A Study in eGiving
By Ron Walrath, Coordinator for the Electronic Giving Project
Made possible through generous grant support from the SC Synod’s Growing in God’s Mission fund and the Stewardship of Life Institute, the SC Synod conducted a pilot project for electronic giving (e-giving) from September 2016 through August 2017 with eight SC Synod congregations in the upstate and midlands. In exchange for project participation, the synod reimbursed administrative expenses associated with VANCO’s Simply Giving credit card/debit card and electronic check (e-check) platform. The focus of the pilot project was answering the following question: Does electronic giving merely result in the same gift at a higher cost of doing business, or do electronic giving tools increase giving?
Within the eight project congregations, 1466 giving units were afforded access to e-giving tools. Of those 1466 giving units, 9% used some form of e-giving during the project period. The major findings for this project are:
- Offering e-giving solutions does increase giving among those givers who adopt e-giving. 21% of givers increased their giving after adopting e-giving. Those who increased their giving made significant increases (between 34% and 37%) after adopting e-giving.
- E-giving solutions sometimes cost more than they net in increased giving. Four of the eight project congregations indicated no net increase in individual giving among those who adopted e-giving solutions. Of those that did report net increases, one of the four was close to “break even” had the congregation been paying all costs, and three had significant net increases.
- Congregations that offer e-giving for the first time may experience significant increases in e-giving adoptees giving. One pilot congregation experienced a 20% increase in giving among those that adopted e-giving while another experienced no increase.
- Adoption of new or enhanced e-giving solutions can enhance a congregation’s stewardship emphasis. Half of the pilot congregations indicated a benefit for the congregation’s stewardship emphasis efforts from introducing new giving tools.
- Offering electronic giving is not a panacea for giving issues in congregations, but it can make a positive difference. Total project congregations’ giving decreased by $48,372 during the project period, but giving by those that adopted e-giving increased by $30,785.
- The appeal of e-giving is not restricted to those under age 55. While 14% of adoptees were under age 35 and 41% were between ages 36 and 54, 45% of adoptees were age 55 and over.
- Plastic does not rule when it comes to giving. Electronic check giving was chosen three times for each time credit/debit card giving was chosen and according to figures provided by VANCO, $90 of each $100 given electronically in pilot project congregations was via electronic check.
- Every pilot project congregation indicated that they would continue to offer access to credit card, debit card, and electronic check giving, even without administrative expense reimbursement.
- Congregational leadership is important to e-giving adoption rates. As with most things in congregational life, when our leaders are excited about something, we tend to catch that enthusiasm.
So, what does (all this) mean? Based on the data collected during the SC Synod Electronic Giving Project, adoption of electronic giving tools results in greater and more regular giving often enough to justify the administrative expenses associated with e-giving tools.