Diversify Your Offerings With Tech-Savvy Giving

Published on: December 1, 2013

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“And now take your offering, hold it in your hand, and let us say together: Divine Love, flowing through me, blesses and multiplies all that I am, all that I have, all that I choose to give, and all that I am open to receive.”

A variation of this prayer is spoken in Unity congregations across the country on Sunday mornings, and in response, many members of the Great Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers reach into their purses and wallets to pull out their cash or checks. In some churches, like the one to which I belong, there is a phrase added: “or, if you give electronically [by electronic funds transfer or credit card withdrawal], imagine you are holding your gift in your hand.”

Who have we left out? The Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are unlikely to carry cash or checks, and may not have brought a wallet or purse into the service at all. We don’t mean to leave them out, of course. But at a critical point in the service, we unwittingly deny them—and anyone else who has drifted away from the cash economy—the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to God and to their spiritual community.

We don’t need research—although there is plenty of it—to tell us that we live in a tech-driven world. In North America nearly 79% of the population is online, and smartphones are ubiquitous. According to the Network for Good’s Digital Giving Index, 65% of people gave to charities online in 2012. Isn’t it time for Unity churches to get a piece of the pie?

13-QR-code_webMobile Giving

No one wants to hear Lady Gaga in the middle of a sermon, but rejoice—that ringtone means a mobile phone is in the house! And where there’s a phone, there’s a way to make a donation. One way is to insert a free QR code in your bulletin, which a smartphone user can scan with an app such as Quick Scan. The QR code is a matrix barcode containing information that will link the user to a URL, such as the church website, in order to make a donation. There are a number of online resources available about how to create and use QR codes, such as this article from Knowhow Nonprofit.

Texting during the service is usually frowned upon, but not if the texter is making a donation! A service such as Kindrid or mGive will allow a congregant to text a donation of any amount to a designated number. There is likely to be a monthly fee associated with this service. For example, Kindrid’s basic service begins at $45 per month.

You can also arm your ushers with a smartphone credit card reader, such as Square. With one simple swipe and a fingertip signature, members of your congregation can make a donation, which will be deposited to the church bank account within 1-2 business days. Square charges 2.75% per transaction or a $275 per month flat fee. PayPal has a similar device.

Another option is to develop your own church app but, as with all of these online giving options, it’s important to weigh the costs versus the returns. Richard Bunch, co-minister of Unity of Richmond, Va., investigated six options, but discovered only one app, by Charis Giving Solutions, that was at all affordable for his congregation of 226 members. Even with his tech-savvy congregation—Bunch estimates that 50% bring iPads or smartphones with them on Sundays—Bunch says, “I just don’t know if we could get enough people to use the app so that it would make sense to us. It’s only $60 a month, but you’d like for it to at least pay for itself. I’m just not sure what the effect would be.”

Online Giving

Options for online giving include accepting credit cards on your website through a third-party merchant such as PayPal or those that offer services specifically targeted to charities and churches, such as Vanco Services and SecureGive. There are many merchants to choose from, and all charge setup fees and/or monthly or per-transaction fees, so it’s important to do your research before signing up.13-Kiosk_web

In addition to a web page, Unity Temple on the Plaza in Kansas City, Mo., has two computer kiosks available for making donations, one in the main lobby and one in a nearby hallway. After installing the lobby kiosk three years ago, “We saw a huge uptick in giving,” Associate Minister Janet Taylor reports, “but that diminished when Vanco took away the capability of card swiping, and individuals had to enter their credit card information. It was just one additional step, but highly irritating.” They installed a second kiosk with card swipe capability through SecureGive, but Taylor believes the location in the hallway is not ideal. “I encourage other churches to make the card swipes easy to access just outside their main sanctuary.”

Feeling confused? Check out the Learn More box at the end of this article. And consider starting with what you already have. Chances are, your church already has the capability to receive donations by credit card. As Rev Steve Colladay of Unity Worldwide Ministries says, “The main thing is for ministers and key leadership to keep the awareness that we need to let people know there are many ways of giving, not just during the offering in a Sunday service.” What’s your next step?

Please Note: The vendors mentioned in this article are used for illustrative purposes only. No endorsement is implied.


Learn More

Why Your Church Should Embrace Online Giving

Two especially useful features of this site are a downloadable questionnaire for church leaders and an extensive analysis of online giving for 2012.

Online Giving Options for Congregations and Synods

This excellent resource, published by the ELCA, offers spreadsheets, evaluation tools, and pertinent questions to raise when choosing an online giving solution.

10 Things You Should Know About Online Giving

Citing research by George Barna and statistics from a variety of sources, this is a good overview of the topic. It is published by ServiceU, which is one of many companies offering online giving services.

11 Reasons Not to Offer Online Giving

With one reason being, “You want to frustrate those who no longer use checks or
carry cash,” it’s clear this article provides 11 reasons that you do want to offer an online giving option.


Lisa Colburn
Lisa Colburn is a writer, writing workshop leader, and former editor of the Alban Institute’s Congregations magazine. She is an active member of Unity of Fairfax in Oakton, Va.

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