How do large churches handle online giving?

October 9, 2012

I often counsel churches on what and how they present giving on their websites. I would estimate that half of the churches I’ve worked with don’t have online giving, so that is an easy place to start.  

So let’s assume you want to offer online giving on your website, now what? Selecting a vendor is not the end of the process. Also, keep in mind how important it is to market this new service you’re offering. 

I wanted to see what some of the largest churches in our country are doing on their websites, so I did a very non-scientific survey of the top 15 churches(based on attendance) in the US.

Of those fifteen, thirteen have a button or link on their front page for online giving. The two that didn’t have “jump-off” pages to select one of many campuses first, then the giving link was available.  Of the thirteen that had a link, two had a large stand-alone button, while the rest had a small link somewhere. 

Once that button was clicked, ten of the fifteen had a page that either described what the church believed about giving in general, or included a video of the pastor talking about the subject. I love the video idea. Including a video of the senior pastor discussing what the church believes about giving sends a strong message that this is something important. 

Once I started the giving process on these fifteen sites, eleven required an account be formed before being allowed to give. I can certainly understand why creating an account is good, and will likely lead to recurring gifts, however we want to make it as easy as possible for someone to give. Even if a person isn’t creating an account, they will still have to give name and address so that we will still have records of their giving. My advice would be to work with your provider to find an option that doesn’t require an account. 

Finally I was surprised to see some of the language on the online giving sites. Words and phrases such as shopping cart, receipt, payments, and checkout should be avoided. This isn’t a business transaction, it’s a significant spiritual decision. If your provider won’t work with you on the language of the page, find someone new. Using the words gifts, offerings, and confirmation do a much better job of conveying the importance of the process of which your people are engaging. 

We can always learn from the large churches in our country who have gone through times of robust growth. In this area I would agree with putting an online giving option right on the front page. I would also encourage churches to either state what they believe about giving, or better yet, have the pastor give his thoughts in a video. Make it as easy as possible to give, and give quickly. The more steps involved, the less likely

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