After a year of uncertainty and upheaval, consistency and predictability are what parishes understandably seek for 2021. Does your parish eGiving program help achieve this goal? That’s an important question to consider as the new year begins. Now is a great time to take a close look at your eGiving system to determine how it can work better for parishes.
In evaluating your current system or considering new options, you should ask tough yet thoughtful questions to determine if your eGiving program is having the most impact for your parish. Based on more than 16 years of experience and our work with over 900 parishes throughout the church, Faith Direct recommends starting the new year by asking these four questions:
“Does my eGiving provider make life easier for parish staff?”
eGiving is more than a simple transaction. Does your provider initiate the debiting process, or does this responsibility fall on your team? Does your program incorporate auditing procedures and reporting capabilities to monitor and reconcile eGiving donations? Your program should also integrate into church census software, so parish staff don’t have to spend time manually keying donations for offertory, second, and other collections into their software.
Another consideration is credit card updates and decline notifications: Does your provider automatically acquire updated credit card numbers for donors, minimizing declined transactions? And who is responsible for contacting parishioners when updates to cards are needed? If these tasks fall to the parish, it’s a major commitment of staff time.
Finally, if you are considering a new program, determine if the new provider will help transition existing eGiving users in a way that is seamless to your parishioners. If the system you choose does not have a comprehensive plan in place to manage the process of transitioning current users, it creates a great deal of work for church staff and many existing users may fall away from eGiving.
“Does my eGiving system offer a tailored communication strategy to boost participation?”
Parishioner engagement is essential to successful eGiving. If your provider doesn’t offer a customized and consistent outreach, via mail and email, that invites parishioners to join, participation in your eGiving program will not reach its full potential.
An effective eGiving program will also generate program materials such as in-pew forms, posters and bulletin copy to raise awareness for online giving, as well as a strategy for communicating about eGiving before or after Mass. Social media is also important: Does the provider communicate to those who follow the parish on social media about signing up for eGiving? If these communication strategies aren’t provided as part of the overall eGiving program, it means more work for church staff and potentially less participation from parishioners.
It’s important that these communication strategies reach all parishioners, so an option to translate online and print materials to languages other than English is another critical consideration.
“Does my eGiving provider work well for parishioners, or make more work for them?”
You should expect your provider to offer dedicated customer service by phone, email & online chat to address parishioners’ questions about setting up or changing their eGiving. The provider should also send monthly payment reminder emails, detailing the giver’s pending donations, as well as year-end statements – online or mailed – to document giving for the parishioner’s tax returns. This makes eGiving easier and more efficient for your church members.
There are two other items parishioners will appreciate: one is multiple giving options, including bank account debits and credit/debit cards. It’s estimated that sixty percent of church eGivers make their gifts using credit cards, highlighting the need for providers to offer a credit/debit payment option. The second is personalized offertory cards to replace envelopes – the liturgy invites us to place something in the basket as a sign of support, and eGiving providers should address this symbolic act that is so important to parishioners.
“Does my eGiving system work across multiple technology platforms?”
Most parishioners are now accustomed to paying bills and making purchases through secure websites and will expect the same from parish eGiving. They’ll want to be able to enroll and manage their accounts online, and parishioners will feel a stronger connection if the online experience is unique to the parish, not “generic” for the provider.
As people continuously adapt to new technologies, eGiving should keep pace. Providers should offer mobile device apps that parishioners can use to make donations and manage their accounts, as well as a robust Text-to-Give feature that can help reach a wider parishioner audience and capture quick one-time gifts that can potentially be converted to recurring donations.
Parishioners will also expect to give to all collections: offertory, second collections and unique appeals, and capital campaigns. eGiving providers that don’t offer this full range of stewardship options prevent the church family from fully engaging in all ministries – and this disconnect will be reflected in parish finances.
Finally, you should think about online event registrations: can parishioners register for events including Religious Education, youth activities, vacation bible school, small groups, camps, sports leagues, dinners, and raffles using the same eGiving platform? Are event registrations an add-on with extra fees, or are they available at no cost as part of the overall eGiving service?
Asking these four questions now can help you identify the best eGiving provider that will bring consistency and predictability to your parish finances for 2021. Our team at Faith Direct is ready to talk through each of these questions with you – give us a call at (866) 507-8757, or get information on how we can help your parish at faithdirect.