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Step Up Your Stewardship Program (even in a tough economy)

Meredith Mahon Morris August 3, 2011

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Two years ago, when I was a reporter for a daily newspaper, I was talking to a man who works as a financial adviser for a nonprofit agency. He had retired early and now worked as a volunteer, helping people get their financial house in order. He knew a lot about economics, and he cheerfully told me that the recession was over.

“But when will it feel like it’s over?” I asked.

Confidently, he told me that it would no longer feel like a recession by the end of summer 2010.

I’m still waiting.

Churches, too are feeling the pinch – I hear it from our clients. The problem is, the needs of ministry don’t wait just because the economy is depressed. Your missions need funding. Your growing congregations need new buildings.

That’s why many churches are looking to online giving for new stewardship opportunities. Especially during the summer months, when families go away on vacation and forget to put their offering check in the mail, online giving can help bolster your stewardship program. It’s no surprise.

Here are a few numbers worth noting:

  • According to the Pew Internet Project, nearly 80 percent of American adult internet users go online in an average day.
  • Computer use among those 65 and older has doubled in the last five years. For Americans over the age of 55, Internet use has more than tripled.
  • In the fourth quarter of 2010 alone, US online spending totaled $43.4 billion dollars – that’s an 11 percent increase over the same period of the previous year, according to a report by comScore.
  • According to Target Analytics, the percentage of individual charitable giving that was done online doubled in from 2005 to 2009.
  • In surveys, those who have not yet given online say they are completely open to the idea. It’s not that they’ve avoided giving online because they’re afraid of spending online; they just haven’t done it yet.

Increasingly, these Americans are also going online to give to the causes and institutions that are close to their hearts.

Gordon Christopher, chief operating officer at The Church at Battle Creek, saw the trends.

“So many people do most of their banking online,” he said. Why wouldn’t they want to do their tithes and offerings online as well? Gordon began researching online giving. It doesn’t take much research to become convinced that Online Giving is hugely beneficial for churches.

TCABC decided to offer online giving on its website, and they chose a solution that integrated easily into their existing financial management software. The congregation responded immediately.

“Once we put it on our Web page, it just started going gangbusters,” Gordon said.

“They bank that way already,” Regina added. “It was just one more thing they could do online.”

TCABC now sees nearly 4,000 people at its services every week, and it’s involved in powerful ministry work around the world.  Online giving has been a part of that success.

“It’s been a very big stimulant to our giving process,” Gordon said, and The Church at Battle Creek isn’t alone. Online giving is experiencing exponential growth for churches, ministries and nonprofits of all sizes, across the country and around the world.

If you’re ready to roll out online giving

We recently wrote about online giving in our monthly eNewsletter for clients. You can read the whole newsletter here, but here are a few tips we gathered on successful rollout:

  • Communication is key: Get up in front of the congregation and tell them that online giving is available. Some pastors have even used PowerPoint slides to show congregant show it works.
  • Process is important, too: It helps to carefully plan and set up the allocation of contributions before people start clicking on the “Give Now” button. Plan ahead for how those funds will work for people and where the money will go.
  • Church newsletter: Include the URL for your giving portal. If you deliver a print newsletter, be sure to create a short, print-friendly version of the URL, or tell people where to find the link on your home page.
  • Small groups: Make sure your small group leaders know about giving online and ask them to talk to people about it.
  • Membership classes: Include the option to pledge and give online in materials you supply to new members.
  • Emails: If you send large emails to congregants, it’s easy to include a link at the bottom of the email to your giving page. Don’t be shy; remember: People want to give to your ministry!

Would you like to learn more about what online giving can do for your ministry? Visit fivesundays.com.

About the author:

Eleanor Pierce began working for ACS Technologies after five years at the daily newspaper The Bulletin in Bend, Ore., where she covered arts and consumer news. While her passions are varied and include baking, dogs and yoga, she enjoys working with ACS Technologies clients and helping them work smarter.

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