When it comes to choosing the best online giving platform for your parish, there is a vast array of choices out there. From ones that specialize in specific parish giving, to nonprofits, to businesses — the choices are endless. When faced with so many selections, parishes should focus on what they really need in a giving platform. Read on for all the details of what to consider when making the jump to online giving.
Bigger Is Not Always Better
Working with multi-billion dollar companies such as PayPal is another side to consider when weighing your options. Not only will your parish be just one of millions of accounts they work with around the world, but they also don’t have the added knowledge of working primarily for the Church. Though relatively small in comparison, organizations such as LPi, many of which are family-owned, are extremely knowledgeable and have a passion for parishes and non-profits. It’s not just a job — it’s a mission.
The value in these companies is that they are constantly researching the latest in church technology and best practices. They do the work that parishes don’t have the time or the manpower to do, because they believe that vibrant churches matter. The parishes that take advantage of these organizations can then concentrate on what they do best — sharing the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Hidden Fees, Extra Labor
As a faith community, we are tasked with being good stewards with the money that is so generously given to us. So at first glance, it might seem as though platforms like PayPal would be the best choices, as they are easy to sign up for, recognizable to the general public, and simple to use. However, drilling down into the nitty-gritty details, there are more hidden fees and extra labor associated with these types of platforms than meets the eye.
At first glance, PayPal appears to be relatively inexpensive. You spend mere minutes creating an account, have your bulletin editor add the link to your website and parish bulletin, and then wait for the money to start coming in on a regular basis. Except, it doesn’t. Wait — what went wrong?
The fact of the matter is, you can’t set up a whole new way of giving and expect it to take off without a little prompting. You need marketing materials and consistent messaging on the importance of giving online and the easy steps on how to do it. You need a 24/7 support team to handle any technical problems and to guide you in marketing best practices, so you can instead concentrate on evangelizing your faith community.
Remind People, And Then Remind Them Again
Are you familiar with the “Rule of 7”? It’s a marketing principle stating that prospects need to come across an offer at least seven times before they really notice it and begin to take action. In “church speak,” this means that your parishioners need to hear about the importance of giving numerous times, not just see it on a flyer in the main gathering space. Make it a priority to preach about tithing once per month, and send out email and postal communications on a semi-regular basis (think once every three months), reminding them that their donation makes a huge difference when it comes to maintaining the strength of your church.
Now, as part of your parish leadership team, you’ll be hard-pressed to find the time and the resources possible to make this happen on a consistent basis. That is why using a platform such as LPi’s WeShare is the perfect solution for parishes looking to get the messaging out about online giving. With WeShare, not only do you get an easy-to-use platform, but also a whole marketing team at your disposal to get the message out through unique campaigns.
Last year, LPi tested a pilot program for its WeShare customers that was designed to increase their online donors and maximize parish giving. Called the WeShare Engagement Campaign, the procedure was simple: parishes were invited to send their list of parishioner contacts to their designated Engagement Manager. Then LPi created an engaging email and print campaign geared towards their members, reminding them of the ease and benefits of online giving and how to easily sign up to donate. The results? Impressive, as thousands of participating parishes increased their online donor base.
Eliminate Road Blocks & Increase Donations
By now, most parishes have discovered it isn’t that their parishioners are reluctant to tithe, but rather it has to do with them remembering to do it on a consistent basis. Think about it — how many times have we attended a different parish, but didn’t have a chance to drop off our offering at the parish office? Or remembered to bring the offering envelope, but forgot the checkbook? By giving them the option of setting up recurring payments on a weekly or monthly basis, you eliminate many roadblocks and are able to receive their gifts no matter where your parishioners may be.
One of the best reasons to encourage online giving is the recurring payments option. This allows people to set up an amount that works for them and have it go through at a specific date they deem fit. Not all platforms can support that kind of option or allow it on an easy basis. With PayPal, for example, the steps to do that are extensive and complicated. It’s meant to be taken care of by a website developer, not the parish secretary or parish volunteer, as is usually the case. If you don’t have a general knowledge of HTML, your options will be limited.
Branding Is Key
Lastly, while PayPal and other giving platforms are relatively easy to use, it is nearly impossible to brand the service with your parish’s look and feel. So while your theme is the same — online giving is fast, easy, and safe — your parishioners are hearing the message from a vast array of differently designed pieces, which naturally causes confusion. Using PayPal, you’re stuck with their branding, and not a lot of room for copy customization.
All the marketing materials you use should be as customized and cohesive with your parish as possible — and that includes your giving platform. Finding a vendor that not only allows these changes to take place, but also does the work for you, is key to getting it done in a timely manner.