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Category: Inspire Minute

Three Benefits of Online Event Registrations: Is Your Parish Missing Out?

For many years now, parishes have been using eGiving services for collecting their regular donations. More recently, parishes have sought to apply the convenience of eGiving to other programs and payments, including registrations for Religious Education, small group meetings, retreats and other events.

Faith Direct spoke to three parishes that are using our event registration platform for their Religious Education signups to discover what they like most. Here’s what they had to say:

Flexibility

For families participating in Religious Education, online registration makes life easier. “It is really convenient for our families,” says Kate Rice of Most Precious Blood in Denver, CO. “We have hundreds of families signed up for different programs, and they appreciate being able to register multiple children all in one place.”

Adaptability

Many parishes that start out using online registration for Religious Education quickly realize that is has many other uses. “We’re using it as much as we can,” says Marianne Larson from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Plano, TX. “One of our ministries has an annual bazaar, and they are using it to handle booth registrations.”

Convenience

“We see online registration as a way to help make programs more accessible to our parishioners,” says Kevin Muller from St. Maria Goretti in Westfield, IN – noting that before, registration involved a special trip to the church office to pick up or drop off forms, or an extra effort to mail in registration materials. “The availability of online registration has been very well-received.”

Does your eGiving program have events registration as a standard feature? If not, it’s putting your parish at a disadvantage. Below is a video explaining how Faith Direct is incorporating online event registration into our eGiving program.

Connecting with Parishes: A Client Relations Q&A

The company you choose for an eGiving program should be more than just a transaction processor – they should be your partner and consultant while maintaining a personal connection to your parish.

Q&A: Client Relations Manager Jim Woods works to build one-on-one relationships with parishes that entrust Faith Direct with eGiving usage growth and security of their offertory.  We sat down with him to discuss how parishes benefit from this connection:

Why does Faith Direct commit to having a direct relationship with the parishes you serve?

Our primary goal is to help parishes succeed with eGiving, and the better we know each parish the more we can help them strengthen their offertory. As a turn key solution, it is our responsibility to keep our clients informed on results.

What’s your favorite way to connect with individual parishes?

Whether on the phone or in person, nothing beats a one-on-one conversation.  We check in periodically with each parish, to talk to them about any specific questions or needs they might have.

What are some topics you generally cover when you speak with an individual parish?

Results are very important – how the parish is doing in terms of parishioner usage or “enrollment”, and how eGiving can be promoted within the parish community to increase enrollment. It’s also a chance for us to get feedback and suggestions for ways we can better serve parishes – we always want to hear what parishioners like about Faith Direct, concerns or questions they may have, and any changes we could consider that might make our program stronger.

Do you have other strategies for keeping parishes informed?

We send out a monthly e-newsletter that shares eGiving news plus updates on new features of our program, and we coordinate with parishes on special annual parishioner outreach mail and email campaigns, tied to when they introduced Faith Direct to the parish family. We also offer monthly webinars focused on specific areas of the Faith Direct program, so parishes can learn more about how the program works and everything we offer. And our customer service team is available to parishes via phone, email and online chat.

Overall, the more an eGiving program offers parishes, the stronger the relationship will be. Features like our online event registration platform help build our connection with parishes – it’s part of our overall goal to make things easier and more efficient for the parishes we serve, so they can focus on their ministries.

How is your relationship with your eGiving provider? They should serve as a consultant about eGiving results and best practices, support your office staff, keep you informed, and make your program’s success a top priority. If they don’t, your eGiving program may not be a strong as it could be.

Are you overpaying for your eGiving program?

Are you overpaying for your eGiving program?

If you are currently using, or hearing sales pitches from, transaction-based eGiving providers, here are five questions you should be asking yourself:

  1. Generosity that materializes and grows over time is a culmination of reflection – an increased awareness of the need to give back to God, and recognition by individuals and families that your parish is an effective instrument of God’s work. Why should an eGiving firm get to share in this recognition by being paid more for larger gifts?
  2. Do you think that your parishioners would be happy with the fact that, the more generous they are, the more money an eGiving provider receives?
  3. Beyond processing donations, what practical steps and services do transaction-based eGiving providers include in their platform to merit a higher fee month after month?
  4. Is the fee your parish pays to your eGiving provider predetermined – or are you paying your provider a larger commission as participation in your program grows?
  5. How much money will your eGiving company be making when 80% of your donations are eventually processed electronically – the current forecast for most parishes?

As you review your eGiving program, make sure that your parish is receiving the most equitable fee structure possible – one in which your costs don’t fluctuate from month to month, and that doesn’t charge you more when your parish family gives more.

Fast. Pray. Give Up Envelopes!

How can I share the importance of eGiving through my parish’s Lenten message?

During Lent, Christians are called to renew spiritual practices like fasting, praying and almsgiving. Year after year, Faith Direct receives tremendous support of our Lenten Challenge, in which parishes share a bold message with members: Fast. Pray. Give Up Envelopes!

With this message, pastors encourage parishioners to help the church by giving up envelopes, and embracing eGiving for their generous offertory and parish support.

As almsgiving encourages each of us to express gratitude for all that God has given by giving some away, Lent is a time for parishioners to think about how they give.

Here are four points you can highlight this Lenten season:

Fast. Pray. Give up Envelopes!

eGiving helps the church save money by eliminating the wasteful envelopes that go unused by so many. That savings can be used to strengthen important missions!
By taking up eGiving parishioners help the church, by providing the parish with consistent support that allows for better budgeting and planning for year-round ministries.
Switching to eGiving means less wasted paper – from unused envelopes to unnecessary forms and documents. It’s a gift to the earth, which Pope Francis has stressed.
Urge your parishioners to think about how many checks they write now, compared to five years ago. For many people, the only check they write anymore may be to the church each Sunday. Ask them to think about their lives and their giving in new ways.

This Lent, encourage your parish to Fast. Pray. Give Up Envelopes!

May God bless you and your parish abundantly during this Lenten season.

Recognize Lent by building a community of faith through social media.

“Each life that we encounter is a gift deserving acceptance, respect and love.”
– Pope Francis

Faith Direct is leading a new #LentenGift social media campaign, with the hope that many will encounter the spirit of Lent online. We hope your parish will be part of this unique initiative!

Inspired by everything from cherished bible verses and Pope Francis’s 2017 message for Lent, to words associated with this season of reflection and penance, we’ve chosen a special theme for each day that captures the meaning and significance of Lent.

Throughout Lent, our Twitter, Facebook and Instagram posts will reflect each day’s theme, with the hashtag #LentenGift.

Here’s how you can join us:

  • Start by posting the attached Lenten calendar on March 1 with the #LentenGift hashtag on Twitter, Facebook and/or Instagram.
  • After that, simply follow the calendar and take inspiration from each day’s theme. Post whatever you are moved to share, whether it’s a photo of a cross from your church on the first day of Lent, or a quote from Pope Francis on the final day.
  • Whatever platforms you use, you can post images from your church and community, or you can share inspiring quotes that reflect the day’s theme – and you can encourage your parishioners to post as well.
  • You’re also welcome to share our daily posts, as we spread the message of Lent.

Together we can build a community of faith across social media in recognition of Lent. We look forward to seeing what inspires you!

eGiving Report Card

letter-a-report-card-test-results_1727171Is your eGiving program successful?  Answering this question is more than just dollars and cents.

Here are five ways to look at your program and how it’s impacting your church:

 

eGiving Report Card

Participation: If you’ve had an eGiving program for more than 3 years, nearly 50% of your donating households should be using it. If not, your church members may not know about your program, or they may find it difficult to use.
Growth:  Whether you’ve had a program for a day or a year, there should always be annual stewardship marketing component that encourages program growth. Existing givers can be asked to increase their gifts. Current donors who don’t use eGiving should be invited to join your eGiving program. And new church members should be offered eGiving as the preferred giving option.
Consistency: What if your church was closed for a week due to a weather incident – would you be worried about finances? With a successful eGiving program in place, you shouldn’t be. A strong program will protect you from ups-and-downs throughout the year, and assure your church with consistent cash flow for operating needs. If you don’t have that predictability, your eGiving program isn’t working!
Reporting: Does your program give you access to monthly data that can help your office project future donations, and better budget for your ministries and services? If your provider doesn’t keep you updated, there’s no way you can be sure that eGiving is reaching its potential for your church.
Partnership: If your provider is just another vendor you use, you don’t have a solid foundation for eGiving. In a successful program, your provider should be a partner that is invested in the financial wellbeing of your church – one that handles ALL aspects of eGiving for you, taking the workload off you and your church staff and giving you more time to focus on ministries. This includes stewardship promotion, credit card decline oversight and customer service.

Remember to never let your eGiving program go on “autopilot.” By always analyzing the performance of your program AND your provider, you can make sure that eGivingis strengthening your offertory, bringing your church consistent cash flow, and making life easier for you and your staff.

 

6 Security Questions You Should Be Asking About Your eGiving Program

Security – it’s one of the most important considerations for your eGiving program.

Since many eGiving providers place security responsibilities directly on churches, it’s essential for you to understand your church’s potential liabilities and vulnerabilities – especially since your provider likely requires you to handle and store your church members’ most sensitive personal and financial information for the administration of your eGiving program.

Here are six security questions you should be asking about your church’s eGiving program:

6 Security Questions for your eGiving Program

Is your church listed as “Merchant of Record” by your eGiving program? This is an important designation – you should check with your current provider to determine your status. If your provider lists your church as the Merchant of Record, in the event of a security breach that exposes your members’ bank or credit card information you will be required to take a number of costly, time-consuming actions, from notifying those affected, replacing their cards, and offering restitution, to reporting the incident to credit card companies and paying any related fines.
Is your church PCI DSS compliant?  If your church is processing credit card transactions, you are required to be PCI compliant. Is your church burdened with the requirement of completing and filing your own annual assessment or does your provider manage the process?
Are you strictly limiting who can handle sensitive data? Credit card or bank account numbers shouldn’t be handled by anyone who is not properly trained and directly involved with administering your eGiving program.
Are you restricting physical access to your members’ personal information? Electronic data should be kept on a secure server in encrypted files accessible only to authorized users. Printed forms must be kept under lock-and-key in a secure area – and should be destroyed once no longer needed.
Are you prepared for a worst-case scenario? If a security incident arises with your eGiving program – if data is accessed by an unauthorized user, for example, or if your network is compromised – you need to have a rapid response plan in place so you can immediately alert your members to the problem.
Does your church practice the basics of safe computing? Maintaining computers that have strong passwords, current antivirus, malware blocking software and all software security patches in place is a good first step.  Security professionals also recommend that you dedicate one computer in your office accessing banking and other financial websites.

If you answered NO to any of these questions – or if you’re not sure how your current provider handles security matters, and how vulnerable your church may be if there’s a security crisis – now is the time to determine what you can do to increase security, and what if anything your eGiving provider will do to decrease liabilities for your church.

Waiting until a problem arises can be costly to your church, your ministries and your members.

Summer Reading: Your 2016 eGiving Program Checklist!

Are you deciding on the best eGiving program for your church, or reviewing your current provider to make sure it’s still the best fit?eGiving Program Checklist

Faith Direct wants to help you make the most informed decision possible.

Below you will find our 2016 eGiving Program Checklist.  This easy-to-download PDF covers every aspect of your eGiving needs from Program Administration, Communication and Customer Service to Administrative Services and Security.

eGiving Program Considerations
  • Does your eGiving provider charge a percentage of donations along with added user fees – or does it feature a flat fee inclusive of all services?
  • Can your members use the program to give to all collections, and to register for parish events?
  • Will your church be responsible for introducing and promoting the eGiving program to your members – or does the program have a full-service stewardship  component?
  • Does the program offer dedicated customer service for users by phone, email and online chat?
  • Is your church responsible for contacting members regarding needed updates to their credit card information, or does the program handle this task?
  • How does the provider protect donors’ sensitive financial information – and how much responsibility will your church bear in the event of a data breach?
  • Who is the Merchant of Record:  your church or the processor?

This 2016 eGiving Program Checklist covers a lot of ground, because there’s plenty to think about as you make this important decision for your church. Faith Direct wants you to make the best choice for your church’s eGiving program. We hope this Checklist helps!

Download the 2016 eGiving Program Checklist Now!

Credit Card Declines Are Hurting Your Offertory

Is your eGiving provider properly managing credit card declines and expirations?

Credit cards are an essential part of eGiving – it’s an option that people appreciate, and those who give via credit card have higher average gifts. But our research shows that many churches do not have a plan to manage this critical source of income.

Here’s some reliable Faith Direct data to show you what a big financial loss this can be:

About 2.5% of credit card donations made through Faith Direct will be declined in any given transaction period. Church members give on average $31 for weekly offertory. So if a church with 250 credit card eGivers is averaging a loss of 2.5% because of credit card declines, they could be missing at least $10,000 a year in gifts that would otherwise be received.

Declines can happen for a variety of reasons – from outdated information or an expired card to insufficient funds in an account. Here are five things to consider as you confront this problem:
  • Who is responsible for decline notifications? Is this something your eGiving program manages, or are you responsible for letting eGivers know that their payments didn’t go through?
  • How quickly are users notified? The sooner eGivers know there’s a problem with a donation, the quicker they can fix the problem and make their giving current.
  • How are they being notified? Email alone isn’t enough – your program should send out both emails and letters letting eGivers know when a transaction is declined.
  • Are donors being notified of an expiring card in advance? The more proactive you can be in letting people know that their card on file is about to expire, the better chance they’ll have of updating their information before a decline happens.
  • What happens if someone does not respond to initial decline requests? Your eGiving program should have a consistent strategy for a follow-up plan to make sure eGivers know about the problem and have plenty of time to fix it.

Declined transactions don’t have to result in a decline in your offertory. If your eGiving program has a comprehensive strategy for dealing with declines and keeping members on their giving schedules, your offertory will stabilize providing your church with the consistent cash flow needed to operate your church and ministries.

Customer Care is Critical to eGiving Success

eGiving is quickly eclipsing check writing for Church Support. As church members frequently have questions about eGiving and their gifts, your program must have the staff or resources to provide immediate answers. A responsive, knowledgeable customer service team lets members know that their eGiving gifts to the church are in good hands, and that you care about their individual questions and concerns.Jack2

We spoke with Jack Emerson, Faith Direct’s Customer Service Manager, about the ins-and-outs of great eGiving customer service:

What do you think is the biggest customer service mistake that eGiving programs make?

I would say limiting the ways that people can contact you. It’s very important to give your members options. In addition to a phone number, your customer service program should also include channels such as a dedicated email address and a live online chat option.

Do different demographics within a church community seem to be more comfortable with certain customer service options?

In our experience, we’ve found that older individuals prefer to call in with their questions while younger individuals seem to prefer emailing their questions or using the online chat function. Regardless of age, members have indicated that they appreciate the option of being able to speak with someone on the phone.

What are the most important attributes of a good customer service representative?

I think it’s threefold: First, representatives should be prompt – whether it’s quickly answering the phone or responding right away to email or chat questions. Second, they must be knowledgeable about how the eGiving program works and what options exist, so they can answer questions with confidence. Third, they must be thoughtful and courteous, so members will always feel comfortable reaching out with any questions they may have.

Which issues do members contact customer service about the most?

It runs the gamut from changing their giving amounts or adding a special gift, to updating their bank or credit card information, and everything in between. People have questions about security, too – they want to know that their eGiving provider is handling their personal information in a secure way. There’s no question or concern too big or small for a great customer service program.

The stronger you can make your customer care network, the better your eGiving program will be for your church. Make a point this month of going over the service options your program provides, and making sure that your members’ questions can be answered quickly and knowledgeably.