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.
Is 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.
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!
The first day of summer – June 20 – is National eGiving Day.
Most churches see their offertory decline during the summer by close to 10% according to estimates. Here are five reasons why Faith Direct is the best program to bring you consistent church offertory so your church can weather summer’s budget strains:
- COST: Our pricing is equitable, with a flat managed fee for the life of the program. Unlike many providers, we don’t make your church pay more when people give more.
Faith Direct is full-service – we handle everything from enrollment to processing to program management, so your church staff doesn’t have to do all the work.
- CUSTOMER CARE: We offer a strong customer service program. If your members have questions, Faith Direct agents are available via phone, email or online chat.
- SECURITY: We protect the church from liability and security risks. You won’t be left holding the bag if there’s a security breach.
- MARKETING: Faith Direct helps churches implement a personalized, multi-channel plan that inspires members to sign up. The more people know about your program, the more likely they are to use it – and the most consistent your offertory will be.
Let us help your church achieve consistent offertory during the summer and throughout the year, so your missions and ministries will be even stronger.
How important is information security? Are checks on the way out? How well is Faith Direct doing?
We asked and you answered.
Over 2,600 Faith Direct users took the 2016 eGiving Survey and provided some interesting answers. Thanks to those who took the survey, Faith Direct can use this feedback to provide a better service to our customers and plan for the future of eGiving. Some of the answers were surprising while others were to be expected (of course our Customer Care team is excellent!). Read below to see the full breakdown.
An overwhelming majority would not prefer to have their offertory donations automatically increase every year.
Faith Direct found that church members prefer to have complete control over how much they give. Although an automatic yearly increase could be convenient for some, on the whole donors reported they would rather not use such an option. The good news is that with an online account, donors still have full control over how much–and how often–they give to their churches.
We have always thought the Faith Direct Customer Care team was great. It’s nice to know that you do, too!
The Faith Direct Customer Care team is available Monday-Friday from 8:30 AM-5:30 PM ET over phone, email, and online chat. 95% of users that contacted the Faith Direct Customer Care team rated their experience as Excellent or Good. We hope to be able to use survey results like these to improve the experience of all of our users (but especially that other 5%).
Satisfaction is pretty high with our current option of two debit days per month.
Faith Direct offers two debit dates to eGiving donors so that members can choose whether to have their accounts debited on the 4th of the month, the 15th of the month, or both. Our hope is to make eGiving easy and convenient for church members so that they–and the churches to which they belong–can better plan financially.
Are checks going away any time soon? About half of those who responded think so, but the other half say checks are here to stay.
Even though it seems that we are living our lives more and more online, 47% of Faith Direct customers that responded to the survey believe that check donations will always be an important source of church collections. Of the 53% that do see eGiving replacing checks in the future, there is little consensus on how long that will take. This is a question that Faith Direct has been asking for a while and one to keep an eye on as time goes by.
Information security is something our users take seriously, as nearly 60% would not support their church if sensitive financial data were being managed by church staff.
Identity protection and information security have become increasingly important in our day to day lives. Protecting sensitive information is a big responsibility for everyone and is one of the core priorities for Faith Direct. We maintain the highest levels of security so church members can rest easy knowing their information is safe and church staff have one less thing to worry about.
Fast. Pray. Give Up Envelopes.
Every Lenten season, Christians are called to renew spiritual practices like fasting, praying and almsgiving. In keeping with the tradition of almsgiving and with Pope Francis’ renewed call for environmental responsibility, Faith Direct was proud to start the annual Lenten Challenge. The Lenten Challenge encourages church members to not only continue supporting their churches, but to do so simply and electronically. eGiving cuts the cost of printing and mailing offertory envelopes and reduces household waste.
While not everyone is expected to go paperless (though there are a few Faith Direct member churches who have taken that challenge), the benefits of eGiving are hard to miss. Here are the results of this year’s challenge:
Even though the Lenten season has come to a close, you can still encourage your members to enroll in online eGiving–both for their convenience and for yours!
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:|
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.
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.
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.