We are all learning to connect more with each other and organizations in web-based ways. eGiving is a component of the electronic relationship (as well as relationships in general, of course!). As giving follows the prompting of the Holy Spirit, your web interfaces should minister, teach and inform exactly like what you do in “real time” at church. Giving follows good ministry, and eGiving follows good eMinistry. There is also a crossover between ministry and eGiving (using a mobile phone in the pew) and eMinistry and giving.
We are finding the Internet more effective than mail in helping create that “two or more are gathered in His name” experience. It has a good communication power, but it has to be considered like a second church operation and kept “alive” on a daily basis with intentional effort. I know, you were already too busy just to read this article before even beginning to think about allocating additional time and energy toward your web ministry. Yet, you can work this in… it is part of vital ministry in our ever changing world today. In 2000 our focus was on recurring giving, and today it is on web relationship giving.
Here are some questions to ask yourselves: Would anyone want to give online to your church? Why would they be engaged with your website or social media? There has to be some reason, something of value. Ministry, needs, testimony, teaching and updating are valid and effective components to communications, web or otherwise. There is nothing “magic” about online giving. It is a byproduct of an effective and regular online relationship.
Many leaders today are “Boomers” and are not “web-natives,” so we encourage you to make a change here and start connecting with the other half of the Body. Or find some leadership on your team to take it up. Make sure your web media and websites are spiritually rich and valuable to everyone’s needs. Your website and internet communication is the “re-created church” in cyber space. Your social media teaches, ministers and encourages. It is social, so you have to be social! Again, if you cannot or are not able to operate in the web universe, find someone on your team you trust who can take the lead and let them guide you as you lead your members to those resources. The “face” of the ministry needs to lead. A good leader can follow well.
Secure giving pages on your website need certain elements for giver comfort. You want to get out of the way of the giver. You want to keep everything in the spirit and not cause any stumbling or confusion or fear. eCommerce solutions already have a materialistic “feel” to them, and your Boomers often get irritated with them.
Create a warm feeling with the colors and art of the ministry site. A picture, statement of blessing and direction and even signature of leadership will help overcome any doubt and assure the giver that the gift will go where it was intended. These elements also lend authenticity (integrity) to the page, which is essential to the web environment. That page should appear in one browser window and fill quickly as possible. Do not require a giver to open an account before giving or force them to access their account before giving, which could cause a new giver to stumble.
Facebook and other social connections are being used more by the Church because so much of the family of God is connecting with others there. Sometimes it makes sense to add your giving page in your Facebook account for a particular project for those who are already on “the inside” of a ministry. If your Facebook or social media is used for outreach, link to your website (not giving page) from that media. The website is the “cyber home” of the mission and should be designed to connect immediately to the new relationship. The very essence of the calling/mission is always front and center. This gives the new person a quick impression of what God is doing here. In our crazy, high speed world, we have just about 3 seconds to “connect” with the new person. Keeping the focus on new relationships means your ministry is in growth mode.
These are last days… and knowledge increase is rapid. Unlike the past, within generations now are many “universes of communication.” Mail, email, phone, TV, texting, social media, meetings and internet are dominant in various groups. You cannot be selective and grow at a healthy pace. Let your target audience decide the modes, not you. A vibrant ministry uses every means of communication they can. Giving is in many forms today, not just the way you gave when you came to Christ!
All of your giving pages should be mobile friendly. Android and iPhone apps for your eGiving tools will allow younger members to access their giving accounts right from the pew. Kiosks may still be necessary, but I don’t suspect for too long.
It’s smart to begin making accommodations for your member/giver generations and for the rapid changes in payment systems. You minister cross generationally… so it makes sense to accommodate them. You do not have to be right at the front edge of payment technology trends, but don’t lag too far behind in order to facilitate a growing ministry’s givers.
There is value in electronic giving that goes beyond accommodation to being preferred by leadership for its mission impact. For example, we are a very distracted culture. Most of us manage only a household budget, and that means monthly “in and out” to our cash flows. To be effective in stewardship requires faithfulness. As the leadership, consider inviting your members to set up a recurring tithe/gift. Your tools should handle this. You should be able to do it for those who are not web-natives as well as allow the “younger” ones to set their own up.
While many hesitate to transition to eGiving due to credit card processing costs, it’s crucial to remember that you cannot move money cheaper (or more securely) than an electronic checking transaction. You cannot touch a physical check for twenty five cents. We encourage leadership to state, “If possible, please use your checking account for your giving. That way your entire gift goes to the church.” This will matter greatly down the road. Or simply exclude the use of credit cards altogether… at least for the tithe… and allow them for special purposes.
Building a recurring, automated, electronic giving program for your church is a welcome breath of fresh air over time. Reducing the summer/holiday income slumps allows for more effective planning and ministry focus. We believe leadership is the key to making good use of these giving tools.
As you listen to your people and hear the same request for giving methods/connectivity tools over and over, that is the signal to accommodate them. This plan keeps stress down and keeps you on the curve… not ahead or behind. Embrace it! You will be glad you did.
George Eusterman is director/founder of eGiving, a ministry founded in 2000 to provide development strategies and electronic giving tools for the purposes of Christ.