Mobile Giving

The Definitive (and Practical) Guide to Effective Mobile Giving for Churches

A guide by Tithe.ly

Tithe.ly Suite

Why did we write this guide?

We have a front row seat in the church tech arena. We consistently see churches wondering if mobile giving is too costly or complicated. What the best mobile giving platform is? Or if it’s only for the “techy” folks and younger churches.

It’s with those types of questions and concerns in mind that we decided to compile this comprehensive resource. It’s meant to inform and educate churches, ministries, and faith-based nonprofits about mobile giving. Our goal is that you have the information you need to make fully educated and wise decisions as you are responsible for shepherding the flock under your care.

Regardless of whether you use Tithe.ly mobile fundraising, we hope The Definitive (and Practical) Guide to Effective Mobile Giving for Churches serves as a useful and valuable resource.

Who is this guide for?

This guide is for volunteers, board members, administrators, pastors, church leaders, and anyone else who wants to understand mobile giving and mobile donations in the context of the church.

As our friend, Michael Lukaszewski with Church Fuel stated: “We work with hundreds of pastors all across the country in churches of all shapes and sizes, and nearly every pastor realizes mobile is a really big deal.  But even though we know it’s important; it’s still really confusing to a lot of us.  That’s understandable because you’re a pastor and not an app builder.  That’s why it’s important to partner with someone who knows technology.  You focus on what you do best and let someone else help you with the tech side of things.”

We’ve sought to take the mystery out of mobile giving and equip you with information in this guide.

Mobile giving really does work!

Pastor Mike Morris leads a church in a small Virginia town with about 300 people at services each week. After realizing most of their congregation doesn’t carry a checkbook anymore, they decided it was time for a more modern giving solution. Initially, they rolled it out only to the church leadership team. They wanted to use it for a month to make sure it would be a good fit for their congregation. From there, they announced it to the church over a period of several weeks with emails, videos, and in service announcements. They emphasized the convenience of using something people always have with them, their phone, to give to the church.

The results?

Roughly 40% of giving is now recurring, and for the first time, they’re ahead of budget in the first quarter of the year.

That increase is without any significant change in attendance.

Mobile giving can make a powerful difference at your church. From helping people give more consistently to offering a way to give that’s more convenient, mobile giving can be an incredible tool. We realize the mobile giving landscape can be a bit noisy. From many providers in the market to the different terminology involved, it can be challenging to navigate. Our goal is to cut through the noise and provide you with clear and comprehensive information so you can make the best decision for your church!

But sometimes people question …

To begin, let’s address a few of the concerns people tend to have about mobile giving:

  • January will always be a low-giving month since people are trying to pay off their credit cards from Christmas spending.
  • The younger generation will use mobile fundraising, but most of our congregation won’t embrace that technology.
  • We’ll lose money in all those fees – it’s best to stick with cash and checks for giving.

Have these concerns run through your mind when the subject of mobile giving comes up? If so, you’re not alone. Many pastors and church leaders are learning more about mobile giving and wondering if it’s right for them. Is it worth the time and effort to set up? Will their congregations actually use it? These are valid questions we seek to answer in this guide.

We’ve conducted research and interviewed church leaders to answer the most common concerns that come up about mobile giving. We’ve also included information on how to evaluate mobile fundraising providers to help you make an informed decision.

Let’s dive in.

It’s not just the younger generation that’s embraced smartphone technology. According to Pew Research, 77% of Americans own a smartphone with over 40% of 65+ owning a smartphone.

What is mobile giving?

So, what is mobile giving and mobile donations? The The definition of mobile giving is a great place to start! Is it all about having a mobile app or can it be done in other ways? What about text-to-give? These are great questions that come up frequently when people are delving into the world of digital and mobile donating.

To make it super clear, we’ll define mobile giving as the ability to use a mobile device such as a phone or tablet to give to a church, ministry, or nonprofit. Mobile fundraising allows donors to quickly give by entering basic information such as name, email address, and debit/credit card information, along with the amount they want to give. They can do this during the normal offering time or throughout the week as they manage their finances.

It’s convenient and easy to use. But it’s important to remember that there are critical differences between mobile app giving, mobile online giving, and regular online giving.

How does mobile giving work?

Mobile giving is actually quite simple. Your church educates members and others who attend by letting them know about your mobile giving app. To learn more about that process see our “Launching mobile giving to your church” section on page 22. Once you’ve educated people, they’ll download your mobile giving app. From there, they set up an account and add their payment method so that giving can happen in seconds. When a donor gives a gift through the mobile giving app, the information is transmitted from the giving app through 256 Bit SSL over the Internet to ensure the data being transmitted is secure. The gift will then go through the various entities involved in payment processing and end up in your church bank account.

Mobile giving vs. online giving

The main difference between online and mobile giving is that mobile giving involves using a mobile phone where all user interactions are optimized for the mobile experience instead of a laptop or desktop computer. Also, it’s important to understand that individuals use mobile fundraising more often to donate to churches and ministries because they can give anytime, from anywhere and without being restricted to using a larger device. We typically handle online giving on a desktop or laptop computer through an internet browser (Safari, Internet Explorer, Chrome, etc.). There are, however, a few types of mobile giving: native mobile app, mobile response giving form, and text to give.

Types of mobile giving

Native mobile app

A native mobile app is a smartphone application coded in a specific programming language. Users must download native mobile apps from iPhone or Android app stores. Native apps provide fast performance and a high degree of reliability. Giving through a native mobile app allows givers to create an account and store their giving information so they can quickly give a one-time gift, set up recurring giving, manage their payment methods (credit card, debit card, ACH, etc.), and see giving history.

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Mobile responsive giving form

Users typically access a mobile responsive giving form through a mobile web browser on a smartphone. You can think about this as a form you’d normally see on a website using your desktop or laptop but is optimized to look and function well on a mobile device. Givers can easily enter their name, payment method, and gift amount using this form.

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Text-to-give

Text-to-give (aka text giving) uses a mobile phone’s built-in text capabilities. Your giving provider will assign a nine-digit phone number to your church that can be used to accept donations. In it’s simplest form, donors text a number (e.g., 100) to their church’s dedicated nine-digit text-to-give phone number and their gift is complete. Donors can also text commands like “50 weekly tithe” to give $50 a week to the tithe fund for your church.

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Common mobile giving terms and definitions

Like any technology or service, you’ll see certain abbreviations and terms used when discussing mobile giving. Here are several of the most common ones listed in alphabetical order:
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ACH
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Credit Card networks
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EFT
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Intercharge
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Mobile Responsive
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Payment Processing
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Payment Card Industry Security Standards Council
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Payment Type
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PCI
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PCI DSS
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Settlement / Transfer
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SSL
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Statement / Bill Discriptor
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Tokenization

In a 2016 report by the Federal Reserve, 28% of smartphone owners made purchases using their phone. 53% used their phone to conduct banking transactions.

"We work with hundreds of pastors all across the country in churches of all shapes and sizes, and nearly every pastor realizes mobile is a really big deal."

Michael Lukaszewski
Michael Lukaszewski
Church Fuel

"We work with hundreds of pastors all across the country in churches of all shapes and sizes, and nearly every pastor realizes mobile is a really big deal."

Ray Schalk
Ray Schalk
Director of Administration, San Diego Church of Christ

What should I look for when selecting a mobile giving provider?

Like any technology or service, you’ll see certain abbreviations and terms used when discussing mobile giving. Here are several of the most common ones listed in alphabetical order:
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Cost /Fees
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Security and Peace of Mind
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Donor Interface and Giving Experience
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Administrative and Finance Capabilities
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Church or Ministry Branding
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Support for Major Payment Types (Credit, Debit, and Banking)
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Setup / Implementation Support
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Launch / Roll-Out Support and Resources
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Excellent Customer Service
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Ongoing Innovation
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Vibrant and Spirit Filled Company Culture

Top items to look for on a mobile giving form

Feature
Give one-time with or without an account
Feature
Under 10 second giving with account
Feature
Simple way to store card/bank account for giving
Feature
Ability to customize giving funds/designations
Feature
Ability to give to multiple things at one time
Feature
Easy ability to for donor to “cover the fees”
Feature
Obvious and simple to setup recurring giving
Feature
Church color and logo branding
Feature
Support for ApplePay on iPhone
Feature
Immediate branded email confirmation
Top items to look for on mobile giving form

It’s important to carefully consider many things when selecting a mobile giving solution for your church. Do your due diligence.

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We’re a smaller congregation. Will mobile giving be useful for us and worth the effort?
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What will a mobile giving app cost us? Aren’t we losing money in processing fees that we wouldn’t lose if we stayed with checks and cash?
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By offering mobile giving, am I encouraging my members to go into credit card debt?
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If people begin giving through our mobile app, how will I receive the donations and how often will deposits be made?
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What about the “older,” less tech-savvy members of our congregation? I don’t want to alienate anyone.
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How long does it take to get up and running with a mobile giving solution?
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Will I have access to all the member and giving data?
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Am I partnering with a company that will have a viable solution in 10, 20 or 30 years?
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Will the giving solution work with my church management software?
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Will mobile help increase giving so that our church can increase it’s impact for the Kingdom?
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Is my bank account and credit/debit card information secure?
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What if I type in the wrong amount?
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Will I receive confirmation that my gift went through?
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Will gifts made via a mobile app show up on my end of year gift statement?
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How will my gift appear on my bank account or credit card statement?
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Can I setup recurring giving?
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Will I be able to see my giving history?

Common Myths about Mobile Giving

As you start looking into mobile giving solutions for your church, you’ll quickly find that there are a lot of options to choose from. Like in any other field where your church does business, not all of the options are the same.The partner you choose will play a critical role in how effective your mobile strategy becomes.

When looking for a mobile giving solution, be sure you properly vet the providers you’re looking at. Here are a few questions you should ask:
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Myth #1 — Mobile giving will cost me too much money.
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Myth #2 — Mobile giving isn't secure.
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Myth #3 — Older generations don't use mobile giving.
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Myth #4 — Mobile giving doesn't allow donors to set up recurring donations.
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Myth #5 — Only large churches can use mobile giving.

Everyone we’ve talked to that effectively rolled out mobile giving reports that giving went up, generosity culture went up, younger generation giving went up, and recurring giving went up.

Russ Cantu
Russ Cantu
Founder & CEO, Catalyst Creative

What is the cost of mobile giving?

Every mobile giving service will charge for the software and payment processing capabilities they’re providing. It’s similar to how companies that supply point-of-sale hardware and software charge restaurants or retail shops so they can accept credit and debit cards. Below is a list of the various fees a provider may charge you. They won’t all apply in all cases, but you should be aware of them so you can ask the right questions and better understand your true costs:
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Interchange
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Processing Fee
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Transaction Fee
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Monthly Fee
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PCI Compliance Fee
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Merchant Account Fee
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PCI DSS
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Deposit or Transfer Fee
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Monthly "Minimum" Fee

It’s not only about the “processing rates”, it’s about the total amount you’re paying.

Here’s the deal: When evaluating a mobile giving app, simply looking at the “processing fees” won’t give you the complete picture. You have to look at the processing fees and all other associated fees to understand your true all-in cost. In many cases, churches are paying much more than they think due to not understanding how all the fees apply.

An easy way to make sense of the fees being assessed is to calculate your all-in effective rate.

Here’s a simple formula to help you get to the bottom of things:

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Effective Rate
Total fees
(Processing fees, monthly fees, yearly fees, PCI security fees, batch/deposit fees, transaction fees, interchange fees, etc)
Total $ Processed

Shop Carefully

78% of churches accept online donations while only 36% have implemented giving by mobile.

A good rule of thumb is that your effective rate should be about 3% or less.  In other words, out of a $100 gift, your church should receive approximately $97 after all fees.

Another thing to consider is if a provider offers volume discounts.  Let’s say your church initially processes at least $25,000 with them each month, and that grows to $35,000 per month after six months.  Will the provider charge you a lower rate since you’re now processing more transactions with them?

If you are shopping for a mobile giving app, you’ll want to ask about volume-based discounts for the future. A good provider will reward you with lower rates as you grow with them.

Example of how to determine your “effective rate” and true cost.

Total raised in a given month: $10,000

Total fees in a given month: $349

  • Monthly fee: $25
  • Processing fees (2.9% per trx): $250
  • Per transaction fee ($0.30 per trx): $24
  • PCI fee: $10

Effective Rate: $309 (fees) / $10,000 (gross raised) = 3.09% 

If you’re looking on a vendor’s website and see 2.5% as the fee, but then have the additional costs, you’ll quickly be able to see that the real price per transaction isn’t 2.5%. In our example, it would be 3.09%!

NOTE: The above does NOT reflect Tithe.ly pricing. See the Tithe.ly pricing page for more information our our rates and costs.

Rolling out a mobile giving solution at your church isn’t rocket science, but you need a good plan!

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Launch Tip #1 — Go Big on Launch Day
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Launch Tip #2 — "Pre-Launch" to Let the Church Know it's Coming
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Launch Tip #3 — Go Big on Launch Day
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Launch Tip #4 — Continue to Remind, Educate, and Communication for the Long Term
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