Electronic Giving

April 17, 2012

I love doing Generosity Audits with churches, and there are some things that I see in nearly every church with which I work. Every church needs to tell better generosity stories. Every church needs to make it known that their leaders embrace generosity. And every church needs to provide more options for giving. First place to start? Online giving.

That’s why I asked Bryce Collman of Ardent Giving Solutions to address some concerns I hear from churches about electronic giving.

Why should a church incorporate online giving in the first place?

We want to help churches grow total giving, not move giving from the plate to the web.  For most churches,  a properly executed online giving program can grow overall giving 20-25%.

 Can you give a brief overview of how a fee structure would work?

Our monthly service fee is $55 per month.  Churches also encounter processing expenses on contributions made.  At Ardent we offer interchange, or wholesale pricing at very low margins.  This allows each individual contribution to qualify at the best available rate.

Recent legislation has passed that affects banks and debit cards, how does that affect online giving?

The Durbin Amendment, which passed congress in August of 2011, limits how much larger banks can charge for debit card transactions.  This has a tremendously positive affect for our churches.  As a result of this legislation, we now process most typical debit card contributions for under 1%.

Some churches choose to allow credit card giving because their members like getting the rewards, while others would rather not allow credit cards. Can a church decide what to accept and what not to accept? 

We offer churches to choose what contribution methods best fit the culture of their organization.  We can even accommodate churches that would like to be debit card only for contributions but debit and credit for online registrations.

Once a church decides to use online giving, how do they go about actually getting set up on their website? 

At Ardent we recognize that technology resources are limited at many churches and developed our integration to fit their needs.  You simply copy and paste a link that we provide.

 When someone gives online, how does the money get to the churches bank account?

Churches receive their money for the full amount of the contribution in two business days.  On the first business day of the following month we deduct the expenses and issue a statement.  Online reporting is provided as well.  This method ensure the church receives their assets as quickly as possible and simplifies account processes.

 Some individuals are still scared to give out their personal information online, how does Ardent make sure their information is secure? 

Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover have established standards through the PCI (Payment Card Industry) Security Council to ensure cardholder data is secure.  We exceed all requirements and contract with McAfee for daily security scans.

 We know that simply allowing online giving is not the end point, a church must effectively communicate with their church. How can you help a church communicate with their members so that electronic giving is effective? 

At Ardent, our goal is to help churches grow total giving.  We provide a Biblically based, professionally produced giving video and bulletin insert templates to help grow exposure for online giving and promote the value of recurrent giving.  We also provide a best practices document with suggestions from churches we have gathered over the years.

When churches elect to offer online giving and market it effectively, do they see “new dollars” coming in or is it mostly people switching from giving in worship to giving online? 

Moving giving from the plate to the web holds no value for a church.  When properly executing an online giving program, most churches experience overall growth in giving between 20 and 25%.  We have found this to be true for most churches with weekly adult attendance of 100 or more when 50% or more of the adults are 55 years of age or younger

If rates go down for the cost of processing the online gifts, does Ardent pass those savings on to the church? 

Absolutely.  This is one the values of our wholesale pricing structure.

Doesn’t the use of online giving take away from the worship experience?

We recognize that giving is an integral part of the worship experience.  I have personal experience with this.  When I began giving recurrently online, the next weekend during service I was a little uncomfortable when the plate was coming down the aisle as I had nothing to drop in it!  This inspired us to create online giving collection plate slips for our customers.  Many churches add an “I gave online” option to their giving envelopes or collect some type of connection card at the same time as tithes.

Great information from Bryce, and keep an eye out for some new expansions of Ardent’s current services coming in the near future that will help you take your electronic giving to the next level.

I would encourage all churches to look at the options their members have to be generous. Could you expand to offer online giving? What about a kiosk in the lobby? Could you create a smartphone app?

Yes there may be some fees to get started, but giving your members the opportunity to be more like Christ in their giving is worth every penny!

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