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.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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