Church giving is serious business. Scores of newsletters, workshops, and books are devoted to it, and consultants exist to advise institutions on how to maximize funds. A five-year study released last year estimated that “tithers”—Christians who donate 10% or more of their income to church or charity—contribute more than $50 billion a year. (And that’s not counting the many who give a smaller percentage of their income.) There’s even crime associated with tithing: In March, Texas megachurch pastor Joel Osteen’s church was robbed of $600,000 in donations from a single weekend.
Somehow, though, the offering process, when ushers pass baskets down the rows and worshippers voluntarily drop in checks or cash, has remained basically unchanged since the 19th century. But who carries cash, let alone checks, anymore?
Luckily for churches, a wave of apps and other digital giving options have risen up to bridge the gap.
Call it the 21st-century offering plate.
“The youngest generation does everything with their debit card,” says Stu Baker, VP of sales at SecureGive, perhaps the largest company specializing in church giving technology. SecureGive, based in a suburb of Augusta, GA, offers four integrated platforms: Online giving, text giving, mobile giving, and kiosks installed in the church lobby. Most of the kiosks are simply iPads with built-in card readers, installed on stands; a donor types in her phone numbers as ID, taps “Give” (perhaps selecting a specific capital campaign or missions program), and then swipes her card. Subscribing to a software package that incorporates all four giving options costs a church $139 a month, not including set-up and equipment costs. (The iPad kiosks run between $1,500 and $1,800 each.) The company currently serves about 1,500 churches.
Other players in the game include Txt2Give, which focuses on text donations, and easyTithe, which provides similar packages to SecureGive. Devon Weller, a web developer in Nashville, initially designed The Giving App, which allows churches to build a customized mobile app for donations, for his own nondenominational congregation. “Our church is big on branding, and we wanted something that looked and felt like our church,” he said. But after it launched, he started getting calls from other congregations, and now about 20 churches are clients, many of them savvy new “startup churches.”
“Churches are no different than any other operation in that they need to be relevant and convenient,” said RaeAnn Slaybaugh, editor of Church Executive magazine, who has reported on new giving options. “The difficulty is in capitalizing on a moment of generosity.”
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SOURCE: Fast Company