Do you remember the movie Jerry Maguire? In it, the character Rod Tidwell hollers at his agent, “help me help you.” Churchgoers are asking the same of their churches when it comes to electronic giving.
Our own Churchgoer Giving Study showed a clear preference for e-Giving options among regular churchgoers of all ages. e-Giving helps churches collect contributions more consistently, smooths out ups and downs in giving and can increase overall donations. Our client Faithpoint United Methodist Church offers one such example.
When a church doesn’t include credit and/or debit cards among its e-Giving options, it may be eliminating a choice that can help many give more generously and conveniently. Consider these statistics:
- Precedent indicates that when people are offered a card-based option, giving goes up. According to the Network for Good Digital Giving Index, electronic giving to charitable organizations has outpaced check or cash donations every year since 2001 — 9% compared to 2%.
- Millennials, the largest U.S. demographic, are financially conservative, but 83% are likely to use a credit card, according to a 2015 FICO study. Among churchgoers in that demographic who responded to our survey, 34% indicate a desire to make recurring electronic contributions with a credit card.
- Acording to a 2014 study by the Independent Community Bankers of America, 70 percent of millennials believe the way we pay for things will be totally different in five years — and they're the ones leading the way.
The evidence that giving goes up with credit and/or debit cards offsets one of the main objections against them — that the fees churches pay to allow members to use them can detract from their financial income. But what about the argument against credit cards in general?
Credit card debt is a reality, and potentially a stressful one, for some Americans. According to 2016 statistics, 38% of households carry credit card debt averaging about $16,000. Some financial advisers advocate against their use, at least by those who have struggled with debt. Others (such as financial author and speaker Dave Ramsey) take a hard line and say they shouldn’t be used at all.
Can you afford the giving gap?
However, credit card use doesn’t necessarily feed debt. For every household that carries such debt, about two others don’t. Many congregants want the option to choose how they contribute, and credit cards are much more convenient than cash or checks for recurring giving or giving in the moment. For the church, that convenience can translate into greater financial support.
Of course, reconciling the desire for ease of giving with concerns about credit cards is possible. If a church decides that credit cards aren’t the best solution for congregants, it can offer other e-Giving options such as ACH and debit cards to make the convenience of e-Giving available to members.
But that could still leave a giving gap between an individual or family’s desire to satisfy church financial commitments via a credit card and their ability to do so. Vanco's Churchgoer Giving Study itself indicated that 34% of respondents would like to give via credit card, while only 17% said that option is available to them.
In today’s giving climate, with a smaller percentage of overall charitable donations going to churches, pastors and leaders need to ask themselves this question: Is that a gap their churches and missions can afford?