7 Essential Features of the Best Church Giving Tools
This guest post was contributed by Vision2.
From children’s programming to mission trips to musical offerings, your church community provides your members with numerous opportunities to grow together in their faith. Your church wants to encourage giving to programs like these while keeping the focus on your message.
Giving tools created especially for churches ensure that members have a positive giving experience during which they never lose sight of the larger purpose of their gifts. When you choose church giving tools that are efficient, engaging, and versatile, you’ll encourage members to support their favorite programs and help grow your church community.
Let’s explore some of the most important features to look for as you prepare to select a church giving platform. You’ll want to choose a system that offers:
- Multiple Ways to Give
- Church-Specific Design
- Integration Capabilities
- Payment Processing Features
- Security for Member Data
- On-the-Go Options
- Member-Focused Setup
Your individual members will have different preferences when it comes to giving. They’ll be encouraged to contribute when your church giving platform offers them multiple ways to do so.
1. Multiple Ways to Give
Just as your members will be eager to support the church programs that matter most to them, they’ll want to make their contributions using the methods that they find most convenient. The best church giving systems offer members a variety of methods they can use to make their gifts.
You’ll want to make sure that the church giving system you select allows your members to contribute via:
- Online methods. For your members, your website is a central source of information on your church. This makes it one of the first places they’ll go when they want to make their gifts. An easily accessible giving page that’s branded to your church is an essential component of your website and your church giving system.
- Mobile methods. Giving via mobile, whether through your online giving page or using text-to-give service, is quickly becoming popular due to its convenience. You can visit Vision2 to learn more about popular mobile giving options.
- Cash and check. Many members of your church, especially those who have been giving regularly for many years, will want to continue using traditional methods such as cash and check. Choose a church online giving platform that facilitates these paper-based giving methods by scanning all the necessary information from cash envelopes and checks.
With an easy-to-use giving page on your website and a system that facilitates mobile and traditional giving, all of your members will be able to find a favorite way to give back to their church community. To ensure that they understand the impact of their gifts on your mission, choose a giving platform or tool designed especially for churches.
2. Church-Specific Design
Your members’ contributions are essential for your church to grow your community and further your mission through the good work you do in the wider world. Keep your church’s mission at the front of your supporters’ minds by selecting a giving tool designed with the specific needs of churches in mind.
Giving tools designed for churches are highly customizable to ensure a trustworthy giving experience and illustrate the impact that members’ gifts will have on specific ministries and programs. Church giving platform features that help accomplish these goals include:
- Customized giving forms. Online giving pages and screens branded to your church help assure members that their gifts are going directly to your church and to the programs they want to support.
- Multi-site giving capabilities. Large churches with multiple campuses should be sure to select a church giving tool that makes it easy for members to contribute to the campuses on which they worship. Multi-site giving tools also make it easy for your church’s team to process gifts directed toward different campuses.
- Personalized gift acknowledgments. Show members that your church appreciates their generosity and provide them with detailed records of their gifts by choosing a church giving tool that creates a personalized acknowledgment after each gift is processed. You can choose to supplement the automatically generated acknowledgment with a handwritten thank-you note or letter.
It’s never easy to ask for money online, and this is especially true for churches due to the potential distraction from your mission. A church-specific giving tool created with an understanding of your preferred language and specific needs provides an effective solution.
Your church is most likely using several software systems already. To save your team time and energy, make sure that you choose a church giving tool that integrates with your existing systems.
3. Integration Capabilities
From managing members to processing gifts to putting new ministries and programs into place, it’s likely that your church depends on several software solutions—not to mention your hardworking team—to provide for your members. Choose a church giving tool that integrates with your existing software solutions to make church management and gift processing as easy as possible.
To save your team time and ensure that gifts go directly to the ministries and programs your members are most eager to support, you’ll want to look for church giving software that integrates with your existing:
- Church management system. When your ChMS and church giving tool are integrated, your team will be able to keep track of your members’ giving habits and preferences with no need for manual re-entry of information from one system into the other.
- Financial system. Make accounting and gift processing easier by selecting a church giving platform that integrates with your existing financial system, ensuring that important data will be entered automatically and not be lost or altered.
- Website. It’s likely that your members are already comfortable and familiar with your current website, which can also be an effective tool for cultivating new supporter relationships. Integrate your new church giving tool with your current website to provide an improved and still trustworthy giving experience.
When your members have plenty of giving options and your team can manage their giving with ease, your church is sure to see an increase in generosity and experience growth as a result. Transform your members’ gifts into meaningful programming with the help of your church giving tool’s payment processing features.
4. Payment Processing Features
When it comes to payment processing, it’s essential that the process is as accurate and efficient as possible. You’ll also want to make sure that you can process members’ gifts regardless of the method of contribution they select. Your church giving tool’s payment processing features should make the giving process easy for both your members and your team.
Whether your members prefer electronic or traditional paper-based giving methods, the church giving tool you choose should be able to gather the necessary information from those gifts and direct it to your church management and financial software systems. Look for church giving software that allows your members to give via:
- Credit card. This is how members who choose to give online and via mobile will make their contributions, so ensure that your church giving tool can process gifts made electronically with credit cards.
- Check. When members make their contributions via check, they write most of the pertinent information on the check itself. Your church giving tool’s check scanning feature records all of this information—the member’s name, the gift amount, and often the member’s intent for the gift as well—to make processing the gift easier.
- Cash. To gather valuable information from cash gifts and preserve their contributors’ intents, choose a church giving tool that scans the envelopes in which the cash gifts are made.
You can show appreciation for your church’s supporters by accepting gifts using your members’ preferred giving methods. Once your members have made their gifts, your church will want to keep the data you gather secure, protecting your church’s finances and your members’ privacy.
5. Security for Member Data
Gathering information on your members, including their recurring giving habits and information on the ministries and programs they prefer to support, is essential for providing your members with the aspects of your church community that they most value.
Choose a church giving tool that will keep member data and financial information secure to protect everyone who gives to your church.
As you compare church giving platforms, look for one that offers data and financial security features including:
- Level I PCI compliance. Essential for churches at which large numbers of gifts are made via credit cards, this is the most highly regulated—and thus secure—standard for online merchants of all types.
- Full bank reconciliation. This ensures that the record of financial transactions reported by your church exactly matches that reported in your church’s bank statement, helping to prevent members’ gifts from being lost or misreported.
- Data management features. Along with integrating your ChMS and church giving platform, data management features within the latter system can help you reduce errors caused by duplicate, incorrect, or outdated member information.
Data management and financial security features ensure that members can always feel confident about giving to your church. To learn more about the security features your church giving tool needs to include, check out Vision2’s guide to church giving software.
The best software solutions are those that facilitate giving wherever your members may be. Select a church giving tool that doesn’t require members to be at home on their computers to make their contributions.
6. On-the-Go Options
Your members create a vibrant church community that comes together regularly to share in fellowship, service, and worship. All of these meaningful moments present the opportunity for giving back to the church that allows them to happen. Your church giving tool should make it easy for members to give whenever they feel motivated to do so.
Similar to social donors in the nonprofit sphere, church members are often motivated to give when they’ve shared in a positive experience with their fellow members. To provide them with these giving opportunities, make sure that your church giving tool can be used:
- After services. This is a good time to introduce new online giving options and show members how to complete their offerings and other gifts using their smartphones via either mobile giving or text-to-give.
- At church events. Mobile giving and text-to-give are also effective during events. Members of your church’s team can show event attendees how to give using these methods. They’re also a great way to make additional contributions to the charitable causes and organizations your church supports through service work.
- Wherever they take their smartphones. Most of us are almost always on our smartphones, so mobile giving options should be available to your members! In addition to mobile-specific methods like text-to-give, make sure that your website is also mobile-responsive. Click here for additional web design tips you can incorporate.
Your church depends on your members’ generosity to continue providing the programs they value and expanding your mission to serve a larger community. Encourage recurring giving with a software solution focused on members’ preferences.
7. Member-Focused Setup
Each of your church’s members is unique, and that includes their giving habits and preferences. When your church giving tool takes these preferences into account, you’ll make giving more convenient for your members and thus more appealing to them. Your church giving software should feature a member-focused setup that facilitates giving.
Member-focused setups for church giving tools include such features as:
- Member portals. Members login to their portals to make gifts, see their giving histories (including the amounts they gave and the campuses, ministries, or programs that they chose to support), and change their recurring giving preferences. They’ll also be able to download and print their own statements for tax purposes here.
- Recurring giving options. Recurring giving is especially important to churches, where tithes, offerings, and other forms of repeated contribution are common. When members can set their recurring gifts through their self-service portals, they can be sure that they’re providing continuing support to your church without having to remember to make their gifts each time.
- Preferred giving method. Providing multiple options is key to encouraging your members to give and especially to give repeatedly. Make sure that your church gathers information on their preferred giving methods so that you can reach out to them through these channels for a more individualized approach.
When you use your church giving tool to provide your members with plenty of giving options—from the ministries and programs they choose to support to the methods they choose to make their gifts—they’ll be motivated to give and help your church community grow.
Church giving tools work together with your other church management software to provide your members with more giving options, facilitating the process while keeping the message focused on your church’s mission. When you provide your members with convenience and choice in their giving practices, they’ll be sure to make it a regular habit.
About the Author
Kingsley Allen has been involved in designing, developing, and operating software for over 25 years. Much of his recent career has been invested in helping churches leverage technology to grow and reach people. Kingsley worked with the Fellowship One church management system for 10 years, leading the product and development teams from startup mode through the acquisition by ACTIVE Network. Post-acquisition, he served as general manager of the Faith business unit and and strategy and partnerships for ACTIVE’s Communities division. As VP of Product Development at Vision2, he helps guide the continued development of Vision2 into a world-class giving engagement platform.