Giving Beyond the Offering Plate

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9 Ways to Give Beyond the Offering Plate & 6 Things You Should Do When You Use Them

For all of us, this is a time of unprecedented challenge. For many churches, it is also a time of financial anxiety. In the non-profit world, churches had an advantage because they gathered together and an invitation to give was shared every week. At the moment, churches have lost that advantage. If you have been putting off thinking about giving beyond the offering plate, you probably aren’t doing that any more.

Every church is different. Not all of these 9 ways to give will apply to you. But every church can and should consider giving options beyond the offering plate.

  1. Cash and checks are still OK: find a way for your givers to give them safely. Set up a time and place for cash gift drop-offs that are secure from theft. Keep your particular travel restrictions and social distancing regulations in mind. Checks can be mailed: make sure you have a plan for regular mail pick-up. The pastor should not be the one gathering and depositing the gifts. There are important ways that your pastor should be involved as you grow faithfully generous stewards. This is not one of them.
  2. Bank bill pay and electronic transfers work for churches too. Many in your church probably already pay bills using bank-created checks. Encourage them to consider doing the same for the church. For those who might raise questions about confidentiality, remind them that if they are giving by check they have already been sharing their bank account and routing numbers.
  3. Maybe the resource is already there and you just don’t know it. Some website platforms especially for churches include an e-giving plug-in. Check with your website provider.
  4. Online giving platforms range from the generic, to church-based, to complex. Take the time to do some research. In general, lower fees mean more DIY for your church, which might be absolutely fine. You also might find a special offer during this time. Create some scenarios and choose the option that works best for you.

You can offer e-giving options without a website, such as:

  1. Mobile Apps. Almost anyone has a cell phone these days, so churches can consider a mobile app as a solo or complimentary giving tool. They work best with smart phones.
  2. Social Media. Giving can take place using social media, but you’ll need to wait two (or many) more weeks to receive the funds.
  3. Crowdfunding. As its name suggests, crowdfunding is based on a crowd, meaning that it will be most effective when a group is committed to using it. Small, tech-savvy, community-focused churches might consider a crowdfunding option because of its virtual community feel.
  4. Text Giving. Givers can use their phones and make donations using text giving. Givers text the church’s pre-defined keyword to a short 5-6 digit phone number to give a donation.
  5. Donations as a percent of purchases. You can encourage your givers to partner with companies who donate to charities as a percentage of purchases. But as with social media, there can be a significant time lag regarding when you will receive the donations.

But after making your decision about which options to choose, your work is not done. This to-do list is just as important.

  1. Involve your staff and volunteers who manage your church’s giving.

Make sure those responsible for your church finances understand that the church will be receiving gifts from a variety of sources. You need to decide who will have access to giving and bank accounts to authorize transfers if necessary.

  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate…

Some communication rules suggest that messages don’t sink in until they’ve been heard 7 times and in 7 different ways. How are you going to communicate these new giving options to your church? Postal mail, email, social media—even a mass phone call will do. If your church has a website, you need a giving page, and a link to that page on the front page of your website. Like the old newspaper adage, make sure that link is “above the fold”—meaning viewers don’t need to scroll to see it.

  1. Review all of your practices around receiving gifts and make sure they are the best. Do you have an emergency plan in case your staff or volunteers are no longer able to serve? Does a qualified individual or company from outside your congregation regularly conduct a financial review? Are you transparent with your congregation about these practices?
  2. Don’t just ask for money: tell a story. Or maybe, just tell a story. Now is the time to tell the story of your church’s ministry that happens the other 167 hours per week besides the worship hour. Money follows mission. Money follows a mission with a compelling story.
  3. Ask the question: Are we focused on funding, or are we growing faithfully generous givers? What messages are you sending along with your appeals that dig into faithful generosity as a spiritual discipline?
  4. Say thank you, say thank you, SAY THANK YOU. A quarterly statement is not a thank you-note. Saying “Our ministry isn’t possible without you” and showing what the gift made possible, is.

 P.S. Want to take a step further? Download our whitepaper “Giving Beyond the Offering Plate 101” for more information.

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