There has been a lot of communication around the topic of online giving (OG) lately, some of it coming from my desk over the last few months. While the debate has been worthwhile, there is another angle to consider as you setup your online giving solution (if you already have online giving in place, congratulations – but this info is valid for you also).
Once you have OG in place, a strong “marketing” effort must exist to educate your people about the new technology, and to address the questions they will have about it’s use. The more effectively this is accomplished, the more you will see new users taking advantage of this option as they give their tithes and offerings.
Before going live – test your website. Click on all links. Test the OG portal to make sure it is working – that means every option available to a donor: ACH (EFT), debit card, and credit card (if you decide to accept them). Try it as a one-time giver – without needing to create an account or register. Then try it as a regular giver – setting up an account so you don’t have to re-enter your personal information every time you log on to make a gift. Only then are you ready to being your promotion.
Here are 10 steps to promote online giving in your ministry:
- Consider a “soft opening” – much like a restaurant that invites a small number of guests to enjoy an evening meal prior to the grand opening, do the same. Make the OG page live on your site, but don’t publicize it heavily just yet. Invite a small number of people to try it out. Invite their comments from the experience and make any changes necessary while you are still in this early phase of the launch. This steps creates ambassadors for OG that you can leverage to encourage others to give it a try.
- Prepare a communication piece that introduces OG to your people. This is a piece that should be printed and also distributed electronically via your website and e-communications strategy. Introduce OG as a new giving option. Provide screenshots of what it looks like. List the different ways one can make a gift using the site. Provide a link to the webpage and encourage them to give it a try (especially effective in the electronic version of this communication).
- Prepare and show a pre-service screen slide for several weeks that introduces the OG option.
- Setup several “giving stations” in your lobby area. Invite people to stop by the station for a demo and orientation on how to use online giving. Let them see how easy it is! This is especially important for those who may not be used to completing online transactions.
- Have the pastor or appropriate person speak about the OG option as part of a sermon and/or during announcements in worship. Invite those in attendance to try it out as they leave the service at one of the giving stations in place in the lobby.
- Prepare a video that not only introduces OG, but have a couple of users share their preference for and experience with the technology. Here is a great example from Willow Creek.
- Prepare a list of questions and answers that you anticipate from your congregation. Be ready with these! Get the list to your entire staff, small group leaders and others who are in positions of influence! Here are some questions to consider: Is my data safe? Can I set up a recurring transaction so my giving is automatic every week/month? Will online gifts be reflected on my annual giving statement? I see we are accepting credit cards. Doesn’t this go against the teaching we are offering in Financial Peace University? The offering is a time of worship. Doesn’t online giving remove worship from the experience?
- Report back – share the amount of gifts given through OG as a percentage of total giving as you progress through the first twelve months. More importantly, track and report increases in giving, both in participation rates and increased gifts from those who were giving in more traditional forms vs. their giving online since making the switch.
- Several months in, invite those who have begun to use OG to share their experience with the church. It is especially valuable to have people share that were suspect of the technology early on.
- Add a line on your offering envelopes that reads “I gave online at <web address>”. During the offering time, this gives your OG users a way to participate. Many see this as a time of worship. Others are self-conscious that people are watching and wondering why they never put anything in the plate. Update the envelope and/or continually offer a card that reads, “I gave online at <web address>”. Have the cards located throughout your facility. This simple idea is a great solution to these issues.