How would you feel if your credit card number was left sitting out on a desk in an unlocked office, for anyone to see… or if your checking account information was stored in an unprotected computer file that anybody could access?
Such a risky scenario is NOT what you want for your church’s eGiving program.
And with stories about identity theft and security breaches making headlines each week, your members will want to be 100% sure that any information they include on any paperwork for your church’s eGiving program will be kept secure.
Here are five questions to ask yourself about how your church is ensuring the security of your eGiving program:
1. Is your church PCI DSS compliant? PCI DSS stands for the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard – a comprehensive set of requirements, accepted by all major payment brands, designed to protect payment account data security. If your church is processing credit card transactions, you are required to be PCI compliant. (You can learn more at https://www.pcisecuritystandards.org/.)
2. Are you strictly limiting who can handle sensitive data? Credit card or bank account numbers shouldn’t be handled by anyone who is not directly involved with administering your eGiving program. Administrators of your program should be subjected to a background check and complete comprehensive security training before they access any data.
3. Are you restricting physical access to your members’ personal information? Any data you receive must be kept on a secure server in password-protected files accessible only to authorized users. Any paper forms with your members’ account information must be kept under lock-and-key in a secure area – and papers should be destroyed as soon as payment information has been entered by your eGiving staff.
4. 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.
5. Does your church practice the basics of safe computing? There are many steps you can take to increase your program’s security. Your antivirus program must be up-to-date, and you should install all software security updates. There should be one computer in your office dedicated to accessing banking and other financial websites. Everyone who accesses financial information should have a unique username and password – and all passwords should be strong, with a mix of letters, numbers and symbols.
If you answered NO to any of these questions, your best strategy could be to outsource your eGiving program to a reputable provider. Security requirements for handling sensitive data are complex – it’s often too great a task for any individual church to manage.
Thinking about starting an eGiving program but not sure if your church will respond? Rev. Walter Lewis, the pastor at St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Powhatan County, Virginia, had the same concern.
Faith Direct spoke with him recently about why he was hesitant to launch an eGiving program, and why he’s glad his church decided to give it a try:
One Pastor’s Experience with eGiving
How much had you heard about eGiving before starting a program?
I had heard quite a bit about eGiving – however, I think it is fair to say I had a fairly limited understanding of what eGiving really meant. For me, I had already encouraged members to participate in eGiving, through their banks. I was reluctant to start a program because these attempts to encourage members did not yield good results.
Why did you choose an eGiving provider, rather than attempt to manage your program in-house as some churches do?
We did not have the capacity, nor do I think most churches have, to effectively promote and administer something like this. Security was one of our major concerns. Our Finance Council, in their wisdom and during our discernment, correctly recognized that our church should not be handling sensitive financial information. Why would my or any other church want to assume that liability?
Is there one component that you believe is especially critical to the success of a new eGiving program?
It is clear to me how critically important a promotional plan is to early success. While as Pastor I was willing to show my support by signing up myself, our church also used promotional mailing, email, Mass announcements and talking points to get the word out. This is why we have done so well – members responded because they were informed.
What would you say is the best measure of an eGiving program’s performance?
Enrollment! I am surprised more churches don’t recognize that successful eGiving is defined based on the number of members who use it.
Has eGiving had any impact on your regular offertory?
There is no question eGiving has made a positive impact on our weekly offertory. The automatic recurring nature of it results in an offertory increase while giving members a more convenient way of donating. Because of the high number of families that have enrolled at my church, this program provides consistent offertory even if members are out of town.
What does the future of eGiving look like for SJN? For the Church?
While I just started a real eGiving program 6 months ago, I see a point very soon that this new way of giving becomes the norm. We are a small rural church outside of Richmond yet in just 6 months nearly 50 percent of our donating households have signed up. If it can work here, it can work everywhere.
Has your church seen a decline in offertory since summer started? Most churches do. When members miss Sunday Mass because they are “on the road” for vacations, family reunions and other summer activities, they’re not able to put a check in the offertory basket – leaving your Sunday collection looking like this:
eGiving can help your church overcome the “Summertime Blues”
eGiving lets members plan their gifts in advance, so the church can count on their support even if they’re out of town for a weekend. That means a more consistent offertory that will help your church better plan for your ministries.
Here’s what you need to do right now to avoid another summer slump…
- The first step is to select an eGiving program for your church, if you haven’t already. If your church has delayed implementing a program, let any decline in offertory you’ve seen this summer inspire you to get started.
- Next, whether you have an eGiving program or are just starting it, you must have a coordinated marketing plan that encourages church families to sign up. Explain how it simplifies giving, and lets them be part of helping your church ministries even when they’re out of town on a Sunday. The more families sign up, the fewer downturns your monthly offertory will suffer when people are away for holidays and summer vacations.
Remember: During Thanksgiving, Christmas and the New Year many people might be out of town visiting family – so RIGHT NOW is the time to launch and promote your eGiving program to avoid another drop in offertory.
As successful eGiving evolves for churches, having an eGiving program involves much more than just offering members a way to give their donations electronically. Your eGiving provider or church must be prepared to handle a number of bookkeeping and customer service responsibilities that become the pillars of your program’s success.
Accounting: There are many “behind the scenes” details that must be handled to keep your program running smoothly. First, every transaction has to be reconciled so that all donations are accounted for and properly recorded in your census software. This is perhaps the most important part of managing an eGiving program, and there is no room for error.
Donation Maintenance: There are also administrative tasks that require member interaction. These include pending payment reminders, expiring credit card notifications, and managing declined donations. It’s important to alert individuals immediately when a donation is declined, and work with them to get the payment information updated. After that, the donation must be reprocessed, so that the person will be back into their normal giving routine.
Customer Service Pillars
Program Knowledge: Financial matters can be intimidating, and when questions arise members appreciate a quick, helpful response – whether it’s helping someone update their gift amounts or change their payment information.
Account Management: Most members expect to be able to manage their church donations much as they do their other donations and payments. This includes a robust online system and paper forms or over the phone for those members that are less comfortable with the internet.
Customer Care: It is important for your eGiving provider or church to be able to respond to member questions in a timely fashion. Individual member preferences dictate that your program or church be capable of responding to members via email, online chat or over the phone.
Managing a successful eGiving program takes a great deal of knowledge, a keen attention to detail and a willingness to help others. Before starting an in house eGiving program or selecting a provider, it is important to assess necessary staff time, availability or what customer service support is provided by your eGiving provider to ensure your program’s success
Your church has started an eGiving program, what now?
Set enrollment goals for your church.
Successful eGiving is about the number of members who actually sign up to give electronically to their church, not whether a church has a program!
What should you expect in your program’s first year and beyond?
Make sure your members know about it!
You can’t expect people to seek out eGiving on their own – you need to reach out to them with details on how eGiving works and why it’s beneficial to the church and to members alike.
Use a coordinated mix of the following communication tools:
Email: Personalized Email from the Pastor has proved to be a great way to promote eGiving.
Customized Letters: Since 20% of members still do not go online to enroll in eGiving program, mail continues to be a great way to communicate with them about your eGiving program.
Facebook and Twitter: Different segments of your church population are using Social Media for their everyday communication. This is a great way to spread the eGiving word!
Rotating Bulletin Announcements: Base message on season and liturgical calendar.
Remember: An eGiving program that members don’t know about and no one uses is like having no eGiving program at all! Make sure to promote eGiving, and keep close track of how many people are signing up, so you will know whether or not your program is working for your church.