Why Web Donations? Why Not is a Better Question

Why Web Donations? Why Not is a Better Question
By RaeAnn Slaybaugh


Right now, every type of electronic transaction available to online retailers is available to churches. It just takes a little tailoring to suit your unique needs. For example, Bank of the West, a familiar name in church finance, offers credit card processing services via its NOVA Network, a technology used most visibly by MasterCard. This point-of-sale program combines credit card payment options, check authorization and business management tools. NOVA also enables churches to accept gifts made with corporate and commercial cards, and it can generate electronic gift cards featuring their logos. And having too many users online at a time is unlikely since as many as 150 transactions can be processed simultaneously using this system.

Caring Habits Inc., in Briarcliff Manor, NY, is another in-the-know provider, having set up and currently operating hundreds of monthly donor programs for its clients, including food banks and international religious orders.

President Bob Wesolowski cites research by Harvey McKinnon, author of Hidden Gold, a guide to raising money with monthly donations, to illustrate the main point of systems: money–or rather, more of it. According to McKinnon, monthly donors contribute more than twice as much as annual donors. People who give yearly may only donate $25 to $100 at a time whereas monthly donors’ gifts usually provide gifts of $10 to $50 every time, he says. These outcomes could be comparable until one factors in consistency. Although many annual donors contribute for about two years before their giving lapses, McKinnon says most monthly donors keep it up for seven to 10 years.

So, what gives? It’s surprisingly simple, Wesolowski explains: “Many donors actually want to contribute more but often simply aren’t asked, or they are not given enough opportunities. That’s where monthly programs can be very effective.”

E-transactions minimize overhead costs

By setting up a Web-based donation program, churches also save the costs associated with labor, postage and check-clearing. In some cases, large-volume relationships even let these technology providers offer churches lower rates on their transaction charges than local banks can. And as Wesolowski points out, enabling Web donations also eliminates the need to buy a credit card touch pad, which can cost $1,000 or more.

It’s not that hard. Really.

Most pastors risk mental meltdown at the thought of adding to an already overwhelming to-do list, but many companies essentially do all the work of setting up and running a Web-based donation program.

One such provider is Kintera, Inc., whose expanded Kintera Sphere™ service platform includes eMarketing tools specifically for faith-based organizations. Kintera’s platform lets church leader manage their communication initiatives and grassroots fund-raising a number of ways–all with the power of the Web. First, users can easily update their content-managed Website without any programming, and grow the reach of their cause with the Friends Asking Friends™ service, a proven online grassroots marketing tool. They can also create e-mail campaigns to manage communication initiatives (such as event promotions, eNewsletters and prayer chains), distribute daily devotionals, solicit contributions, thank donors and manage a calendar of social, religious and charitable events–again, all online.

Your members will not freak out

Even if it feels like cutting-edge move for a church, most people are used to making online purchases–or in this case, donations. The Chronicle of Philanthropy reports that more than 25% of all donations to Sept. 11 charities last year–$100 million worth–were made online. And more than 50% of all nonprofits reported receiving donations online last year.

Mega-sites like Amazon.com and eBay have gotten most people used to the concept. Now, as Wesolowski says, it’s time for churches to get with the program.

And this is exactly what Lutheran church leaders have done. Lutheran Brotherhood’s Simply Giving program has only been available for three years, but churches of this faith have generated more than $100 million in electronic contributions in that time. Even better, the program is free for both Lutheran congregations and donors.

Vice President of Stewardship and Brand Development Nathan Dungan says the main reason Simply Giving has been so well received is because it lets church members follow through on their financial commitments simply and consistently. “Congregations can receive electronic contributions even when a member is out of town or ill,” he explains. “It aids the biblical concept of first-fruits giving–giving to God first.”


This article “Why Web Donations? Why Not Is A Better Question” by RaeAnn Slaybaugh is excerpted from www.inspiredtechnology.com, 2008.


This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes, “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”