State of the Plate
A new survey of nearly 1,600 church leaders suggests that congregations need to increase the number of giving options available to donors to keep pace with offerings by more traditional means made in the past.
While most Americans now regularly pay bills online, through apps, or via auto-pay services, the most-favored method for churches to seek money is passing the plate weekly for cash or checks. According to the survey, 99 percent of churches still use a collection plate every week.
The 2016 State of the Plate report released Wednesday notes that young adults, especially, desire more convenient giving options.
The research, spearheaded by Brian Kluth’s MAXIMUM Generosity ministry based in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, shows there has been a dramatic increase in tech-driven donor choices since 2010.
Now, 79 percent of churches provide the possibility of website giving online, up from only 29 percent six years ago. Likewise, 73 percent of congregations allow people to donate via electronic fund transfers from their financial institution, a rise from just 37 percent in 2010.
Today, 46 percent of churches permit givers to send funds through cellphone text giving, while 32 percent provide the possibility of paying at a kiosk or on an iPad.
Meanwhile, 59 percent of the churches surveyed indicated that giving flat-lined or decreased last year, compared to 41 percent that rose in donations. Overall, fewer than half of churchgoers make weekly donations, the report indicates.
Don M. Headlee, executive vice president and chief business development officer at AG Financial Solutions in Springfield, Missouri, notes that he, along with others, have changed their giving patterns.
“I used to write the check and drop it in the offering because I felt it was important to demonstrate to my children the obedience of tithing,” Headlee says. “Now as I watch the offering plate, the majority of the time not much is going in. It’s just not the form of giving for a large majority of people today.”
Kluth believes digital giving options are particularly essential for those in their 20s and 30s, who are more likely than older attendees to miss worship services due to illness or work commitments. Digital donation alternatives make it likelier that young adults would give more often, he says, because usually when people miss church they won’t make up the donation difference at a later service.
On any given weekend, one third of all regular attendees miss a service, usually due to being out of town or sickness. Churches that encourage automatic withdrawals through a checking account or debit card won’t miss out in such instances, Kluth says.
“It’s important for churches of all sizes and locations to actively embrace automated giving methods,” Kluth says.
However, Headlee says individual church leaders need to consider the demographics of their congregation before implementing changes. A small, rural church with primarily older attendees who give by traditional means may not benefit from implementing digital techniques.
But Headlee says for many churches — even considering the set-up costs and processing fee for each credit or debit transaction — going digital may result in more generous offerings.