Top 7 Essential Features for Church Giving Platforms
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Church online giving platforms were created to make it easy for your congregants to give whenever and wherever they are. But not all church giving platforms are created equal. Choosing the right one for your needs can be challenging but there are a few essential features that every church should look for when choosing an online giving platform:
- Keeps focus on your church
- Auto-reconciliation and effortless back office
- One-touch check scanning for any kind of check
- Cash envelope scanning
- Next generation giver self-service portal
- Scalable, personalized acknowledgments and communications
- Mobile and text giving
1. A CHURCH GIVING PLATFORM SHOULD KEEP THE FOCUS ON YOUR CHURCH
Some churches try to make do with online giving software solutions for nonprofits or generic giving tools like PayPal. The most important thing about a giving platform built for churches is that it keeps the focus on your church’s mission…more like an act of worship and generosity than a billpay transaction.
The best ones encourage giving by making the experience both convenient and personalized. When your members use your church online giving platform, they should be able to expect:
- A secure experience with familiar messaging and visual elements. Most online giving platforms redirect givers to an unfamiliar third-party website to complete their gifts. Look for embedded giving forms that allow you to exactly customize your giving page to look just like any other page on your website and keep givers on your page to complete their gift. These features let you keep givers focused on the good work your church does, not on “Where have I landed?” “Who is this company?” or “Am I being scammed?”
- Ways to designate their gifts. Your church supports the community in numerous ways, from creating new programs for your members to serving marginalized groups, to expanding your place of worship to serve a larger congregation. A good church giving platform will enable givers to browse and search visual descriptions of your ministries and specify which ones they would like their gifts to support, rather than simply giving them a drop-down list with a few generic funds.
- Personalized communications. Demonstrate your appreciation each time your members and guests give by selecting a church online giving platform that allows you to send personalized thank-yous and other messages to individual members before and after they make their gifts. Receiving this thank you message from a third-party vendor is not only unsettling to givers, but it also robs the church of a perfect opportunity to connect your givers to other opportunities and information.
Diverting your givers’ attention away from your message is just one of the insane practices of many church giving platforms.
2. A CHURCH GIVING PLATFORM SHOULD FEATURE AUTO-RECONCILIATION AND AN EFFORTLESS BACK OFFICE
Most church giving platforms still require and allow far too many manual processes, slowing down contribution management and allowing for potential error and fraud. Look for a system that includes and effortless back office:
- Automated changes to transactions (NSFs, chargebacks, bank files)
- Reconciles your giving to the penny every day … automatically, so you don’t have to match batched deposit amounts to specific gifts or manually break down gifts into their various designations, fee schedules or campuses. You’ll cut staff time processing and reconciling the offering easily in half!
- Contains an unalterable audit trail so no transaction can ever be changed without a record.
- Treats transactions in a GAAP-aligned subledger and maps them cleanly to your accounting system’s data structure.
- Bidirectionally syncs in real-time with your ChMS.
- A Managed Services team that partners with you in all your stewardship and generosity endeavors.
3. A CHURCH GIVING PLATFORM SHOULD SCAN CHECKS…JUST ONCE FOR ALL YOUR SYSTEMS
Despite the popularity of online giving, some members of your church will still prefer traditional giving methods. But offline giving can be time-consuming to process and fraught with opportunities for errors, or even fraud.
To streamline the process, many church giving platforms offer check scanning. Important information, such as the sender’s name and information, the amount of the gift, and sometimes additional information on the memo line, is captured so that your team doesn’t have to enter any of it manually.
But make sure it allows the information captured from a scan to do everything in one scan: Directly deposit it to the bank, update the member’s profile within your ChMS, and create an update for your accounting system. Some church giving systems require a separate scan for each of these needs. The right church giving platform will require only one touch for any type of check—and yes, even cash—to be accurately and quickly transferred where it needs to be recorded.
4. A CHURCH GIVING PLATFORM SHOULD SCAN CASH AND CASH ENVELOPES
Your church’s online giving platform should help your team process and keep track of cash gifts.
Look for a church online giving platform that allows your team to scan an envelope containing cash just as you would a check. This way, the same important information that you would collect from a gift made via check, such as the giving member’s name and their reason or intended purpose for their gift, is recorded in your system.
Cash gifts don’t have to require extra work on the part of your team. Your church giving platform’s envelope scanning feature eliminates the need for your team to manually input information, while automatic deposit tickets mean that you don’t need another system to have a record of cash gifts. Save valuable time and energy with offline gift processing.
5. A CHURCH GIVING PLATFORM SHOULD INCLUDE A NEXT GENERATION GIVER SELF-SERVE PORTAL
When a giver logs into their self-service portal, they should be able to access a record of their giving history, giving methods, and the specific ministries or projects toward which they chose to make their contributions. They should be able to update their personal and financial information, view goals or pledges, set up or change recurring gift schedules and amounts, manage mission trip participation and view or print their year-end tax statements. Those statements should be customized for your church and IRS-compliant.
The right church online giving platform will also have a one-touch mechanism for staff to send giving statements to givers via email or text and track who downloaded theirs. It will also have a strategy for transferring giver data—including recurring gift schedules—into your new system.
6. A CHURCH GIVING PLATFORM SHOULD ENABLE PERSONALIZED ACKNOWLEDGMENTS AND COMMUNICATIONS
It’s important that you use a giving software that operates invisibly, rather than a third-party giving platform that uses its own email address to acknowledge your giver’s gifts. Receiving a “DO NOT REPLY” thank you email from a company they don’t know rather than from the church can make givers feel confused, nervous and unappreciated.
Additionally, each of your givers is on their own personal giving journey. They have different interests and motives for giving. Your giving platform should enable you to automate personalized communication from you.
To do this, your church online giving platform should have an automated communications feature that allows you to segment your members according to categories such as the length of their membership in your church thus far, the programs they’ve been interested in the past, and the frequency of their contributions.
First-time supporters will respond well to different communications than will long-time members, just as those interested in children’s and family programs will appreciate different communications than those sent to members without children. Creating different communications for different groups of members encourages everyone to give, helping your church community grow stronger as a result.
7. A CHURCH GIVING PLATFORM SHOULD OFFER MOBILE GIVING AND TEXT-TO-GIVE
Most of us are never too far away from our smartphones. Leverage that fact with a church online giving platform that transforms phones into effective giving tools:
Mobile Giving on Church Giving Platforms
You don’t need an expensive app to enable mobile giving. A mobile-responsive online giving page can be just as convenient as an app, and saves your givers from having to download a battery-draining giving tool.
If you have a church giving app, look for a church online giving platform that integrates with your current app. This way, no additional downloads will be required for your givers.
Text-to-Give on Church Giving Platforms
With text-to-give service, members can give to your church just by sending a text!
While you may associate texting with millennials and other young members of your church, givers of every age text and would appreciate the opportunity to contribute via text.
Here’s how it works: Your church giving platform assigns your church a keyword, such as a portion of your church’s name, and a designated text-to-give number. Next, your members text the keyword to the designated text-to-give number. In response to their text, they’ll receive a link to a simple online giving form that they can complete on their phone.
Text-to-give is one of the most convenient forms of giving and works particularly well at church events, for urgent needs, or any other time someone feels motivated to give.
Text-to-give information is also highly shareable. If your church is on social media, post the information to encourage your members to support your current ministry or project. You can also provide the information at physical locations within your church, such as the church bulletin, and include it in emails and newsletters.
Choosing the right giving platform for your church requires research and careful consideration of your church’s needs. For more information on these online tools and church fundraising in general, check out the following additional resources:
The Smart Buyer’s Guide to Choosing Church Giving Software. Searching for just the right church giving software solution? Follow this guide to help ensure that you make the right choice for your church.
Why is Merging Membership Information with Financial Data Important for Churches? A comprehensive software system can help your church learn more about your members and their reasons for supporting you. Learn how you can make better use of the data you’re already storing.
Vision2 Product Insights: Know Thy First-Time Giver. Your church giving platform may encourage some new members to make their first gifts to your church. Use this guide to learn how you can keep them engaged.
Ready to get started with church online giving software?
Contact Vision2 for a demo of our comprehensive giving software solution!