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Jump Start Your Congregation's Online Giving

This week's email is the first of a two part series on Online Giving.  As I visit with congregations, I often end up in a conversation about online giving.  I hope this email and next week's will be valuable for your conversations about this important topic,

Chick Lane
Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders

Jump Start Your Congregation's Online Giving:
How to Choose an Online Giving Vendor
by Grace Duddy

Online giving is on the rise. A Dunham+Company national study on online giving found that nearly 60% of donors gave online in 2012. According to the 2012 Millennial Impact Report, 70% of Millennials who donated to non-profits last year gave online. While younger people are more likely to give online, the percentage of people giving online is increasing across older generations. According to the Dunham+Company study, the number of Baby Boomers giving online increased from 44 percent to 58 percent in 2012. Similarly, donors who are over 65 increased their online giving from 29 to 36 percent. Online giving is beginning to trump more traditional giving avenues such as mail and phone as the primary way that donors give.
While online giving maybe nationally on the rise, the church does not seem to have caught up with this trend, particularly when it comes to giving through congregations' websites. According to the Indiana University School of Philanthropy's 2013 Congregational Economic Impact Study, two-thirds (66.3%) of the congregations studied employ some type of electronic option for congregational giving, yet only 12% receive contributions directly through their congregation's website. While some congregations offer a direct deposit option, this option may not be a good fit for everyone, particularly visitors to the congregation. So, how do you begin offering online giving options?
First, begin by choosing a vendor to facilitate online giving on your web page. Here are some things to consider as you begin to look at vendors:

  • Different Ways to Give: Make sure that you find a vendor that can offer potential donors a variety of ways to give. For instance, you might want to find a vendor that permits one-time online gifts, special appeal gifts, as well as recurring gifts. You might also want to find a vendor that permits donors to give via credit card or directly through their bank account.  
  • Simple is Best: Make the giving process is as simple as possible for the donor. Make sure the instructions are clear and do not ask donors for more information than is necessary.
  • Avoid Log-ins for One-Time Donors: It is a big deterrent to one-time donors if they have to "create an account" in order to make a gift. While this is fine for recurring donors, this added step can often cause you to lose a gift from one-time donors.
  • Donor-Managed Recurring Gifts: Allow donors who make recurring gifts to manage their own accounts so if they want to adjust their gift up or down they can do it themselves without having to contact the church's financial manager. This will save a lot of time and grief on the part of the donor as well as the congregation.
  • Fees: Watch out for the fees from different vendors. Every vendor scales their fees differently. They may have a hosting fee, transaction fees, processing fees, additional credit card fees or a flat monthly hosting fee. Be sure that you get a clear picture of all of the fees before you sign on with a vendor.
  • Security: Security is a high priority for online donors. Research your vendor's security so that you can trust that your donor's credit card and/or banking information will be protected.
  • Mix and Match: It can be difficult to find one single donor that meets all of your criteria. Some congregations have opted to offer more than one vendor to give donors a more varied range of options.


Grace Duddy is the Assistant Director of the Center for Stewardship Leaders at Luther Seminary. Grace will be one of the speakers at this summer's Stewardship with Adults under 40 conference.

More Information

A Stewardship for the 21st Century email from last August, entitled, "How to Give" offers some additional thoughts on the need for congregations to provide various ways for people to give.

Author information was updated as of the article's post date. Author profiles may not reflect author's current employment or location.

Image credit: © Ignacio García Losa ( via Flickr. Used by permission.

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