Health and Growth

The Future of Fundraising Software

The digital revolution is happening in the church. Befriend the right kind of technology so your church can befriend the right kind of growth.

The Future of Fundraising Software
by

Dean Sweetman

The digital revolution is happening.

Analog ways of doing things are passing away.

Paper. Pencils. Manual excel sheets. Counting cash.

These practices are all going extinct.

This digital revolution is happening around the world. And, what’s happening outside the church will eventually happen inside the church in the form of fundraising software.

This is particularly true of eCommerce and financial transactions.

A snapshot of modern eCommerce

A few years ago, a company got started called Uber. And you may not have ever used the Uber app. I use it just about every day. I live in Los Angeles. It's an urban environment. We have one car at home. I use Uber like this: I tap the app, I set the place I want to go, I get a car within three to five minutes, I get dropped off, I never touch a credit card, I never worry about anything, and I go.

About eight years ago, Starbucks came out with the first app where you could actually buy coffee within the app. I'd load my credit card into their digital wallet and then I'd go and get a coffee. I can even pre-order the coffee from the app, and it gets made before I even arrive at the Starbucks. I didn’t touch cash. I didn't touch a credit card. All of this was done from within the app.

This trend is happening across entire industries, including Whole Foods and Walgreen. Within 5 years, just about every retail experience you have is going to allow you to make purchases without even touching a credit card.

Very likely, credit cards will become obsolete because all the data you need to have for transaction will be stored in a mobile device. I know that might freak some people out, but this trend is going a million miles an hour and that's the way world commerce is going.

This year alone, two trillion dollars of payments were made through mobile phones. That number will be bigger next year.

The Church and eCommerce: Unbelievable data

Let's drop the church into this trend for a moment. Traditionally, the church has struggled when it comes to new technologies. When technology comes along, churches often want to shy away from it. They're scared of it. They're not sure if it's the right thing for them to do.

I have the total opposite view. Any technology that the world is using to increase their profits and their margins, we should be using to increase our profits and our margins. Our profits are the preaching of the gospel, the winning of souls to Christ, and the building of the kingdom on the earth.

So, as minister, a pastor, a church planter, I think it's essential that we update our methods with 21st century when it comes to mobile payments and commerce.

Over the last seven or eight years, the shift from giving from cash and check has really started to pick up speed. Today, $120 billion is given to faith based organizations in America and still only 15% are digital. That leaves $100+ billion still received by cash and check.

The problem is both demographics and the technology curve are shifting what's happening in churches.

We sign on hundreds of churches every month to our platform and the main reason that we hear back from churches that are calling out to get set up, is this: “Young people in our congregation wanted a way to be able to give through an app or through the website, or via text.”

Your congregations, as they get younger, are going to force you into a place where you have to have a really great digital giving strategy. Of course, we can help you with that at Tithe.ly, but whether you use our software or someone else’s, you will be in a situation where you’ll have to use an app or start losing financial resources quickly. You've got to have a really clear mobile ecommerce strategy for your church. The average gift size to a church in cash and check is about $40. The average gift size via digital giving platform, (on Tithe.ly, for example), is $177. You might wonder: “Why the disparity?” There are a few reasons.

Don’t shackle generosity to attendance

In today's society, people aren't in church every week. And we know, as ministers, that if they're not there, they’re probably not giving. But guess what they always have in their pocket? Their mobile phone. When you give your congregation an easy way to give from a mobile device, you are literally giving them the opportunity to give anywhere, anytime.

When it was the Fourth of July, I used to freak out pastoring my church in Atlanta. Fourth of July weekend we'd get snowstorms coming through in the winter. The church would not be there. No people. Budget crushed. The beautiful thing about having a mobile strategy is you've got the ability to have in peoples hands, they can give anywhere, anytime, and that is a game changer. That makes their giving more consistent.

We survey the churches that use our service at Tithe.ly. We find through all the surveys that people aren’t failing to give because they don’t want to give. They’re not giving because the church makes it really hard for them to give. And, unless they’re in the building, they aren’t able to make a contribution. With a great mobile strategy, all of that changes.

When people can give on their financial schedule, they give more

With a formulated mobile giving strategy in your church, you allow people to set up recurring giving with two clicks. When I can set an amount, if I get paid the 1st and 15th, I can enter: “Give X dollars to [CHURCH] on the 1st and 15th.” Done. Automatic gift through my phone. I set it up on the 1st of the month, I press send, and I'm done.

Again, don’t forget this basic truth—the people in your church want to give. They want to tithe. You're teaching on it. You're exhorting them biblically about giving and generosity. But if we don't give them the easy tools in this day and age to do it, they’re not going to give. Analog methods for collecting tithes were fine 50 years ago when 90% of your members came to church every single week. But we know with all the things that are pulling on families—sports, soccer, and everything that happens on the weekends now—families are just so busy, they're often not there every week.

Having a mobile solution for them to be able to give puts them in a setting where they can give anywhere, anytime. Then, when you're teaching about giving and stewardship, helping people set up recurring, this absolutely changes the game for you.

We have churches in our network for whom 70-80% of their income comes in through recurring giving. Do you know what that means? With digital giving, 70-80% of their budget is going to come into the church no matter if they turn up on Sunday or not. That's a game changer for churches. That's a game changer for you to be able to budget, to be able to work out what you can do with the funds that you receive.

Formulating a digital strategy is an enormous asset to your church—and that's happening because the marketplace is already persuading and teaching your church to do this. Amazon, Starbucks, and the rest of the mobile eCommerce early adopters have already familiarized your congregation with this digital giving’s legitimacy, security, and ease.

The best way adopt a digital giving strategy in your church

Your congregants are already putting their credit card in apps in their phone and using those apps to get a car, to buy a coffee, pick up their prescriptions, and go to Walmart. The question isn’t “Why would the church adopt mobile giving technology?” but rather: “Why hasn’t the church adopted this technology yet?”

When you adopt this technology, your congregants will think: "Oh, the church is finally here. I've done six things this week with my phone and now it's just going to make total sense for me to be able to give and contribute through my mobile device.”

Clarity must be a key performance indicator in a successful digital strategy. You have to lay it out very clearly. You have to instruct people on how to give through the app. Risk overemphasizing the logistics of giving so that people are never wondering how to give. More than that, emphasize that digital giving is a priority for your church.

As you make digital giving a priority, you will see your offerings go up. Our data looks at hundreds of millions of dollars, thousands and thousands of offerings. Every month we look at that data and we see a couple of really cool things.

Break free from Sunday-only giving

Most (⅔) of the giving on our platform is not on a Sunday.

Monday through Saturday giving on our platform is two-thirds. Only ⅓ is Sunday. If I were to survey most churches that don’t use digital giving, they'd tell me that at least 80-90% of their income comes from the offering plate on a Sunday.

You're missing out, conservatively, on 30-40% of the money that people would've wanted to give, but won’t, because giving is not made convenient through an easy-to-use digital giving platform.

We see people giving all times of the day and night. We see them giving all hours of the day. We see them giving all throughout the week. It’s truly amazing. When people set up recurring giving through their phone, we have big spikes on our platform.

When it's the 1st of the month, and the 1st is a Wednesday, we see millions of dollars coming in our platform because of all the people that get paid on the first and the 15th. It generates an automatic gift. Taking this into account in your church’s digital giving strategy is absolutely critical. Especially if you're planting a church, you want to create a culture that, from the very beginning, fluently gives recurring gifts digitally. You want to be a digital-first giving church.

When you lead people down that path, anyone under 40 is automatically going to do it, but you'd be astounded how quickly 40+ members pick it up. Everybody becomes comfortable with the convenience of digital giving when they're convinced how secure it is (more secure than cash and check) and how easy it is (easier than putting cash in a plate). When they see these things, they'll jump on board, and your digital giving strategy is going to be absolutely critical for your moving forward.

Ditch your medieval record keeping routine

Could your current financial record keeping strategy be duplicated on a scroll? If so, it’s analog, and will evaporate from church professional “best practices” in the next 10 years.

Digital giving makes record keeping far easier. That data behind your church’s giving trends is very important, and this is an entirely separate subject. Understanding your giving data gives you the best key performance indicators you can have in running your church in the same way as a successful business.

Don't get me wrong—I understand the kingdom is not a business. I understand what we're all involved in and even though I'm working with business-minded people, I understand that you're in the business of building the kingdom, planting a church, and growing that church.

But again, you're drawing on the wisdom of business principles to help you grow your church. Some of the key performance indicators that you need to be looking at are the trends of your giving. Year in and year out, you need to be able to see if your church is growing. You want to see that giving growing.

When there's summer (here’s a very cool thing), most churches go through what's normally known as the “summer slump.” Not on our platform. We see giving go up through the summer.

That's why when your members are at the Fourth of July barbecue, on a boat somewhere and they're missing church, they get a push notification Sunday morning, "Hey, have a great Fourth of July. Don't forget to give. Swipe left." And people do. Or, even better, they’ve already set a recurring gift to automatically send on the 4th.

We see in our churches using Tithe.ly that giving increases through the summer. Again, people want to give. Mature and maturing Christians desire to give. People often don’t give, not because they don’t want to give, but because the church has made it almost impossible to give if they’re not physically at church every Sunday.

Over to you, church leader

Creating an informed and growth-minded great digital strategy is so critical. That's why getting the data that you capture from the digital giving is so critical. You're going to be able to use all the technology in such a way that it's going to take a burden off you as a minster. Your budget is going to be shored up as a result of employing a digital strategy.

Adopt a digital giving strategy for your church today that employs these commonsense principles from the growing mobile ecommerce trends emerging in the marketplace today.

Your church will grow faster.

You will understand your growth better.

And you won’t be leaving kingdom growth on the table.

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The Future of Fundraising Software