately 25% of our monthly contributions.
Early this year, we switched all digital giving to Pushpay and love it! You can text to give, which sends you a link to download their app, and it’s also our online contribution processor link with our website. This means, no matter how you e-give at the Garden, you never have to re-enter your info and setting up a recurring gift is a snap. We even have folks in their 70’s who give with the app! In the three months since Pushpay went live, online/e-giving has gone from accounting for 25% of our weekend contributions to 40%, and one weekend earlier this month, 71% of our weekend offering was received through Pushpay!
The only thing we weren’t prepared for was getting the security code from givers. Since that wasn’t listed on our offering envelopes, there were a few weeks where we had to call people and get that number from them. We’ve ordered new envelopes that direct people to Pushpay and do not have any areas for credit card information. Really, only cash givers use envelopes anymore, as we ask that checks just be dropped in the offering bucket.
From an implementation standpoint, Pushpay was great to work with. They have a promo rollout plan that includes custom videos, logos, links, everything you need to get it going. We only use it for contributions now but will soon add registration and purchase options as well.
Pastors Jeff & Beth Jones – Portage, MI
Our Executive Pastor of Operations, Aaron Johnson, shares the following: In this day and age, many churches understand the need to stay current on the methods of delivering messages, their styles of worship and their kids & student ministries, but we have found that it is equally important to stay current when it comes to providing various methods of giving. Years ago, there was really only two ways to give to church—check or cash in an offering envelope. However, the use of cash and checks, and the likelihood that either are carried by church members and attendees when they are in weekend worship services, is decreasing more and more. To be honest, it’s not uncommon for me to go my son’s baseball game where they still only accept cash at the concession stand and realize, just before I head to grab a bite to eat or a snack, that I only have a few dollars on me. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
Because of this, it’s extremely important that we offer relevant options for how church members and attendees can give. One common reservation some churches have had when it comes to providing other giving options such as online giving, mobile giving, text-to-give, giving kiosks, etc., is that there’s not a tangible exchange when offering is collected in the service. We recognized that as well, and realized that providing a simple “I gave online” card, in the seats next to offering envelopes that givers can place in the offering bucket as it goes by, has helped to provide that tangible “activating their faith” exchange when offering is received.
With that in mind, I would like to share with you some of the providers we have used, and currently use, to offer a wide-variety of giving methods to our congregation:
1. Online Giving – We, like many churches today, offer online giving by adding an online link on our church’s website that directs givers to a user site operated by our church management database provider. We had previously used Fellowship One since 2005. Although Fellowship One provided all of the giving information and several features we needed such as children’s check-in, classes check-in, attendance & giving tracking, etc., the reports that we desired to pull proved to be fairly cumbersome, and at times, difficult for us to manage. Therefore, we did a great deal of research reviewing 12-15 alternative option and have chosen Church Community Builder (CCB). We are in the process of transitioning our church management database provider to CCB. Although we are on the front-end of this transition, our research has shown that CCB is a very user-friendly system that is one of the top church management solution providers in the U.S. with very reputable churches as their existing clients. This database solution is a cloud-based solution that offers all of the common, as well as several customizable reports, for giving, attendance, attendee profiles, etc. They also are compatible with a wide range of common giving solution providers for other methods of giving.
2. Giving Kiosks / Mobile Giving / Text-To-Give – In addition to online giving, we also offer giving kiosks located in our atrium, mobile giving that utilizes a mobile app, or it can be connected to our Valley Family Church mobile app and text-to-give. Until the last few months, we utilized multiple service providers for these giving methods. However, SecureGive has now expanded their services to include all three of these giving methods within one account, and we have therefore consolidated these services within SecureGive to allow for greater efficiency and cost-effectiveness, less confusion for givers, and better reporting. Because these are now consolidated, once users setup their Valley Family Church account within SecureGive, they can utilize any and all of these giving methods using one account. On a side note, SecureGive also allows for standard online giving. Therefore, we often direct and encourage givers to us SecureGive as their one source for proving their giving apart from check or cash. SecureGive also allows users to pull statements of all giving made using SecureGive. It does not, however, include any cash or check giving within the same statement. For those givers, we encourage them to simply use the Church Community Builder online access that all members and attendees have access to, should they choose.
One common question that we are asked is whether or not providing these additional giving options has increased overall giving. We have spent a fair amount of time analyzing data in an attempt to answer that question. However, we have found it difficult to confidently answer that question because of a few factors. First of all, we have not seen a dramatic spike in per person giving as a result. Although our giving has stayed fairly consistent year over year (YOY), any increases or decreases in overall giving have been consistent with attendance. Secondly, while introducing these new methods of giving, we experience the benefit of highlighting giving to the congregation. Simply using the opportunity to share and inform the congregation of these alternative giving methods, added some additional giving results, but nothing dramatic. Our overall assessment of the impact of providing these alternative giving methods was that it helped offset the trend of attendees not having cash or checks, and because we introduced some of these additional methods several years ago, it likely limited the decrease in overall giving throughout this cultural shift rather than added a significant increase in giving. However, the feedback from the congregation was extremely positive and we received multiple responses that expressed appreciation for making it easier and more simple to both give and track their giving.
Nonetheless, here are some statistics we have experienced in the past 2 years related to giving methods that show a steady trend from check or cash giving on the weekends to other types of electronic giving methods.
You can see that in just one year, there was an 8% shift in giving from offering plate (which includes cash, checks, or writing credit card info on envelope) to some form of electronic giving.
One final note is that after conducting some initial research, we’ve been convinced that one of the areas we need to focus much more attention on is automatic, recurring giving. While we offer several electronic forms of giving, there is still a very low percentage of our givers who have set up automatic recurring giving. Automatic recurring giving is an option that we have discovered can have a significant impact on overall giving. This is primarily due to the attendance patterns of most church attendees today. Nationally, the average “active” church attendee is present anywhere from 1 to 3 times per month, on average. Therefore, on the weeks that “active” attendees are absent, it’s only the committed givers and those who have set up automatic recurring giving that give. We feel that promoting this and periodically providing a simple tutorial during service will help givers get over the “hump” of setting up the account and will greatly increase their likelihood of consistent giving, whether they miss a weekend or not.
Pastor Dennis Cummins – Puyallup, WA
I have worked with many pastors concerning this topic. Many are dragging their feet in integrating current database technology or digital giving systems. Concerning giving, some just want to process credit cards manually through the offering envelopes. While I don’t think it’s realistic to expect all congregants to move to online/mobile giving over checks, cash, or writing their credit card info on the envelope, there are some serious considerations to take into account.
Those churches that have yet to introduce credit card giving should check their calendar; it’s 2015. Those that do receive credit card giving via offering envelopes deal with potential security pitfalls.
Are your giving envelopes private concerning credit card giving information? Is the credit information exposed on the outside of the giving envelope when it’s dropped in the plate? That might open up a church to privacy and security issues. What do you do with those envelopes? Are they secured under lock and key? Who has access to that information? Storing credit card information on-sight opens up other potential litigation risks to the church and corporate officers (confer with your attorney and CPA on this).
The technology needs of churches can vary due to size and budget. That is why I feel it is important to find systems that will scale with the growth of the church. There is nothing worse than having to change databases midstream and relaunch new giving systems to your congregation multiple times.
Some things to consider when looking to implement a database system and giving systems:
Cost of ownership concerning revenue, image, productivity, efficiency, safety, security, and stability.
Revenue: How much will it cost to purchase? Many times there are upfront costs to implementing new systems. Don’t let that stop you. You can typically negotiate the price or the time frame of payment — especially if it will take some time to implement. See if they will discount the amount or break it up over 3-6 months.
Training is imperative if you to get the most out of your investment, so build that in your cost. Some training incurs travel.
How much is the monthly cost? This needs to consider not just the monthly expense of the software, but the time and cost savings of billable staff or outsourced hours. Yes, your initial cost may increase, but your labor cost may decrease. Also, consider any costs of software upgrades.
Image: Does your current systems (or lack of systems) give newcomers the impression that you are up to date or out of touch with reality? While you might not see people coming to your church because you have mobile giving or a cool database, it certainly won’t be a detractant.
Productivity and Efficiency: Right now, if you lack certain features, you may not be able to see ahead and envision what your staff will gain. I would recommend having some round table meetings and discuss the pains and difficulties you are dealing with now in regards to database management, corporate emails, contribution postings and such. Explore the features that will not only impact your staff, but also the congregation.
Safety, Security, and Stability: In this day and age of data breaches and software hacks, I don’t know too many churches that have the staffing and technology to maintain the integrity of church information. Putting that risk on a third party can alleviate potential litigation risk to the church and its officers.
We made the big shift a couple years ago to Fellowship One. While I don’t believe they are the silver bullet, and I am not completely happy with everything, their solution outweighs any other system out there in my opinion. A few of the benefits are integrated contribution reporting, check-in, database management, cloud-based, small group integration.
Digital Giving: When choosing a digital giving solution, you should look at the whole picture. This includes web integration, mobile integration, text to give, kiosk giving, small bookstore payments, one time and recurring/scheduled giving. What payment methods can you transact? Visa, MC, Amex, ACH.
Does the system integrate with your database to automate contribution postings? This can save time and potential entry errors in having a staff member or volunteer manually entering contributions.
Also, the most important thing to consider is, how easy it is to use. We used to use Paypal, another merchant to process credit card contributions through offering envelopes, F1 for online giving, and ShopKeep for our bookstore. It was an administrative and bookkeeping nightmare
I was then introduced to Pushpay and most of our woes left! We canceled everything else and integrated Pushpay as our gateway for web, mobile, text to give, kiosk, bookstore and recurring giving.
Over 8 months our giving online increased over 100%. I never worry about the merchant fee, because our giving is more consistent and it went up overall by 33%. And the best part with Pushpay is that it’s simple. Within 8 seconds, someone can complete their giving on the mobile app.
Last words of wisdom: When considering a database and giving solution, if everything is equal concerning security features, “Ease of Use” is the most important thing to consider. You might be able to pay less for a different database or online giving solution, but if it’s not easier, they won’t use it.
Pastor John Nuzzo – Cranberry Township, PA
Below is the requested information.
- Year to date online giving: 39%
- Year to date text giving: 5%
- Year to date online giving + text giving combined: 44%
2. The Church software that we are using is Ministry Platform:
- It provides a single solution for membership, group involvement, check-scanning, contributions, event management, check-in, and public website integration, which includes online giving and online event registration.
- Can accommodate millions of records.
- Online donations go directly into the software, avoiding manual entry.
- Provides a donation batch tool for checks, cash, and data export files that are used with text giving.
- Support is great.
3. For text giving, we use a company called Simple Give:
- Extremely user-friendly.
- Integrates very well with our church management software.
- Provides a “Dashboard” with important information and statistics on our text giving.
- Support is great.
Pastor Alan Clayton – Conroe, TX
The following information was submitted by Executive Pastor Phillip Moore, on behalf of Pastor Alan Clayton: ACS is our financial operating system that is used by our finance team. Fellowship One is what we utilize as our user interface—what the tithe/giver uses to make a donation / track their giving record etc. Fellowship One also provided scanning capabilities for accounting team which greatly facilitates and expedites the data entry process for our team.
We make use of all types of giving: cash, check, credit card, online (website and mobile app). We have seen our online/credit card giving steadily increase every year since we launched it.
Additionally, we provide a Stewardship Lesson (2-3 minutes) as part of our weekly services (Sunday and Wednesday). Sunday we pass the buckets in addition to having giving boxes throughout the building. Wednesday we do not pass the buckets.
Pastor Duane Hanson – St. Paul, MN
Every topic in the question this month is an issue that I’ve chosen to delegate to leaders who are more proficient in this specific area of the ministry. I’m also confident they have done sufficient research to conclude which options work best for the office and IT requirements, and determined which system would best suit the culture of our congregation.
Regarding the first question, we have been using QuickBooks for all of our accounting needs for years, including our membership contribution records, and it has served us well. If necessary, contributions can be reported by service, category or individual, and the system is user-friendly and secure. To my understanding, the data is easily converted to Excel spreadsheets, and the reports I receive both weekly and monthly are easy to read, navigate, and understand.
Regarding the second set of questions, let me explain the process our team just completed regarding the online giving options we’ve considered (I’ve been told the term is E-Giving!?!), and how these options have recently been implemented at the church.
Initially, I had reservations about the reasons churches and ministries were leaning in the direction of E-Giving. I wasn’t personally that excited about the prospect of taking the whole offering experience into the twenty-first century. If the purpose or motive for initiating E-Giving was just to see an increase in contributions, I was hesitant to move forward with any program being considered. Besides, the Bible teaches that the tithe is Holy to the Lord, and gives instructions about how to honor the Lord with our increase, and I wasn’t about to mess things up just to make giving more convenient!
Consequently, I asked myself a series of questions that finally brought me to an understanding about the necessity and legitimacy of E-Giving. Primarily, I needed to be convinced that any program we introduced to the congregation would help people have a better sense of stewardship over their finances. I also wanted to know that it could help them become more purposeful and faithful as they honored the Lord with their giving.
As various options were considered, we were looking for the most user-friendly resource for both the online contributions, and our in-service giving via Text & phone apps, as well as the option for programming recurring gifts. After much research and comparison, our team decided on a system called “PushPay” for our E-Giving provider. [Please Note: I’m only relating a fact about which system was chosen, not an endorsement of a product!]
Unfortunately, it’s too early in the rollout of this new option for contributions to verify any increase in the percentage of donations as a result of this innovative program. And we honestly haven’t had this new system in place long enough to give any testimony of its overall effectiveness, but we do expect to track our progress each month over the next year to determine if we’ve made the right decision about initiating this specific E-Giving program. However, on a positive note, in the short time that this new system has been in place, it does seem to have helped provide the means for those who work weekends, and the few who have not been regular attenders, to be more engaged and consistent with their giving.
I’m not personally in a position to provide a detailed explanation of the specific reasons why this resource was chosen over all the others that were considered, but from my perspective, it seemed to be the most user-friendly, and the most cost-effective tool for our purposes. I trust it will prove to have been the right choice in the long run!
Pastor Ray Almaguer – Covina, CA
Electronic giving is a must for today’s church. In our church, almost everyone under the age of thirty does not use a checkbook. They do the majority of their business with a debit card or credit card.
Here at Family Life Church, 44% of our tithes and offerings are given electronically.
We use Easytithe for online and text giving. 76% of our [electronic] giving is through Easytithe and is text giving. It is very easy to set up on a smartphone.
We use Quikbooks for our church software.
I believe we need to do all we can to make it easy for people to give.