Faith Direct has reached an incredible milestone: $1 billion in donations processed electronically for the more than 700 parishes we serve throughout the United States.
“The gifts we’ve processed have been used by parishes to expand their ministries, strengthen their schools, serve their parish families and help those in need throughout their communities and worldwide,” says W. Brian Walsh, President of Faith Direct.
As an early leader in this critically important work, Faith Direct’s success reflects the way many of the faithful now support local churches, but a great deal of work remains. Even as America becomes an increasingly “cashless” society, the Catholic Church still collects just a small amount electronically. According to Walsh, “Our estimates suggest that at most only 20% of the $10 billion in annual donations to the Catholic Church are handled through electronic means.”
Faith Direct is committed to helping churches adapt to the new reality – that we’re approaching a time when 80% of offertory will have to be processed electronically.
“We’ll reach our next billion-dollar milestone even faster, because eGiving is no longer just an option for parishes,” Walsh notes. “It’s a way of life for parishioners, with more families embracing this innovation each day.”
Church leaders are also realizing the benefits of this transformation in giving. “This $1 billion milestone represents the consistency that eGiving provides to churches,” says Walsh. “It protects them from seasonal fluctuations, weather disruptions and other events that can leave parishes under-budget for their ministries and operations.”
Faith Direct is grateful for the opportunity to help so many great churches and individuals do God’s work and make a difference in our world. On behalf of our entire team, we want to say “Thank you!” to the parishes and parishioners who trust us with their stewardship!
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?
If you are currently using, or hearing sales pitches from, transaction-based eGiving providers, here are five questions you should be asking yourself:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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.
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:
This Lent, encourage your parish to Fast. Pray. Give Up Envelopes!
May God bless you and your parish abundantly during this Lenten season.
“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!
Consider this: Two members of your church make their offertory gifts via eGiving. One gives $25, while the other gives $60. With a transaction-based eGiving provider, you would actually be required to pay more for the larger gift – even though the eGiving company isn’t really doing more work for that gift.
Now is the time to make sure your church is not overpaying for your eGiving program – espcially if you are currently using, or hearing sales pitches from, transaction-based eGiving providers. Here are five questions you should be asking yourself:
- Generosity that materializes and grows over a period 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 church is an effective instrument of God’s work. Why should any eGiving firm get to share in this recognition by being paid more?
- Do you think that members of your church would be happy with the fact that, the more generous they are, the more money your eGiving provider receives?
- Beyond processing donations, what practical steps and services do transaction-based eGiving providers include in their platform to merit a higher fee month to month?
- Is the fee your church pays to your eGiving provider predetermined month to month – or are you paying your provider a larger commission as participation in your program grows?
- How much money will your eGiving company be making when 80% of your donations are eventually processed electronically – the current forecast for most churches?
As you review your eGiving program in 2017, make sure that your church 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 church family gives more.
Meet Vince Guerreiro — Vince is the Finance Chair and member of the Parish Planning and Building Committee of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Ewa Beach, HI. Just last year Vince vetted out eGiving providers and shares his thoughts.
Q: How many eGiving providers did you consider, and what was the process like?
A: We narrowed the possibilities down to four providers, and received proposals from all of them — Faith Direct’s was the only proposal that was personalized to our parish and addressed the critical concern of long-term costs as our program succeeded. I created a spreadsheet to make the numbers from all four providers comparable, so the Finance Council members could see the pros and cons of each bidder. Included in my analysis was potential staff and promotional time that I recognized to be key to having a successful program.
Q: What was Our Lady of Perpetual Help looking for in an eGiving provider?
A: Experience mattered — firms may have good intentions, but experience is what counts. A good value was also important, and I believed that a program with a flat fee and promotional strategy was the best solution. Security responsibilities, including who serves as the Merchant of Record, were a real concern for many of us.
Q: Did the church consider doing in house?
A: It’s been said that the lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client, and I feel that’s applicable to eGiving — it’s best left to the experts. We talked with a local bank, but it was just a payment provider option with no other resources or help with marketing. We wanted a wider range of services.
Q: How did you approach the question of costs?
A: Rather than focusing just on up-front costs, we recognized that future growth would ultimately be to our benefit. Younger folks are tech-savvy, and will respond to the program. With other programs, that would mean that our fees would grow. With Faith Direct, as the volume grows, the cost per parishioner drops below the other players in the marketplace.
Q: Since partnering with Faith Direct, the return on your investment is now at 281%. Are you surprised by this level of success?
A: I was worried about how eGiving would perform for us, especially since we are home to a lot of older parishioners. But we found that older parishioners are very interested, but they will usually come into the parish office to enroll, which makes the availability of paper enrollment forms very important. Overall, I’ve been very pleasantly surprised.
Q: At this point 40% of your parish donors have converted to eGiving through Faith Direct. What do you believe is driving this high success rate?
A: Our Pastor and priests have been very aggressive in encouraging parishioners to use Faith Direct — they used the talking points you provided us to get us off to a great start. It’s very important for the parish leadership to buy into eGiving, and recognize that churches are going to need new ways of giving other than cash or checks. This has been a great partnership: Faith Direct does the heavy lifting and parish leadership helps serve as an advocate.
Q: What has the impact of eGiving been on your enrollees’ offertory?
A: On average, those parishioners enrolled in Faith Direct are showing a 23.7% increase in their annual offertory giving. While we can attribute this to the recurring giving consistency that eGiving affords, it also should be an important lesson in why participation levels really do matter.
Q: What advice would you give other parishes discerning eGiving options?
A: Don’t be afraid to ask yourself, “How can our parish not do all the work?” Most churches don’t have the resources or manpower to handle all the facets of eGiving. While fees should definitely be considered, it’s just as important to consider what your provider will do for the parish. Faith Direct takes the work off our hands — other providers would have pushed more responsibility on us.
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.
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.
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?
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|
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!