Generosity

7 Digital Giving Myths That Are Crippling Your Church (New Data)

Don’t base your church giving strategy on old wives tales and twisted statistics. Use this informed, common sense approach instead. Online church giving and superstition go hand and hand.

7 Digital Giving Myths That Are Crippling Your Church (New Data)
by

Paul Maxwell

When churches use a digital giving software, here’s what they want:

  • Increased giving
  • An easy-to-use user interface for givers
  • A simple to use for administrative teams
  • Fast recurring giving setup
  • A tool that allows people to give when and where they want to
  • Multiple collection options (online, mobile, physical plate, ACH transfer, etc.)
  • Text-to-give, Online giving, and Mobile giving in one solution so they can offer choice to their members
  • Easy to get started (no contract)
  • Affordable (no escalating fees)

But here’s the kicker:

There are amazing digital giving companies that nearly double church giving year-over-year for their churches that offer premium features with flexible plans.

How can you tell the good digital giving software from the bad?

It all comes down to this:

Debunking the myths about digital giving that could be leading your church into a financial trap.

Once you understand these myths, you’ll be fully equipped to use online giving and mobile giving for your church.

1. Nobody wants to give on a church app

There’s a common myth that says: people want to give money on websites, not apps.

A recent survey indicates that, of the $410 Billion given to charity globally in 2018, 54% was given through websites, and only 4% given through mobile apps.

This data is used to suggest that people prefer to give through websites, rather than mobile apps.

Therefore *drummroll* … churches shouldn’t rely on church mobile apps for giving.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Here’s why:

Churches have a very different relationship with their donors than cause-specific non-profits.

Don’t get me wrong—churches have a lot in common with other non-profit organizations:

They’re both non-profit

  • They’re both mission-driven
  • They both need to start using digital giving tools if they want to survive
  • They both need to cultivate meaningful relationships with donors

But there are major differences in the way non-profit organizations relate to their donors than the relationships church members have with their church's. For example, a global charity that does missions work won’t gather together once a week for a weekly one-hour meeting.

Because churches gather every single week, they can instruct their members how to use the tool to give more, to give better, and to be more connected with the causes to which they are giving.

If a cause-specific non-profit relied on a mobile app for giving, they would probably go belly-up within the year.

If your church doesn’t start using a church mobile app for giving, then it will probably go belly-up in the next ten years.

Here’s the deal:

Your church offers its app users two things that a non-profit simply can’t offer.

#1. Attention.

Your church mobile app should be the command central of sermon notes, weekly small group logistics, bake sale needs, volunteer vacancies, and prayer requests. This will keep users coming back to the app.

A random non-profit wouldn’t keep a donor regularly using the app, which is why the app model doesn’t work in many non-church contexts.

The regularity of church app use in the local church makes it an indispensable tool for churches to use in order to set up recurring giving, ask for cause-specific gifts, and give donors options to give to a special event in the church.

#2. Engagement

The second thing your church offers its app users is: social connection.

Non-profits are disparate, distant, and external to one’s day-to-day life.

The app is not just a tool of giving—it’s a tool for engagement.

This means that when you prompt people to give through the app, it will already be second nature to them, because they’re used to using it to connect with the people in their lives already.

But in a real, spiritual and social sense, the type of connection a church member has with their church is not like the commitment they have to a cause/non-profit.

Unlike a non-profit organization, there are significant benefits a church receives from a church app that a non-profit cannot.

  • Your church website is for your visitors
  • Your church app is for your church

A church app is one way you can facilitate member giving and build community in your church. Your church app will maximize engagement, grow community, and boost giving in your church.

P.S.: Most non-profits don’t have apps, but do have websites, which doesn’t mean that donors prefer websites over apps.

2. People don’t like to donate with text-to-give

While a recent online giving study reports that mobile giving only takes up 4% of the global donation pie, it indicates that text-to-give only has 1%.

The same point above applies to text-to-give:

The study doesn’t report how many non-profits raise donations through text-to-give technology, nor does it report what strategies were used to boost giving through a text-to-give campaign.

Because text-to-give is such a new technology, the fact that it takes up 1% of the global $410 Billion donates predicts how important it will be, not that people don’t prefer it.

Again—it’s important to note that reporting how people give does not indicate anything directly about what users prefer. This is a false inference that any statistician would laugh at. How people give indicates what non-profits are using, not what users prefer.

Here’s the real surprise about text-to-give:

Here at Tithe.ly, we’ve found that when given the option, a huge percentage of church members use text-to-give.

In 2018, 21% of the churches we serve, which now exceeds 10,000, used SMS giving at least once. Does this mean that 21% of people prefer text-to-give? Not necessarily. But it does show us that people will give via text when provided the opportunity.

Know what else?

Within these churches, the number of people who give via text-to-give is significantly higher than some would lead you to believe. For example, in 2018, here are the percentages of unique donors who made an SMS gift:

  • 10 - 50 members = 39.90%
  • 51 - 100 members = 24.09%
  • 101 - 250 members = 20.20%
  • 251+ members = 19.59%

Text-to-give isn’t something you can just sweep under the rug.

It’s proven to be a significant channel of giving for many of the churches we serve, and it has helped countless other givers taste the joy of giving for the first-time.

In fact, we serve churches in different countries who process over 90% of their digital giving via text-to-give.

But text-to-give cynics will say something else:

“Your text-to-give technology isn’t true text-to-give.”

It’s true that many digital giving platforms aren’t true text-to-give.

Many providers just send you a response SMS with a link to download their app, through which you can give.

Shifty stuff.

With Tithe.ly, you receive true text-to-give—i.e., people can type an amount and give via text without receiving a link to download an app.


And not only does Tithe.ly offer true text-to-give, it offers many other features, such as list segmentation and  giving to specific funds through text.


Text-to-give offers people an option to give how they prefer

People prefer to give in many ways.

For example, in some of the churches we serve, they have a significantly high-percentage of givers via text.

People will give in the way they most prefer.

Even better:

People will give via text (or other means) when it’s encouraged as a next step, which leads us to the next point.

Text-to-give increases engagement

Text-to-give is a great way to encourage people to participate in the joy of giving.

For instance, some churches organized campaigns, and they’ll use text-to-give as a way of encouraging people to donate money. In this scenario, it’s super easy to introduce people to giving.

“Text $1 to this number to donate toward this campaign.”

3. Companies that charge processing fees are unethical

This is one of the most uninformed criticisms of digital giving software.

No one is hiding in a room scraping money off the top of your tithing and then laundering it through elsewhere.

For every online transaction, there is a processing fee.

Nobody transfers a cent through an online store without getting money.

Even your credit card transactions require that someone pay a fee.

Does paying this fee mean you lose money?

Ask yourself this: Did people make more money or less money when the Internet was invented?

It most certainly did not.

Integrating a digital giving platform into your church’s donation strategy will only make it grow.

More than that, some online giving companies—like Tithe.ly— will give churches the ability to allow their donors to cover the processing fee on their end.

Everyone who makes a financial transaction online is charged a processing fee.

Some companies manually require donors to cover this fee.

Some companies require the church to cover the processing fee.

Other companies, like Tithe.ly, provide your church members with the option to cover the processing fee.

4. Online giving costs churches money

Don’t you lose money with online giving?

Far from it.

From our experience, churches we serve to experience a significant increase in giving.

From North Coast Church doubling their online giving to a 122-year-old Lutheran Church experiencing a 15% increase in giving, church after church is proving that digital giving software increases revenue, even after negligible fees.

Know what else?

On average, churches who use Tithe.ly increase their giving by 165% in the second year.

Magic doesn’t make this happen.

This is a combination of providing online giving software that’s easy like Sunday morning for your church members to use, as well as these churches following the tips and advice we share in Tithe.ly GROW, a program that will teach you how to implement Tithe.ly’s giving platform to boost donations.

A transaction fee is no different than charging a church a monthly fee for providing the digital giving solution. Yet, most church members would have no qualms with a church purchasing a giving software.

Tithe.ly’s digital giving platform costs $0, and it enables you to streamline recurring digital giving so that your church can experience the kind of growth that North Coast did.

5. Launching digital giving automatically increases giving

A recent study found that 60% of church members are willing to give digitally, but only 10-25% of a normal congregation actually give.

This means that people are ready to give, but find the current giving modalities too awkward or undesirable.

A recent report from Dunham+Company found that smaller churches that adopted digital giving decreased over 2 years, where larger churches who adopted digital giving saw their tithes double each year.

This is likely because the technology was put in place, but wasn’t launched or positioned as a solution to the previously undesirable modality.

Churches who adopt digital giving without helping the church buy into its usefulness run the risk of making their digital giving tools look like a novelty—a trinket—rather than a powerful tool that can bring the church closer together as a partnership of believers fighting for a common cause.

To really benefit from digital giving tools, your church needs to take them seriously and get buy in from your members by launching it well.

6. Individuals can’t give that much money

A 2017 study (GUSA 2018) found that individual donations composed 70% of all charitable giving in 2017, which means that you can raise far more funds by mobilizing than by chasing institutions.

Church leaders often underestimate the amount of money they can raise from individual members.

But the data suggests that by partnering with individual donors through recurring giving tools, the year-long value of 10 serious donors can significantly overshadow any one-time gift from a corporate or institutional partner.

7. Big donors prefer to pay with a check

The fact is that millennials are a growing donor base—not only because they’re still building wealth, but because they’re still becoming part of social institutions worth giving to. A recent study found that nearly 14% of all money donated in 2017 was from 34 million millennials (NextGen).

While there may be some technophobic maturing donors who hold the purse strings to the church, the fact is that young money is starting to mature, and younger donors are starting to give more and more.

In order for the church to gradually replace its core maturing donors with younger, willing donors, technology is a necessary tool in this process.

Automated digital giving software is necessary for a church to capitalize on a growing donor base who, over the next 5 years, will have more of a motivation to give and resource pool from which to give.

Over to you

As you strategize how to grow donations in your church, don’t make the mistake of using a “cash only” model (even if you accept checks and bank transfers, that’s essentially a “cash only” model with frills).

Look at businesses that only accept cash and checks.

They’re sinking.

And don’t buy the myth sold by fancy marketers in the digital giving space that paying a high monthly premium is better than paying a few cents per dollar in giving fees.

Don’t listen to these unfounded myths about digital giving, and check out Tithe.ly’s high-feature, affordable, flexible, clean digital giving solution today.

The proof will be in your growth.


Editor's Note: This post was recently updated to reflect current myths and trends.
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7 Digital Giving Myths That Are Crippling Your Church (New Data)