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Choosing an Online Giving Service for Your Church: 7 Important Questions to Ask Before Making a Selection

Looking for an online giving tool for your church, but unsure how to pick the right one? Here are a few key things you should consider when evaluating online giving companies.

Choosing an Online Giving Service for Your Church: 7 Important Questions to Ask Before Making a Selection
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There’s a good chance your church has or is thinking about online giving

But ... do you know how to make the best choice for your church among the many online giving services available?

Here are seven important questions you need to ask before you choose a new online giving service for your church. You can also read our complete guide to online/mobile giving for more detailed information.

#1. How much does it cost?

There are a few rocks you need to look under to know how much your church will need to pay for an online giving service.

The first fee you need to ask about is: Does the service require a monthly fee of any sort? Some call it a platform fee. Or, do you need to process a minimum number of transactions every month? Or is there a "security fee", "transfer fee", "PCI fee", etc. I think you get the point here -- be sure you ask about any sort of monthly fees you'll be paying from the start or after any sort of introductory offer/promo period.

The second fee you need to ask about is: What is the per transaction fee? There’s usually not a huge variation among online giving services in this area, but it’s good to know what to expect. Check out our complete guide to fees related to online/mobile giving here.

Finally, you should ask if the service provider require you to pay more for additional features, such as a kiosk feature or text-to-give or events or any other sort of add-on feature.

#2. Do I need to sign a contract?

In order to answer to this question completely, you need to be dig in to two things.

  1. First, does the service you’re considering require you to sign a contract or make a long-term commitment?
  2. Second, does the online service require you to sign a contract to secure reduced pricing or gain access to features that are not included without a contract being signed?

Many online giving services do not require a contract, but some do. Either way, it’s important to know if you need to sign a contract and what that contract legally holds you before you commit to one service for an extended period.

#3. Can the service integrate with my church’s brand?

This question might sound trivial, but it’s more important than you may think.

According to the Digital Giving Index, giving pages that look similar to your church or non-profit or church organization will lead people to complete their gift seven times more than a non-branded online giving page, and they also lead to an increase of 33% in the average gift size.

These are HUGE numbers so don't settle for an online giving page that redirects the donor off your church website and doesn't give you much ability to brand it.

Before choosing an online giving service for your church, make sure the service you choose will allow you to weave your church's branding throughout the process seamlessly.

#4. Can the online giving tool integrate with my church management system?

If you're using a church management system (ChMS), having your giving data integrated into that system is mission critical so that giving records are complete and you're able to send out regular receipts for tax purposes. If you don't have a direct integration then your administrative team will spend countless hours doing manual data entry, dealing with files, cleaning up mistakes, and who knows what else.

At the end of the day, the perfect online giving solution for your church is one that integrates directly into your ChMS so that things are seamless and you reduce admin time.

#5. Is bank reconciliation simple?

Similarly to point #4 above, this point has to do with time and effort spent by your administration staff.

When evaluation giving solutions it's important to understand how gift reporting works as well as how to do deposit and bank reconciliation. Ideally, the system you choose will give you a simple to understand yet detailed deposit report for every deposit made into your church bank account. That way, your financial team can easily see the total deposit amount, breakout by fund, and transaction details if needed -- all tied to a specific deposit.

If the system your looking at doesn't enable easy bank account reconciliation and fund accounting breakout, beware!

#6. Can donors easily setup auto recurring giving?

This one likely isn't news to you, but just in case we thought it was important to point out.

Your online giving tool should make it SUPER simple for anyone giving to setup automated recurring giving using the bank account, credit, or debit card. Options like weekly or monthly giving should be included. And it should also be simple for your members to cancel their recurring gift should an unforeseen circumstance arise.

So, be sure to look at the online giving form and evaluate if has a simple recurring giving setup. Also, be sure to ask how donors can cancel their recurring gift? Oh, and you should also look into the admin reporting tools around recurring giving to ensure you are able to see all your recurring givers, edit recurring gifts, pause them, etc.

#7. Can donors optionally cover the processing fees?

Lastly, an option that many do not support, but is incredibly useful. The ability for the donor to cover the gift processing fees.

You'd be surprised by how many people will optional choose to cover the fees when given the opportunity. Be sure to ask about this feature, test it out on the online giving form, and get a sense of the reporting around it as you 100% do not want to go with a giving tool that doesn't offer this capability.

Are you interested in a new online giving service for your church? What questions do you have? Share questions or additional insights in the comments below!

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Choosing an Online Giving Service for Your Church: 7 Important Questions to Ask Before Making a Selection