Five years ago, I did a keynote talk trying to convince people to move to online giving.
At the time, some of the biggest objections to emphasizing it in church were confusing technology and high fees. Thankfully, both of those issues have been solved. The technology is now user-friendly and the fees are negligible.
Online giving isn’t a gimmick or a new thing. It’s real and it’s serious. And it should be a serious part of your stewardship strategy.
Churches with healthy giving not only offer online giving, they continually emphasize it. I’m convinced you should make a concerted effort every year to get people to give online.
First, online gifts tend to be larger. Our internal numbers show the average online gift is over $120 while in-person giving is about half of that. In other words, when people give online, they tend to give more.
Second, when people give online, they give throughout the week. The Sunday offering can still be an important time in your church, but churches using online giving see about 40% of their contributions happen on days other than Sunday.
Finally, churches that roll out and properly emphasize giving see overall giving increase by 15-20%. If you’re looking to increase overall giving, properly using online and mobile tools are the ticket.
Here are 7 ways you can introduce and encourage online giving in your church.
#1 – Set a real goal.
If you’re rolling out online giving for the first time, set an early adoption goal. What percentage of your donors do you want to move to this platform? If you want to know how you’re doing, you’ve got to set a goal.
Once you’re already using the tools, you need a usability goal. What percentage of total church giving should happen digitally? And more importantly, what percentage of total church giving can be attributed to automated, recurring contributions?
Each year, you should see this number increase.
What are the benchmarks?
25% is good.
50% is better.
75% is best.
Over time, we’d love to see 75% of your total contributions come from automated, recurring donations. That means if you cancel church that week, you could still expect 75% of normal weekly giving. That’s a great sign.
#2 – Make it easy. Make it fast.
If you want more people to give online, you’ve got to make it easy and you’ve got to make it fast.
This is a requirement for engaging millennials, but even people from the older generations will grow frustrated with complicated and time-consuming steps.
When you’re looking at your technology solution and your stewardship process, there are two things you want to look at.
How many clicks does it take someone to give?
Amazon increased their bottom line by billions of dollars by introducing one-click purchasing. They knew every additional click was a barrier to a transaction. That’s why they invested heavily in solving this problem.
Likewise, you should always evaluate your process to see how many steps you’re requiring. If you require a donor to set up an account before making a first-time transaction, that’s a mistake. As many as 50% of people thinking about donating will abandon the process.
Asking people to create an account is fine…just do it after their first successful transaction.
How much time does it take to give?
A few years ago, I made online donations to Presidential candidates from both parties. I evaluated the process, paid attention to the follow-up process and learned a lot. I’m on every politician’s mailing list now, but that’s another story.
I was able to make first-time, online donations to both candidates in less than 2 minutes.
That’s the benchmark for your church as well. If it takes longer than 2 minutes for someone to donate, it takes too long and you’re leaving money on the table.
So how many clicks and how much time does it take to donate on your website? You can find out right now by opening up a new browser window and making a donation to your church.
Record your screen, set a timer, and take note of how many steps it takes.
#3 – Go visual.
When you’re launching a new system or encouraging everyone to give online, it’s important to use visuals.
In fact, you want to use all communication channels available to you and support each of them with graphics.
When you’re talking about giving in the church service, put up a slide. When you’re writing about it in a newsletter, add a graphic. When you share on social media, use an image.
Here are some good examples.
Your giving provider should have sample graphics and editable files for you to use.
#4 – Make sure leaders go first.
If you want more people to give online, particularly by setting up recurring contributions, it’s important to make sure you model the way.
Set up your profile and let your church know that’s how you give. You don’t have to brag or boast, but be honest with your church. When you ask people to give online or set up recurring contributions, let them know you’re asking them to do what you and the entire staff do.
You also want to directly ask your leaders to give this way. These are your leaders and it’s always appropriate to ask them to do what you’re doing.
#5 – Ask people directly.
When it comes to talking about money in the church, a lot of leaders go to one extreme. Either they talk about it all the time, using guilt-laden tactics or prosperity theology or they don’t talk about it at all.
I know it can feel awkward to ask people to give.
We hint. We suggest. We dance around the topic.
But what we need to do is be direct.
We don’t have to be mean or lay on the guilt, but we can be direct. Even people who aren’t familiar with church or who are new to your church know it takes money to run a church. They aren’t offended when the church provides an opportunity to give or asks people to participate.
So when it comes to asking for money, you don’t have to belabor the point but you should be clear. Here are some practical suggestions.
- Don’t say “if you’re new here, we don’t want you to give.” That’s probably not true in the first place. You can say, “Don’t feel obligated to give.”
- Don’t just pass the plates or the buckets without giving people context. It’s not guest-friendly to pass felt-lined plates around. Take a minute and explain what’s happening.
- “We’re about to receive an offering” is passive. It’s not an ask. It’s an announcement that something is about to happen. Instead, ask people to participate.
When talking about recurring or online giving, be honest and tell people, “It’s better for our church if you give this way.” People who appreciate the church will appreciate the honesty.
#6 – Use frequent “by the way” references.
As important as it is to ask people to give online and automate their donations, it’s also a good thing to continually remind the congregation it’s a big deal.
Whenever you set up the offering, make sure you thank people who already gave online or who give automatically through their bank. These kind of “by the way” references sound like “off the cuff? comments, but they should be an intentional part of your communication strategy.
Use “by the way” comments for giving, groups, and volunteering in your announcements, sermons and newsletters.
#7 – Think campaigns, not announcements.
Offering online giving is not the same as emphasizing it.
A lot of churches offer it – it’s almost a requirement these days. But a surprisingly small number or churches leverage the technology properly.
That’s why you should think of recurring giving like a mini-campaign you run in your church every year. A campaign lasts a few weeks and utilizes all of the communication methods at your disposal. When it comes to giving, we recommend you take the month of May and make this a big deal.
Put together a three-week communication plan involving stage announcements, testimonials, sign up cards, social media, targeted ads and more. For a few weeks, make it your mission to move as many people as possible to recurring giving.
Do this every year and make it a part of your annual rhythm.
Watch what happens and let us know how this switch goes for you. We’re always here for further questions and help.
So What’s Next?
Feel like your church should be growing, but it’s not? From someone who used to be a pastor and church planter, I know it can be frustrating.
Ultimately, church growth is up to God. But are we doing everything we can to ensure our church is healthy? How do we overcome the barriers we feel are in front of us?
We know you care deeply about leading a healthy growing church because it means leading more people to Jesus. As a result we created a free guide to breaking barriers that will bring clarity and help begin to alleviate your frustrations.
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