The following article is an update of our October 5, 2010 blog post. Vanco Services provides a variety of e.services and they are currently working with nearly 200 UUA congregations in 46 different states. Some churches use only one e.service® solution while others use an entire suite of solutions that includes online giving, direct debit giving (ACH), credit & debit card giving and remote check deposit.

We encourage you to contact Vanco to explore the possibilities for your congregation.

Author: Stephen Rose
Director of Marketing
Vanco Services, LLC

As a provider of electronic giving solutions to thousands of churches, Vanco Services, LLC is pleased to share insights we’ve gained over the past 16 years.

Special Challenges

Seasonal donation slump. Donations tend to track closely with the number of weekly worshippers, producing a seasonal donation slump in most congregations. A church’s operating costs and program expenses continue year round, but weekly check & cash offerings are erratic. Donations typically taper off after Easter and then drop—often precipitously—during summer months before recovering in the 4th quarter. Vanco data shows an average 43% decline in weekly giving by paper check from Easter to mid-summer. Even the most dedicated churchgoers miss services. Vacations, illness and weather (good and bad) all enter into the equation. In the fall of 2009, the flu—and even fear of the flu—depressed attendance at services. In recent winters, snowstorms also kept worshippers of all faiths at home in many areas of the country. One Greek Orthodox Archdiocese estimated that February 2010 snowstorms resulted in at least $1.4 million in lost weekly offerings.
Declining check use. Getting twentysomethings to attend services is one thing. Getting them to write a check is quite another. Many families no longer carry a checkbook and most young families never did. A growing number of households simply prefer to make electronic payments and contributions whenever possible. A December, 2010 study from the Federal Reserve reported that paper check use declined by more than 43% in the past decade. The same study showed that electronic payments increased by 276%. This shift in payment practices presents a stewardship challenge for every congregation.

Electronic Giving

Benefits. Electronic giving provides convenience for members and much-needed donation consistency for churches. In addition, electronic giving reduces manual processing, increases security and has an excellent environmental profile. Churches, with their historical reliance on weekly, bi-weekly and monthly check writers, were among the earliest organizations to recognize the benefits of electronic giving and adopt it as a way for members to make recurring donations. By the year 2005, electronic giving was taking off as individuals became accustomed to making all types of payments automatically—first by electronic funds transfer (ACH) and later by credit and debit card. Originally, paper authorization forms were the only method used to set up electronic donations. And even today, in many congregations, paper forms remain the primary authorization method. Increasingly though, churches are outfitting their websites with secure electronic giving pages where members can set up their own recurring donation plans or make one-time contributions, 24/7.
Choice is important. Giving is not a one-size-fits-all proposition. Some longtime members will always make their offerings by check. Other members are happy to complete a paper authorization form allowing the church to automatically debit their checking accounts or charge their credit cards. Still others would prefer to move all of their finances online—including donations.
Promotion is essential. Most churches already have the communication resources in place to build a successful electronic giving program, they simply need to use them! Promotion is essential to the success of any church’s program—it requires more than a one-and-done announcement to the
congregation. In fact, too many churches launch their program with a single announcement and then fail to follow through with any ongoing communications. For a program to work, a church must create and maintain awareness using church bulletins, pledge letters, websites, etc.

Electronic Giving and Churches

Vanco Services works with more than 11,000 churches and nonprofit organizations nationwide. Some churches use only one e.service® solution while others use an entire suite. Historically, churches would start out with direct debit and then add other services over time. Today however, clients are more savvy (96% of Vanco clients have a website and two-thirds have a webmaster). As a result, new clients are more likely to start with a core set of three solutions that includes: direct debit giving, credit & debit card giving, and online giving.
Going forward, churches will find it impossible to rely primarily on check writers for the majority of their financial support.  Fortunately, Vanco Services has electronic giving solutions that can help any church maximize its stewardship potential, regardless of its size or member demographics. If you would like to learn more, call (800) 774-9355 or visit ElectronicDonations.com

About the Author
Wayne Clark
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