Sometimes online giving is merely convenient. And sometimes, if a church isn't able to meet in person due to weather or illness constraints, it's one of few remaining practical options.
Introduction & agenda: 0:0
Online giving overview: 3:13
Third-party payment processing services: 5:06
Two ways to receive giving on your website: 5:47
Online giving options: 6:35
Online giving examples (case studies): 9:16
"Quick Start" to online giving: 11:11
Tithe.ly vs. easyTithe: 12:05
Evaluation criteria: 13:00
"Long Term" online giving solutions: 27:19
Stripe + Gravity Forms or Give: 27:42
If you've never implemented online giving, you might wonder how to build it into your church's website. We'll cover that in a bit.
Implementing online giving involves a process.....
The end goal is to receive the money safely in your bank account. To accomplish that, you'll need to work closely with your treasurer, bookkeeper, or designated financial personnel. Why? Several reasons. First, for the money given to ultimately end up in the bank account, you'll need to work with them to obtain information that the payment processing service needs to transfer the funds. Secondly, treasurers and bookkeepers are attuned to legal reporting requirements. For example, congregants want a year-end summary of their charitable giving for tax purposes. You will want to choose an online giving solution that doesn't add to the workload of your bookkeeper.
To receive the money, you'll need to connect a third-party processing service with your bank account. You might already have a church management system in place, like Breeze or Realm, which include online giving options. A specific third-party payment processing service may also be used; examples include Tithe.ly, easyTithe, Stripe (a general all-purpose processing system), or PayPal (perhaps the most well-known).
How will online giving be accessed on your church website? You have two basic options.
- Embed a link to an offsite system. This is the simplest and easiest option.
- Embed the receiving form directly into your website. This is more difficult and costly.
Best Online Giving Options
Churches have multiple online giving options. These are some good ones we currently know about.
If your church uses a church management system, it may come equipped with an online giving solution. Breeze and Realm are examples of this; others may be similarly equipped. Talk to the vendor of your church management system about its capabilities and possibilities.
If you have a website built by us (Five More Talents), you'll already have Gravity Forms installed. Stripe is an available add-on. It's a payment processing tool, considered by web developers to be superior to PayPal.
Covenant PCA in Kentucky features a Donate button on their homepage.
Clicking on the link leads you to their donations page, which operates through the PCA Foundation service.
For example, Faith Community Church in Illinois offers a Give Online page hosted directly on their site, with the form built using Stripe. When site visitors enter their information, the Stripe software processes the payment.
Another of our customers, Community Bible Church of Manchester, MI, uses the Tithe.ly service. The link is readily available on their homepage.
Clicking it takes you to the page hosted by Tithe.ly, where you can make your donation.
Christ the King Presbyterian Church, of Roanoke, VA, uses Realm, a church management system.
Following the link looks similar to the previous example to site visitors. Here, the giving page is hosted on the Realm website.
.....which links to their donations page, hosted by Breeze.
Quick Start Solution
So—your church (and bookkeeper) have decided to start online giving. What now? Here's your quick start solution:
- Is your church PCA?
- Talk to PCA Foundation
- Already use a Church Management System?
- Talk to them about online giving capabilities.
- If you don't have a ChMS.....
Both platforms offer free options.
Tithe.ly vs. easyTithe—what's the difference? Glad you asked.
Do your own research (these numbers may change). You'll notice that although easyTithe charges slightly more overhead for their base plan, site visitors can give via an ACH payment (directly from their bank account).
What evaluation criteria should you use when deciding? Begin with these questions.
Self-hosted or third-party hosted?
- Refer to the URLs (links) in the examples above. A link different from the church's means the page is not hosted directly on their website, but by a third party (eg. a church management system).
- Why is this important? PCI compliance. When processing credit or debit card transactions, the handler must follow criteria to keep that information secure. Using a third-party service means the PCI compliance burden rests on them; if not, some of that burden comes to you.
How quickly and how often is money sent to bank account?
- Variance exists between platforms. Ask, don't just assume.
What is the setup fee (if any)?
- Sit down and do the math—based on your donations, which platform will be most cost-efficient?
- If you choose to have Five More Talents build you a self-hosted form using Stripe, there will be a setup fee. If you choose to use Tithe.ly, they advertise no setup fee, since you will be using their tool and their site.
What is the monthly fee (if any)?
- Tithe.ly charges no monthly fees; easyTithe does.
What are the transaction fees?
- easyTithe charges higher transaction fees, but you can pay a higher monthly fee for a lower transaction fee.
Can they process ACH (bank) transactions?
- Donors may wish to give directly from their bank accounts. Tithe.ly doesn't allow this; easyTithe does—as far as we know!
Do they provide a fee recovery option for donors?
- Realm gives donors the option of paying the fees themselves—by calculating the percentage and adding the small cost to their intended donation amount.
What reporting features do they provide?
- You really don't want to make life more difficult for your treasurer or bookkeeper... or yourself, if that's you... Can you export data into a spreadsheet?
Don't worry, you're not alone!
How do I integrate online giving with my website? Here's how to create the link to a third-party processing system, if you use WordPress. Third-party processing is the most popular method we've seen. Again, it places the majority of the PCI compliance burden on them--not you.
Once logged in to your church's dashboard, navigate to Menus.
Then select Custom Links.
Open a separate tab for your church's private online giving page (Tithe.ly is the example here). Copy the link from your address bar (right click to make the list appear)....
.....Return to your own website, and paste that URL in the specified box under Custom Links. Type in the name for your link (we chose "Online Giving"), and select Add to Menu.
Make sure to save your menu....
And that's it! You may have to refresh the page before it's visible on the front end.
What's the safest method? Regarding safety, reference pcisecuritystandards.org for details. Basically, they're standards implemented to minimize fraud during online payment processing. When you handle people's sensitive information, you have a responsibility to keep it secure. Do your own research--but if you're using a church management system or third-party service, the burden of responsibility is theirs. Not (as much) yours.
How much does online giving cost? What's the most cost-effective method? You'll need to do some math on that. It will vary, depending on your situation and requirements. Fees include per-transaction, monthly, and/or setup. For example, 5MT charges a setup fee, but not a per-transaction fee.
Why do we recommend Tithe.ly and easyTithe? 1. They're built for churches. 2. They're turn key solutions, so you can get started quickly. 3. Ease of access: link on your church's website takes them to the payment service page.
What about PayPal for a church? It's an option. Evaluate it using the questions given above. For example, PayPal may not have as robust a solution for reporting as you want. They do provide a ready-built donation form, but the only way to allow recurring gifts is to pay a monthly fee--as far as we know.
What about Facebook Donations or Google Apps Nonprofit? They're options. However, you may have to validate yourself as a 501(c)(3) to qualify for their nonprofit solution, which could be a barrier. Additionally, they may transfer funds by an occasional check rather than within a few days. Dig in to that; don't assume.
Does 5MT charge a fee per donation? Nope. We would charge setup fees for the creation of your online giving solution, and possibly ongoing support fees, depending on the system's complexity.
Long-Term Online Giving Solutions
For your church's long-term online giving solutions, we recommend the same solutions. They work.
- Church Management System--Breeze ChMS or Realm
- Tithe.ly or easyTithe
- Stripe + Gravity Forms or Give
If you want a custom-built form on your website, 5MT can build it, using Stripe and a WordPress plugin, like Gravity Forms or Give. 5MT offers an entire webinar on building forms, but here are the highlights of the process.
You'll have to create a new form, using the form builder tool....
Drag and drop to add your desired elements: name, email, payment information, etc. Then you'll need to publish it: select Add Form on your selected page.
Next you'll need to connect to your payment processing system--Stripe, for example. Go create (or use, if you have it) an account with them. Follow their steps to connect with your bank account and with your form. Set up the default confirmation message, which all donors will receive after they submit their gift.
Set up email notifications: to you, your treasurer, your bookkeeper, all of the above. Or to donors, as a receipt of their gift.
The Forms tool (which 5MT customers have) lets you see gifts received.
You can also export those entries to a spreadsheet.
Finally, remember add a ReCaptcha field to the form. There's significantly lower danger of a scam when people have to pay a certain amount, but it's still a good safety feature to implement.
- Five More Talents - Free Webinar Series
- Getting Started with Web Forms - Free Webinar