Which age group do you think is most likely to use an innovation like eGiving?
Younger people are fully immersed in a digital world and are definitely open to using eGiving for their donations – but numbers suggest that older members are just as excited about simplifying their stewardship.
So what insights can we take away from this data?
Many younger members might not feel ready to commit to offertory giving.
Young members may not yet have achieved a steady, stable income – but as they develop their understanding of giving stewardship, they will want to have an eGiving option.
Never assume members are “set in their ways” and committed to writing checks.
We’re all living in a digital world now, with multiple monthly payments made online or automated – and even your most senior members will appreciate the convenience and consistent stewardship that eGiving provides. (Keep in mind, Social Security and Medicare payments are made through direct deposit!)
It is important to market your eGiving program to your entire church.
You want to reach people through email and social media, of course, with quick online signup options – but notifications in your church bulletin and letters to your members are also great ways to promote eGiving as the best way to support the church.
When a winter storm hits, it can put a freeze on a church’s financial stability.
Just ask Father Donald Fest, S.S.J, Pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Alexandria, VA, whose parish has had its share of winter storms and lost weekends over the years.
But thanks to a strong communications and outreach plan that has inspired 50% of donating households in his parish to use eGiving, Fr. Fest has been able to overcome cold weather woes.
Before St. Joseph started its eGiving program through Faith Direct, a cold snap could have a devastating impact on collections.
“I would say that during these weekend storms, the collection just bottomed out,” Fr. Fest recalls. “Offertory decreased by 80 percent.”
And it was virtually impossible to make up for that loss, he explains, “because everyone was giving by check or cash, and they did not think or make the conscious, intentional effort to make up for their missed weeks of offertory.”
Launching an eGiving program was the first step in addressing this problem – and working with Faith Direct to actively market the program, so that members would understand the importance of consistent, committed giving, has led to stronger stewardship for the parish.
“eGiving helps people budget their giving, and follow through on that budget,” Fr. Fest notes. “If the member is a ‘one-check-per-week’ giver, their giving will be entirely dependent on their attendance, rather than their actual budgeted commitment. eGiving enables parishioners to follow through on their commitments.”
Remember: Having an eGiving program for your church is only half the battle – if it’s not backed with a powerful marketing message that inspires your members to be part of it, then your program won’t give you all the protection it can against weather disruptions.
Newly-released figures from Faith Direct show the importance of having an easy-to-use eGiving program that your church family can use for all of their gifts to the church. Donation numbers from December 2014 – based on the churches we serve throughout the United States – include:
These numbers illustrate what a strong eGiving program offers to your members when they decide to give:
- Flexibility: Church offices aren’t always open when people feel inspired to give – especially during holidays, when offices could have limited hours. eGiving allows members to give what they want, when they want, whenever they are inspired by a specific ministry or need.
- Choices: Not every member wants to drop a check off at the church. Your eGiving program must give users multiple ways to make their gift: whether it’s online, over the phone, or from their smartphones or tablets – and whether they want to use a checking account or credit card.
- Confidence: Donors making last-minute offerings (especially large gifts) want to be sure their gift is handled properly and attributed to the appropriate tax year. With eGiving, gifts are processed right away – so no checks are sitting in a church office until it is too late to be attributed to correct tax year.
Churches without a robust eGiving program that’s easily available to users for all of their gifts likely lost out on last-minute generosity at the end of the year or during other seasons such as Easter. Don’t continue to miss out in 2015 – make sure your eGiving program simplifies stewardship for your members, so they give their full support to your important ministries.
Among Catholic parishes served by Faith Direct, St. Nicholas in North Pole, Alaska has many distinctions. It’s the northernmost parish in the Faith Direct family and the coldest, with the average temperature in January plunging to a frigid -34 degrees. St. Nicholas is also the only Faith Direct parish just down the street from a 51-foot-tall, 900-pound statue of Santa Claus.
You’ll discover the Christmas spirit in North Pole quite literally at every turn, whether you take Mistletoe Drive to Donner then make a left onto Kris Kringle (which will take you to Blitzen Drive), or if you visit the parish on St. Nicholas Drive (via Santa Claus Lane, of course).
And this Christmas spirit is sought out by the rest of the world. “Children from all over send their letters to Santa at the North Pole,” says Rev. Robert Fath, pastor of St. Nicholas Parish. “People also send their Christmas cards here for a North Pole postmark, which keeps the Post Office ‘elves’ quite busy.”
Normal Life in North Pole
But when tourists have packed away their souvenirs and headed to the next destination – after Santa’s helpers have sorted through a day’s worth of cards and letters and closed up the Post Office for the night – North Pole is a small town like most any other, with a population of almost 2,000 and with the many blessings and abundant needs of any other community.
One of the ways St. Nicholas provides Christ-centered ministries is through the many families who support the parish via electronic giving. Almost 40% of contributing households use the parish’s eGiving program, which is administered by Faith Direct.
“We have many wonderful families and kind individuals who are always eager to serve,” says Rev. Fath, noting that annual events like the parish Bazaar and the summer “Pignic” are never short of volunteers. “But we also have people in dire need – people who are poor, jobless or homeless, or who are struggling with addictions and inner turmoil.”
For these people, St. Nicholas offers a variety of ministries – from helping provide Thanksgiving dinners to those in need to offering prayer and counseling for troubled families.
A Gift that Keeps Giving
The Faith Direct eGiving program has also helped St. Nicholas expand its church home with a new Pastoral Center, which was completed in 2012. “eGiving was a huge help with our building campaign, because it allowed parishioners to give to the project on a consistent basis without the risk of forgetting from one month to the next,” says Rev. Fath. “The Pastoral Center is now open, and with the help of eGiving and the consistency it provides, we are on a 5-year schedule to pay off the 15-year mortgage.”
The Reason for the Season
According to Rev. Fath, “For all the decorations and festivities, the true meaning of Christmas is sharing God’s love and helping others – so we at St. Nicholas do our best to make sure it’s Christmas year-round here in that sense as well.”
eGiving is essential to helping St. Nicholas sustain this spirit of kindness and compassion. “We’re thrilled with the consistency and efficiency we’ve discovered through eGiving,” says Rev. Fath. “Our program is helping us strengthen the ministries we offer to the North Pole community, during the Christmas season and throughout the year.”
eGiving is generally associated with the digital world — that “e” stands for electronic, after all. But did you know what an important role paper plays in the most successful eGiving programs?
At Faith Direct, members using paper forms make up 20% of our new enrollments. Yes, that means 1 out of 5 members who elect to support their churches through eGiving don’t actually go “online” to do so.
Paper enrollment materials are especially popular among older members who use eGiving — a large demographic for most any program.
Forty-one percent of Faith Direct enrollees are ages 60 to 74 — and another 17% are 75 or older. That’s almost 60% of eGiving users over the age of 60!
Many older individuals like the ease and efficiency of eGiving, but aren’t always comfortable putting their personal information into a website or computer. Some prefer paper enrollment forms so it is important to make this option available.
Here’s how your eGiving program should provide access to the paper forms members want:
- Include enrollment forms in any letters you send to members regarding your eGiving program.
- Place enrollment forms in your pews so members can fill them out after Mass.
- Keep enrollment forms in your church office so people can pick them up there.
- Give members the option of downloading enrollment forms from your website so they can print them, fill them out and turn them in. Some online users prefer this method!
Faith Direct strongly urges churches to consider the security requirements of receiving paper enrollment forms with secure financial information. Your eGiving program should exclude the church office from having to accept or store any paper enrollment forms.
When your members have access to the paper enrollment options they want, participation in your eGiving program will be higher — and your church will have more resources to do God’s work. Your church family and your community will be thankful!