Nonprofits Source highlights that giving to religion (defined as giving specifically to congregations, denominations, missionary societies, and religious media) has consistently remained America’s single largest recipient of charitable giving. However, according to the 2017 Giving USA report, giving to religious organizations now comprises only 32 percent of total charitable giving in America. To put that into perspective, that’s down from 58 percent in the 1980s.
Statistically, generosity isn’t down, but Americans are spreading their dollars around more so than before. They’re giving to a wide variety of nonprofit organizations and movements. Some say this is due to the fact that religion played less of a role in the lives of most Americans over the last few decades. In addition to that, people are not turning to religious institutions for spiritual, emotional, and social support as much as they used to, with other things fulfilling those roles in their lives.
Too often, a lack of resources strangles the ability of churches to meet their needs. But this lack of resources doesn’t have to cripple your church’s effectiveness. In this article, we will share tips and insights that shed light on one of the most important things churches can be doing to help increase the support they receive from their members: online giving.
Here are Our Top 10 Tips to Increase Online Donations for Churches:
1. Nail Your Online Donation Page
While there’s massive potential in online giving, according to research by Dunham+Company, only 15 percent of church giving in 2017 came in through online sources.
To increase that percentage, you’ll need to start with the basics: your online donation page.
Even though we are observing an increase in mobile giving, 84% of nonprofits donations landing pages are not optimized for mobile devices. If your site is not optimized for mobile devices, then you run a high risk of losing mobile donors. Start by making sure your website and your online donation page are optimized for mobile.
Furthermore, including elements of your church’s branding on your online donation forms—such as your logo and colors—will instill a sense of confidence in your online visitors. By making your online donation form look and feel similar to your church’s website, people will feel more comfortable making a donation. It’s also best to keep your visitors on your church’s website, instead of leading them to a third-party site, to increase the number of donations you receive.
To reduce the risk of members abandoning the donation process, make sure that your online donation form involves the fewest number of steps possible. Resist the temptation to ask for a lot of information from your donors on your donation page. Filling out unnecessary data may bog donors down on your page, encouraging them to leave without giving.
2. Enable Weekly Recurring Donations
Online donors give more money in general to their church, and they give more often, too.
On average, digital givers donate 33 percent more ($200 a month through digital means vs. $150 a month from non-digital means). They also donate 44 percent more often than non-digital givers (2.3 times a month vs. 1.6 times a month). (Dunham + Company)
Online donors give more and more often because they have better tools. They can give when they’re inspired, no matter where they, and regardless of whether or not they make it to a worship service on any given week.
And if you enable weekly recurring donations on your form, your donors won’t even have to think about giving – the process will be automated. Instead of inspiring a donor to give multiple time, you only have to do it once, and then work to maintain the relationship.
Research has proven that suggesting specific gift sizes ($10, $50, $100) leads directly to an increase in giving. Most people, when left to make their own choices, will not give quite as much as they would if they were provided with options for how much to donate. Always be sure to provide smaller offering options for those who would like to tithe but don’t have the means to contribute significantly.
Pro tip: Make sure donors can cancel their recurring subscription at any time, and make sure they know they can!
3. Send Out Thank You Letters
In the ideal world, you’d be able to thank every donor in person, call them, or at send them a hand-written letter.
However, although more ‘personal’ almost always equals ‘better’ when thanking donors, sometimes that just isn’t feasible given the size of your church’s membership and/or your resources.
On the other hand, just because you can’t do something perfectly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it at all. Any ‘thank you’ is better than no ‘thank you’. Write a warm ‘thank you’ letter, sign it, and then send out copies to donors (if you have their mailing addresses).
In case you’re low on resources, you don’t have access to your donors’ mailing addresses, or running against the clock, work on creating a heartfelt “thank you” email.
Half (50%) of donors prefer to receive personalized thank you’s versus fast responses.
When you engage with your donors, it’s important to personalize the communication as much as possible.
4. Use Text-to-Give Fundraising
Text-to-give fundraising technology is revolutionary in its simplicity, especially for churches and organizations that have regular gatherings.
With text-to-give, donors make donations right from their cell phones, using their phones’ native texting application and/or web browser.
Essentially, the donor sends a keyword (e.g. “ROOF19”) to a shortcode (e.g. “445566”) to either have a specific dollar amount added to their cellphone bill or are led to a mobile donation page where they can donate the amount they wish.
Say goodbye to check writing, scrounging from cash, or reminding donors to give later when at a computer.
5. Create a Church Mobile App
Nowadays, people use apps for banking, managing their investments, booking taxis and hotels, and even paying their friends. Since many people are quite familiar with the technology, you won’t have to get your congregation used to the idea of using an app to make a donation.
Having your own church app will enable you to provide a branded experience that gives people the confidence that they’re interacting with your church. Mobile apps are very versatile, so you’ll be able to use them for much more than receiving donations.
6. Consistently Report on Progress and Finances
Today’s donors demand transparency around finances from nonprofit and for-profit organizations alike; your church is not the exception.
To respond to this need, establish transparency around your church’s fundraising activities and how the money you raise is used. Start by giving your church members insight and access to your budget planning process.
You could set up a congregation finance committee which would meet regularly and get involved in the church’s finances; you could invite church members to short meetings that give them an overview of the church’s budget for the upcoming six months and invite them to voice any concerns they have and/or approve the budget.
Church leaders who simply make a decision about the church’s spending priorities and then seek buy-in from the congregation will face an uphill battle.
Report on the finances often and with transparency. Tell donors how much money has been raised, how has it been spent, how much is currently available in the fund, are there any outstanding debts, and more.
Church members that are more involved in decision-making, and that have participated in setting priorities, are more likely to give and give more often.
7. Follow Up With E-mail
While there are significant variations among sectors, it’s clear that regularly corresponding with potential donors via email is critically important.
Email messaging drove 28% of all online revenue in 2017.
Send out enticing and compelling emails that will lead your readers straight to your online donation page.
Our recommendation is that you send two fundraising-only messages per month and balance that with two non-fundraising messages. If you don’t have it already, get a .org domain extension. They’re more trusted.
Always personalize your e-mails.
Pro tip: After a donor gives, always send out an email receipt to thank donors while also serving as the receipt for tax and tracking purposes.
8. Mobilize Your Congregation
As a community-driven organization, your church likely has passionate members. Most of them would probably be happy to help raise additional funds for the church.
Engaged people are passionate people. They live and serve the mission. And they’re passionate enough about it to invite their friends and family to give.
Over the long-term in a church, you can accomplish more with 100 engaged members than with 1000 disengaged attendees.
Relationships have always been the foundation of fundraising. Build relationships with your congregation members and then empower them to fundraise on behalf of the church. A major advantage of peer-to-peer fundraising is the ability for congregation members and supporters to individualize the cause by explaining to their network why it matters to them. This personalization appeals to emotions and increases donations. People are more likely to donate to an organization their friend or family member recommended.
Make sure you enable them to do the fundraising by providing the right tools and support. Turn ordinary attendees into passionate champions of the mission and this engagement will drive almost all future church growth.
9. Increase Traffic to Your Church Website
Generally, if more people visit your website—especially your online donation page—you will experience an increase in your online giving.
To promote your church’s website, you can:
- Mention it during your worship services and even take the time during the service encouraging everyone to donate
- Promote it on social media
- Optimize your church SEO
- Promote it in your direct mailings
- Promote it during events, meetings, and youth groups
- Add it to any flyers
Once your church members find your site though, it should be immediately apparent to them where they should go to submit their offerings. Try adding a large “Give Here” button on the home page to catch their attention. Make your button stand out by making it a different color than the rest of your navigation. Include the option to give on every page, not just the main page.
10. Keep Donors Updated
Regularly update donors about how their gifts are bringing about positive changes. Donors should feel connected to your mission. When they feel like their donations are making a difference, they are more likely to keep giving and get involved with other church activities.
Stick to using the donor’s gift in the way you promised to or they intended to. If there’s any reason that you need to change the purpose, you need to be transparent with your donors about it.
Segment donors so each one gets the right outreach every time (or no time). Devote time to your existing donors with the expectation that this will pay off in future years.
Over to You
Provide people in your community with the right tool at the right time so they can express generosity wherever they are.
We covered a lot of ground, however, the key fundraising best practices such as:
- Fundraising is built on relationships
- Meet your members where they’re at and make it simple to give
- Thank, involve, and engage your members
- Stay transparent
These are evergreen.
These tips and insights aren’t “new” or “innovative”, but they’re essential to a successful online donation strategy for churches. They will help you activate your current members, reach new donors, and ultimately move forward towards your mission.
If your church doesn’t have an effective online giving platform, you’re likely foregoing a resource that you could use for much-needed efforts in your community.
The online donation platform for your church should strategically drive people to a platform where they can donate wherever they are. The platform should also be mobile-friendly, if not mobile-first. It should be easy to use, both for your church and for the donors. The giving process should be secure. Donorbox is all of that and more.
To learn more about Donorbox’s online fundraising solution, sign up for free. Donorbox charges a small platform fee of 1.5% for the month’s donations. Our fees are the lowest in the market, and we charge no setup fee. Check out our Nonprofit Blog for more free resources.