When it comes to digital giving, churches have plenty of options. Web forms. Kiosks. Mobile apps. Text-to-give. But many churches still treat digital giving as a concession to a fad, a secondary option, or something to worry about later.
And it’s understandable. The church got by just fine without digital giving for nearly two millennia. Maybe your church has been passing the offering plate for decades, and nobody has complained about it or suggested anything should be different.
But here’s the thing: your congregation is ready for digital giving right now. And the church has been notoriously slow to embrace changes in technology.
Just look at what happened with church websites.
Churches have always been slow to go digital
By the late nineties, people were increasingly reliant on the Internet, and it was quickly becoming the first place they looked for local restaurants, hotels, plumbers, banks, stores, and—you guessed it—churches.
If your church didn’t have a website, it didn’t matter how visible your sign was or how prominent your location was, these people weren’t going to find you. Websites were already the way people found what they needed, but more than 80 percent of churches in the 90s still assumed their signs and outreach efforts would be enough to attract new people.
By 2012, it was a given that your website would be the typical first-stop for your church—and still, only 55.7 percent of churches had a website.
There had been a huge shift in cultural behavior, but the church was still heavily invested in ideas that served them in the past.
The same thing is happening with digital giving.
The way people use money has already changed
Every year, people are carrying less cash and writing fewer checks. Debit cards, credit cards, and other innovative payment methods have been making our everyday transactions easier for years. A 2016 Gallup poll found that 76 percent of Americans use a payment method other than cash for at least half of their transactions. A 2018 survey found that only 12 percent of consumers preferred to use cash. Other studies have found that less than half of all American adults regularly carry cash, and a quarter of them rarely or never do.
Digital transactions aren’t the way of the future. They’re already the norm.
Still, many churches don’t have a modern alternative to cash or checks. Or if they do, they don’t promote it, so no one knows about it. Some churches that offer digital giving solutions haven’t seen their congregations adopt them. This reinforces their assumption that digital giving isn’t important, but the reality is, they’re often still prioritizing physical giving, and that’s why their digital solutions aren’t taking off.
Digital giving needs to be a priority, not just an option
Most churches physically collect the offering every single week. People see the basket and watch others put money in. It’s pretty self-explanatory. Digital transactions are so ubiquitous that your digital giving is probably pretty self-explanatory too, but the problem is nobody is telling your congregation it exists.
Since so few people carry cash or checks, you likely have people sitting in your pews every week, watching the plate pass them by, not knowing they can give with their phone in just a few seconds.
You talk about the offering every week, but how often do you tell your congregation that they can give on the website, in the app, via text, or at your kiosks? Digital giving can increase your overall giving, but only if you educate your congregation about it.
You can’t assume that telling people about digital giving once is enough for everyone to know about it or get comfortable with it. You have to normalize digital giving, not just introduce it.
Whatever digital giving options you have, be sure to talk about them regularly, and take the time to show people how they work. People can give with their phones in seconds, so it doesn’t take much effort to do a live demonstration during the service.
Making the switch to digital giving brings your church into the present. But any major change takes planning, and your congregation needs a chance to get used to it.