A couple of weeks ago I reposted an article I did for the Joining Hands Magazine about electronic giving. Thanks for all of the positive feedback and I wanted to answer for all of you the question I got most often, “How do I do it?”
The good news is that it’s easier and cheaper than you think it is.
You have two options. Your member can go to her bank’s website and set up an automatic bill pay. The bank would then most likely mail you a physical check in that member’s name for the amount and the frequency she chooses. The good news is that this is a free service for both you and the member.
The other option is to hang an affiliated website off of your own website. This would be a button on your church’s webpage that takes a member to a secure site that would allow them to enter this same information. This third party would automatically debit the member’s checking or savings account and electronically transfer the funds into your checking account. This is known as Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT).
The United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration has established a preferred vendor relationship with Vanco Services. Vanco will set up this web page service free of charge and charge $25 per month to host it. So if no one ever uses the service you’re only out $300 for a year.
And for each member who uses the service it costs 50 cents to authorize that user (a one-time charge per user) then 25 cents for every transaction. So a member who uses this service monthly would cost you 50 cents to get started then $3 for the year. If they give twice a month, it would cost you $6 for the year.
Credit cards, including debit cards, are more expensive. There is the same 50 cent registration fee (one time) but add on a 45 cent transaction fee plus 2.75% of each transaction. If you don’t want to accept credit cards you can just go with the EFT option.
We’ve talked about the costs, but what are the benefits?
One of the big ones is stabilizing your cash flow. There aren’t many churches whose offerings are as big in July as they are in October. The old adage that you can’t put it in the plate ’til you plop it in the pew means that giving declines during the summer and even in bad winter weather in Ohio. Automatic EFTs help even out those giving curves.
How about your members who go to Florida for the winter or even go on vacation for a week or two? Does their giving go with them? And do they make up those lost offerings?
Do your members always have their checkbooks with them? Do your twenty-something members even know where their check books are? This is how more of our members of all ages are paying bills, let’s meet them where they are and make it easy for them to be “paying customers” of the church.
And don’t think just in terms of your annual stewardship giving. Use it for capital campaign payments, Christmas Eve or Easter special offerings, registration for Vacation Bible School or buying tickets for the spaghetti dinner.
If you really want to make your financial secretary happy, the report from Vanco may dump directly into your church management software, depending on which program you use. You will no longer need to enter each gift individually.
Are you unsure about the reliability and safety of a service like Vanco? You’re already using it. It’s the service the Conference uses for shared missions (apportionment) collection as well as clergy health insurance premiums.
I realize that churches don’t always move fast when such things are involved, but I encourage you to have these conversations and move forward, by the first of the year ideally.