No one wants to think of their church as a business.
A house of worship is a sacred place meant to foster community, prayer and peace.
But money collection? The term almost sounds inappropriate within the context of religion.
Regardless of connotation, churches need money to operate just like other businesses like amusement parks and zoos and firework stands need money to operate.
And if you’re going to keep your church open to do all the good things it does, you need to raise money efficiently.
A fellow by the name of Jesus Christ (aka the Son of God) went so far as to violently cast the merchants out of the Temple and onto their keisters for hawking their wares in a holy place.
I always was confused by the Cleansing of the Temple story as a child in Sunday School.
Jesus seemed to save his most callous punishment for a band of enterprising peddlers while showing saintly compassion toward adulterers and thieves.
What lesson was I to take from this story?
Was I supposed to kick the shins of the kindly old Knight of Columbus selling Tootsie Rolls in the lobby for turning our church into a “den of thieves?”
The difference, I realized once I became an adult, is in the motivation.
Profiteering out of greed is, by definition, a sin according to most religions. Sorry, Gordon Gekko.
But raising money in order to run a thriving church that does good for its members and the surrounding community? Now I get it.
Still, some ways of collecting donations are more effective and graceful than others, and technology has changed the donation game.
Continue reading to brush up on a few proven fundraising techniques, and also find out how modern advances are putting a new spin on passing the basket.
1. The offertory
The old way: After communion, Pastor Syl asks a couple of good-natured congregants to tote some well-worn baskets up and down the aisles, encouraging their peers to cough up whatever they have in their pockets each week. Syl then takes the mishmash of crumpled bills, personal checks and coins to the bank, where a generous teller counts everything out. But her patience is wearing thin.
The new way: During the offertory, Pastor Spencer reminds the congregation to donate using their mobile app. With only a few taps, anyone with a smartphone can contribute whatever they are comfortable with, then put their phone back in their pocket where it belongs. The members of Spencer’s church can also set up recurring donations, track their giving and even generate reports for tax time.
How to be like Pastor Spencer: Check out DonorPerfect, one of Capterra’s top-rated donation management software packages with a 4.5/5 rating and more than 160 reviews. It starts at $89 per month and includes features like mobile giving, recurring giving, and donor management.
According to one reviewer, “We have used Donor Perfect as our donor database since 2009 and have been extremely pleased with the ease of use. The best part is that as we have grown and developed the software and donor tracking methods have grown right along with us.”
2. The bake sale
The old way: After being put in charge of her church’s annual winter bake sale, Betty posts a sign-up sheet on the corkboard requesting volunteer bakers. Seventeen aspiring pastry chefs sign up to bake vanilla cupcakes, but only one brave soul accepts the dreaded plum pudding challenge.
The new way: Using volunteer scheduling software, Jane is able to organize the bake sale online. Volunteers can sign up from home, work, or on their mobile device. Jane is able to address needs based on response, ensuring that the bake sale is not deluged with a sea of stale chocolate chip cookies.
How to be like Jane: Check out SignUpGenius. It is the top-rated and reviewed volunteer management package on Capterra with 5-out-of-5 stars and more than 90 positive reviews. It can be customized for use with a wide variety of events, from book fairs to blood drives.
“We have used SignUpGenius to coordinate meals for new moms and their families after a baby was welcomed into the family. You can set it up exactly for the needs you have. You invite folks to sign up and once the items are full, no one else can sign up for that item. It has been very helpful when planning meals for the families,” wrote one reviewer.
3. Mail campaign
The old way: After Sunday mass at New Hope Catholic Church, Bernard enlists a team of six volunteers to head up the mail campaign. Armed with several pots of coffee, the team embarks on a grueling envelope stuffing crusade. Hours later, the dirty half-dozen stumbles out with parched tongues and paper nicked fingers.
The new way: Roy, the new Director of Giving at Pathways Church, uses email marketing software to contact all 500 members at once. That very same evening, donations start to roll in for the annual giving campaign. Roy retires to bed at a reasonable hour and wakes up hydrated and free of papercuts.
According to Gartner’s Back to Basics: Four Ways to Optimize Your Email Marketing Content, “By year-end 2018, an estimated $500 billion in digital commerce revenue will be attributable to email marketing, a nearly 80% increase over 2016 … This growth underscores email’s role as marketing’s ‘connective tissue.’ ”
How to be like Roy: Use email marketing software, like Campaign Monitor, which has garnered a 5-out-of-5 star rating with more than 140 reviews on Capterra. The Australian-based company was founded in 2004 and offers 24/7 live support, even with the basic plan.
Plans start at only $9 per month, and Campaign Monitor offers a free trial. To sweeten the deal for churches, non-profits get a 15 percent discount.
“Campaign Monitor is a beautifully packaged, intuitively designed product that turns the sometimes tedious task of email marketing into a breeze. On the single occasion I’ve required customer support it has been prompt and efficient,” wrote one happy customer.
If you want an alternative to compare with Campaign Monitor, check out ActiveCampaign, which offers similar features and also starts at $9 per month. Also take a look at Breeze ChMS, Church Teams, Roll Call, and Servant Keeper. All are well-reviewed church management software suites with some form of email marketing functionality.
The old way: Every other Friday, Fred sits down with a solar-powered calculator and determines ten percent of his paycheck from his job as a crane operator at the local quarry. He then writes a check to drop in the basket at church that Sunday.
The new way: George signed up for direct deposit when he started his job as a network administrator at a high-tech manufacturing company. His church’s software package includes a recurring payment interface, so George can set up a recurring payment with his debit card or eCheck. He can even donate at an electronic kiosk in the church lobby. Take that, Fred!
How to be like George: Check out Tithe.ly Church Giving. The app has a perfect 5-star rating on Capterra with more than 40 reviews. Users can make one-time donations, or set-up recurring payments online, via mobile, or at dedicated kiosks. The program requires no monthly fee, and donors have the option of covering their own transaction fee.
“Our church was struggling to find a solution to our declining tithes as a result of our changing community/membership carrying cash and checks,” a reviewer said. “Tithe.ly solves this by making it simple to collect funds from credit cards and banking accounts via our website, mobile app, text to give, kiosk and by collecting printed forms that we can easily enter using their admin tool. Our contributions have increased over 30% since we launched these capabilities.”
5. Fundraising events
The old way: Puebla needs to organize a 50/50 raffle for her church’s bull and oyster roast, so she goes to the office supply store and buys a roll of tickets. She sells them for $2 each, but only parishioners who remembered to bring cash can participate. The first selection for the $86 jackpot has left by the time of the announcement, and the second selection has lost their ticket, but Puebla finally finds a winner on the third try.
The new way: Judy decides to put on an old fashioned carnival for her church’s fall fundraiser. She starts off by using social media to request auction prize donations from local businesses. She then uses Pinterest to come up with a wide variety of fun and easy carnival games and treats. Finally, Judy uses an auction software solution to run the silent auction, making the bidding and awarding of prizes a cinch.
How to be like Judy: Try Silent Auction Pro, the top rated auction software on Capterra with 5/5 stars and 140 reviews. After a one-time purchase of $129, Silent Auction Pro promises to simplify every aspect of your event, from training all the way through the thank you letters.
“Before Silent Auction Pro the checkout process at our auction was crazy stressful. People did not keep track of what they won and trying to make sense of it all was insane,” said one recent reviewer. “This year checkout could not have gone smoother! One person handled it all with ease and even though some patrons initially resisted online bidding, we ended up almost doubling our profits this year!”
Some aspects of the church experience are as timeless as the stars: stained glass windows, bible readings, hymns…
But some dated practices, such as paper checks and printed mail, have run their course.
Like any organization that needs money to operate, churches must adapt to technological innovations. Why waste time and money doing things the old way, when you could be like George, Jane, Judy, and friends?
Looking for Fundraising software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Fundraising software solutions.