The main difference between PayPal and Tithe.ly is that PayPal is not designed specifically for churches, and does not offer the same functionality as Tithe.ly.
Tithe.ly is the simple to use and powerful alternative to the PayPal for churches donate button. It was built for the Church by ministry-minded individuals and pastors who are focused on increasing generosity.
If you're comparing the two, want to make the decision as easy as possible. We’ve put together some info that’ll help you decide which option is best for you.
What is PayPal?
PayPal is a system that allows you to make and receive online payments. Users of PayPal can receive cash via bank transfers.
PayPal essentially acts as a payment gateway that keeps payment information hidden from merchants. Users can link their accounts to bank accounts, debit cards, or credit cards, and then use their PayPal accounts to give or receive cash. This makes it a convenient option for customers (or donors) who don't have payment information on hand.
PayPal has made payment methods like checks and wire transfers unnecessary.
How PayPal Works
Businesses or nonprofit organizations can essentially offer PayPal as an alternative payment method to customers or potential donors. To make a payment, they only need a PayPal account and their login information.
Why Do You Need to Look for a PayPal Alternative?
PayPal may be a popular option as a payment processing platform for online merchants. But it wasn't necessarily designed with nonprofits in mind. While PayPal does offer a discounted nonprofit rate for confirmed 501 c(3) charities, its regular fee structure is very high–meaning that churches without their 501 c(3) status may not be able to take advantage of discounted fees. A domestic transaction fee for PayPal can go up to 3.5%, with a fixed fee up to 49 cents. The transaction fee for an international transaction is even higher–5%, or $5 for every $100 given.
This expensive payment processing fee makes it less than ideal as a nonprofit payment processing tool, especially for donors who want to input large donation amounts of $1k or more to churches without their 501 c(3) status.
Next, PayPal doesn't support religious organizations and churches with online donation tools. PayPal is primarily a payment solution, not a donation processing software.
You can use PayPal to create customizable donation forms, offer a few different donation options, and provide an option for making anonymous donations. However, you cannot use PayPal to manage your church finances, create marketing material, or communicate with your donors. Churches or nonprofits looking for fundraising tools will need something more robust than PayPal's basic online payment services.
The Best PayPal Alternative
For churches, the best alternative to PayPal is a platform that offers payment processing services with minimal set-up fees, low transaction rates, and tools for helping with online fundraising (such as reporting tools). The tool should be designed with fundraising in mind (designed to receive larger donations without charge an exorbitant donation processing fee).
Lastly, the best choice for nonprofits will help with both donor management and donor engagement with marketing tools, church management software, and a CRM for church members.
Tithe.ly is an online giving solution that's designed with nonprofits in mind. Like PayPal, Tithe.ly makes it simple to make and receive payments online, accepts payment from major credit cards and debit cards, and provides the ability to transfer funds.
Unlike PayPal, however, Tithe.ly includes powerful features as a nonprofit software tool.
If you'd like to learn more about using Tithe.ly for free, click here.
Key features of Tithe.ly include:
- Text giving, allowing donors to give over text message
- Six different options for giving, including cryptocurrency
- Donation designation for different funds
- Church management software that has a seamless integration with your giving tools
- A church CRM, or contact database, to stay organized and engaged with your members
- A church app that's more than just a donations app–engaging your church members with sermons, news, a chat feature, in-app Bible reading, a prayer wall, and more
- A church website builder to build a beautiful, customizable site that's perfect for your home church community
- And more
Tithe.ly is a strong choice for receiving contactless donations from your church members on their mobile phones, your church website, at a kiosk, or even via text. But it's also more than that–an entire suite of products to help your church thrive.
How Tithe.ly Works
Tithe.ly is completely free for churches with under 1,000 members. If you'd like to use the full suite of software products, Tithe.ly has a monthly fee of $99.
Why Choose Tithe.ly Over PayPal?
Tithe.ly's donation tools are tailored to churches. It's customizable, easy to use, and comes with low transaction fees. As you'll see below, Tithe.ly is much more intuitive for churches to use, providing a more frictionless experience for church admin and church members alike.
Comparing PayPal to Tithe.ly
Below, you’ll find information to help you compare Tithe.ly’s church giving suite of tools and the PayPal donate now button, including features, customer experiences, pricing and thoughts from current Tithe.ly customers who have made the switch.
We hope this helps…
PayPal is a well-established and popular way to send and receive payments online. The company pioneered digital payments and was the first of its kind in online donations for churches and nonprofits.
The most popular feature for churches is their donate now button that is easily (so they say) embedded on your church website so that members and others who want to support your work can do so quickly.
While a very compelling option in the early days of PayPal, nowadays there are a handful of red flags you should be aware of when it comes to using PayPal for your church website and online giving needs.
Be sure to consider the below 10 PayPal red flags when evaluating and deciding upon your primary church-giving solution.
1. PayPal for Church is not THAT simple
If you go to the set up page for a PayPal donate button you’ll quickly realize that there are quite a few steps — 11 to be exact.
Those 11 steps only get you their standard donate button … that doesn’t include fund designations, recurring giving capabilities, or any other bells and whistles. If you want more (albeit not much) you’ll have to add quite a few more steps to the mix.
2. Funds are not well-supported
Although possible (I think), the out-of-the-box, 11-step setup PayPal donate button does not include the ability for givers to designate donations to a specific fund (e.g. missions, weekly tithe, love offering, youth camp, etc.). And if you want to give your church members the ability to make one gift of say $500 and designate $100 to their weekly tithe, $300 to missions, and the final $100 to youth camp … well, you’re out of luck. PayPal doesn’t allow you to do this at all.
3. Recurring giving is hard!
Automated recurring giving is such a critical element of online giving and should be highlighted on your website. A successful recurring-giving program helps smooth out the revenue dips so many churches go through during summer months, vacations, etc. — Helping to stabilize the budget and ensure expenses are covered.
Doing this with PayPal … well … that’s a 27-step setup process and you better have someone who knows how to modify HTML code.
It’s not that it’s difficult for someone who has these technical skills, but it’s far from simple and if you don’t have the skills on staff or a volunteer who is willing to help, you’re out of luck.
Want to allow givers to set their recurring-gift schedule (e.g., 16th of every month)? Too bad. PayPal doesn’t support that.
At the end of the day, doing recurring giving with PayPal is just hard.
4. An outdated redirect model
Let’s have a look at the standard donation process that a church goer / donor using PayPal would experience vs. that of Tithe.ly.
We’ll start with PayPal:
- The user wants to make a donation and clicks on the corresponding button.
- They are redirected to the PayPal page, leaving your church’s website all together.
- They are asked to sign in to their PayPal account or (if they can find it) enter their bank details.
- The user confirms that they are authorizing the payment.
- They are redirected back to your website.
Alternatively, with Tithe.ly:
- The user wants to make a donation and clicks on the give button from your church website.
- A modal (a.k.a. lightbox or modern-day web pop-up) window opens right on the page, keeping the user on your church’s website, where the user enters their gift details or logs in.
- They confirm the payment and get confirmation right there.
As you can quickly tell just based on the numbers of steps (5 for PayPal vs. 3 for Tithe.ly), the giver has a much better experience using Tithe.ly vs. PayPal. Additionally, being redirected off your church's website to a third-party site can cause trust issues for givers. Especially if they are not familiar with PayPal already.
5. Poor branding capabilities
According to the Digital Giving Index, branded giving pages convert (e.g. get people to complete their gift) seven times (yes, I said 7X) more than non-branded pages and have an average gift size 33% greater!
But PayPal for churches doesn’t allow you to own the branding or user experience.
First off, even if you use a custom button to trigger a donation from you website, once clicked, your members will be taken to a PayPal shopping-cart like experience that gives you very little ability to add your church brand. You essentially have no control over any of it other than being able to add your logo or church name.
Second, the shopping-cart donation experience may confuse church members who do not understand why they are going through a “purchase” experience on the PayPal website as compared to a giving experience on your church’s website.
Ultimately, these two things give off the wrong impression to members and individuals who are eager to financially support the work of your church. This type of experience can result in a frustrated member who abandons the online process altogether — the exact opposite of what you’re trying to accomplish.
On the other hand, Tithe.ly offers a branded, streamlined, and giver-centric experience that simplifies the process for donors while making a clear connection for reasons to give.
6. Giving without a PayPal account is hard
PayPal gives people the option to give without a PayPal account, but it’s somewhat hard to locate. You have to look for the small text link on the ecommerce-looking giving page that says “continue.”
Offering a simple (and obvious) way to give without an account is important because not everyone who supports your church will be a regular giver who wants to set up an account for frequent use. Some folks will simply want to make a one-time donation for a specific program or to support your missions work.
If you make this hard to do, I guarantee people who start to give online will quickly abandon that thought because they couldn’t figure out how to do it.
7. Mobile, well …
Using PayPal’s donate now button does get you a responsive donation form, but I’d argue that it’s a very poor experience for all the reasons stated above. In fact, because it’s happening on a mobile device where real estate comes at a premium, the experience for the giver is even worse.
- The giver is redirected from your church’s website to a PayPal giving form with very little church branding.
- The “log in to your PayPal account” is the lead way to complete your gift while the non-account giving is downplayed significantly.
- You’re unable to allow the giver to select / designate a fund or set up recurring giving.
8. Limited ways to give
PayPal’s online donation button for churches is a single feature. It’s been in its current state for years without any major advancements. But with a system like Tithe.ly you get:
- Responsive and embedded web / online giving
- Mobile giving via an iOS and web app
- Text (SMS) giving
- Kiosk giving
- Admin single and batch gift entry (which saves tons of time for admins)
With today’s proliferation of mobile devices and advances in responsive design, an online donation feature for your church that allows donors to give from their smartphones via a responsive web form, a mobile-giving app, text-to-give, and more, improves engagement and encourages future donation activity for your church.
Organizations that make it as easy as possible to donate will increase donations and build stronger relationships with donors.
9. Distant customer service
PayPal has never been famed for good customer service. Droves of people have seen their funds frozen with little or no explanation, such as some indie videogame companies during their crowdfunding campaigns.
PayPal is an enormous business whose model is setup to be as hands off as possible -- especially for churches and nonprofits using their donate now button. It’s not that they’re doing it on purpose, it’s that their business isn’t setup to support the needs of the church specifically.
10. Data, data, data …
Your giving data is important for many reasons. From being able to send yearly giving statements for individual tax purposes to understanding your members' giving tendencies, the more data you have and the better you leverage it, the more effective you will be.
But with PayPal, you’re stuck with exporting your data from their admin tools and importing it into your church management system (ChMS). Of course, this isn’t the end of the world, but it does add administrative time to your overall giving and data management efforts.
Time that could be spent on more valuable efforts if the data automatically synced with your ChMS.
Who Should Use PayPal?
Online merchants and businesses should use PayPal as an additional option for customers.
Who Should Use Tithe.ly?
Small- to mid-sized churches should use Tithe.ly to engage users, receive donations, and manage church staff and services.
PayPal & Tithe.ly Price Comparison
PayPal and Tithe.ly are both free to use as giving platforms. To use Tithe.ly's additional products (which integrate with their giving tools), monthly fees range from $5 a month (for Tithe.ly Messaging) to $99 a month (for Tithe.ly's full suite of products).
What Churches Are Saying About Tithe.ly
Don't just listen to us; here's what customers have to say about using Tithe.ly.
"They have always been the best bang for your buck, the most feature-rich platform, and bar none the best customer friendly staff around." – Russ C.
"This tool is so great for both the Church and the member who is tithing. It's clean, easy to use and you can tell that a ton of investment went into the UI." – Sean C.
At the end of the day, PayPal for churches is a great product and has helped to revolutionize the digital payments industry. If you’re in a pinch and have to do something quick, PayPal may be a decent option. But I can’t think of any other reason you’d choose PayPal as your church’s lead website and online giving option. Ten years ago you didn’t have many options, but today there are companies like Tithe.ly delivering much more value and better features at competitive prices.
Be sure your church is evaluating those options and making the right choice for your congregation! Check out one of the ways to give below!
- Mobile Giving App – iPhone or Android, we’ve got you covered. Download the Tithe.ly church giving app from either app store. The app allows users to store their card info, see giving history, manage account info, set up recurring giving, and more. True frictionless giving in seconds!
- Text-to-Give (in text) – True in-text giving. Meaning, your church can give money directly through a text message, not by receiving a link in a text that when clicked opens up on the web.
- Online Giving – Instead of redirecting you to a third-party page (e.g. taking them OFF your church website) that could cause mistrust or confusion for givers, we keep givers right on your website with the Tithe.ly online giving form.
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