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Create New Options for Giving in the New Year

Five Things You Must Know About Effective Online Giving”
by Nathan Ealy
at Horizons Stewardship

Here’s a great resource about best practices to set up and promote online giving at your church. Don’t worry if some members feel nervous about digital giving. Nathan Ealy recommends asking a child or teen to show the congregation how to use the system during worship.

  1. Make the giving button easy to see. Place it at the top of your webpage. Don’t make people scroll down to find it. Keep it “above the fold” in newspaper-layout parlance.
  2. Keep it on your website if possible and/or brand it. If your system jumps away from your website, people may get spooked due to legitimate concerns about security. Apparently, 50 to 75 percent of people who start to give an online gift don’t follow through for this reason. Make the giving site look exactly like your website, or make sure it has your denomination’s logo.
  3. Don’t make users create an account once they get to the site. You want to make it simple for people to make the first gift. It’s best if the donor needs only to put in his/her name, email address, and card information. Don’t make the donor go through another step, such as creating an account username and password. You could make it an option to log-in later if he or she would like. Regarding the credit or debit question, you might provide a disclaimer such as “We don’t want people to go into debt.” Some prefer to get points or miles by using a credit card. Here, the pastor can share an inspiring story about why giving is important.
  4. Send an immediate "Thank You." Set it up so that a web page pops up right away saying, “Thank you for your gift!” Have an email sent to the donor's inbox simultaneously with the same information. It’s very important that this does not look like a receipt for payment. It is not simply a transaction. Here, you want to include a great story that says: “When you give here, wonderful things happen!” A baptism, Vacation Bible School, a mission trip, a testimony – any of these can help people feel a connection to your mission and ministry.
  5. Market it! Announce online giving publicly in worship with joy: “We now have online giving!” You can do this in a fun and informational way. If your church uses videos, make one with an older person learning how to use online giving from a teenager or middle school student. Be creative. You could even have the pastor ask a child to demonstrate how to use it during worship. It’s also important that your online giving be mobile optimized. If you show people how easy it is to do, they are much more likely to use it.

Keep in mind your ultimate goal: to facilitate generosity in many different ways so that the church stays current with people’s experiences. As Nathan Ealy says, “It’s most important to give people the option to give and to help them to grow in their discipleship in Christ.”

The Rev. Rosanna Anderson is Associate Director of Stewardship Ministries at Discipleship Ministries, The United Methodist Church.

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