Next Generation Giving: The Power of Digital, Part 2

Digital giving does not increase giving in and of itself. Not sure if you expected this message from me or not, but it is true. However, if your intention is to grow generosity in everyone you must unleash all forms of digital giving. Then you will need to lead them well. And there isn’t just one form of digital giving any more. There are actually six!

Here are a couple of thoughts to set the stage, then I want to provide a few stats, before we wrap up with some tips. Most churches today allow online giving to occur from a desktop. Researchers tell us that 74% of churches have online giving, but they only receive 15% of their gifts via this vehicle. So, you can have online giving and not necessarily be leveraging it well or you can have a clunky version that is not enjoyable for people to use. 

While online giving was cutting edge a few years ago, it is now far less convenient and enjoyable. There are actually six ways a modern giver can make a digital gift. Online giving is one way, but it is only accessible when you are close to a desktop computer and happen to remember to give. Two-thirds of Americans own smartphones, thus they are conducting more and more of their lives in a mobile fashion. Consequently, mobile giving has increased 205% in the last year.

The Barna Group released a study a couple of years ago entitled “The Generosity Gap.” It studied the many gaps that exist between the pastor and people, along with the different generations, as it relates to generosity. I will be presenting a four-part blog series on Next Generation Giving to help you reflect on the principles this study uncovered. This blog is Part 2.

“The Generosity Gap” reports several findings when it comes to digital giving.

“People who give more, use electronic giving methods more often.”

So digital giving is really important to those who are the most generous. Most established churches should strive to receive at least 50% of the offering digitally. The easiest way to move this dial is to begin a ministry that disciples your above and beyond givers. At Generosity by Lifeway, we teach the Generosity Pathway and its five types of givers. Your Tithing, Expanding, and Extravagant givers are waiting for the next giving opportunity. They will give when asked to a specific cause. Either inside or outside the church. Invest in your best givers to watch digital giving grow.

Here is an eye-opening insight of “The Generosity Gap.” “Another clear finding, which came as a surprise to financial analysts, is that automatic checking account withdrawal (ACH) is massively underused as a method of regular giving; only one- third of pastors report their church offers this giving method (33%).” Some people have more confidence in their bank than their credit card security. Others dislike the fees commonly charged by credit card companies. (I personally would embrace the cost of using credit card transactions because of the massive convenience factor. Very few people know their bank account and routing numbers.) Many digital giving platforms will actually charge a transaction rate on ACH. However, some companies only charge a small set fee, usually less than .50 per transaction. If you are staunchly opposed to credit card fees and minimize the impact of digital giving, know that the Generosity by Lifeway platform allows you to only accept the forms of giving you prefer. So you can only accept ACH payment or debit cards if you like. This option is available both in our app and online for subscribing churches.

Finally, spontaneous giving is biblical and practiced by many. However, most people do not carry cash or checkbooks. Yet, we go nowhere without our phones. “The Generosity Gap” encourages us to “extend to those most eager (even spontaneously!) to give any and all opportunities to do so. Technology may offer people greater opportunity to flex their giving muscles including Millennials and younger Gen Xers, “digital natives” for whom electronic giving is the norm and many Christians want that chance.”

“In addition, consider how to connect the dots between automatic or e-giving and compassion. The leeriness some leaders express about electronic methods usually has to do with its potential for set-it-and-forget-it mindlessness. But this potential can be stopped in its tracks with solid teaching paired with opportunities for other, non-financial acts of generosity.”

If you haven’t checked out the free Generosity by Lifeway app I would encourage you to do so. There are no subscription or set up fees and your giver can actually cover the cost of every transaction. In today’s world, mobile devices contain significant power, speed, and enjoyment. Our app experience allows a giver to set up a recurring gift as well as give spontaneously when prompted. You can create both undesignated as well as specific designated funds for people to give toward. It even allows a giver to make a gift of a noncash item like a car, real estate, jewelry, stocks, and more. We will receive the item on your behalf, liquidate, create a gift receipt, then pass on the proceeds to the local church. You could even consider ditching your current online and text giving fees once you have moved everyone to the free giving app.

So if you are concerned about the average age of the donors in your church and whether or not you are growing the next generation of givers. Please take a fresh look at digital giving. It serves both your best-established givers as well as your new young givers. However, be mindful you will need to lead it well. Just turning on digital giving to let it sit will not be your best strategy. Go unleash giving today!