If your church didn’t offer an online giving option before COVID-19, it likely does now. Hundreds (if not thousands) of churches had to quickly establish an online giving capability or risk a significant drop in donations due to people not attending services in-person.

You may have had to make that online giving vendor decision fairly quickly. If so, now is a good time to reevaluate the vendor you chose to determine if it’s the best fit (and best value) for your church.

Here are a few things to consider as you evaluate your current online giving provider:

1. What is the fee structure?

The fees each online giving provider varies, and it’s not always obvious what they’re charging you if you’re not familiar with their fee structure.

There are three types of fees you can expect to pay:

Fee Type No. 1: Monthly Fee

Some vendors charge a flat rate for their services to be available to your church. This fee may not be impacted by how much you receive in online giving, the number of transactions, or the size of your church.

Fee Type No. 2: Processing Fee

A processing fee is based on a percentage of each transaction. For example, if John Smith donated $100 and the processing fee is 3%, the fee on that transaction would be $3.

Fee Type No. 3: Transaction Fee

Some providers charge a fee per transaction. This is usually in addition to the processing fee and is likely a flat rate, such as $0.25.

It’s worth taking a few minutes to review recent invoices and confirm what fees your vendor charges the church. If it isn’t clear, talk with the vendor to get a full understanding of the fees.

2. Are you getting a good value for the cost?

Some vendors are simply payment processors. They handle the transaction securely and get the money into the church’s account as promised. No more…no less. That’s not your only option, however.

Some vendors work exclusively (or mostly) with churches, understand the unique nature of what churches need, and are passionate about serving church leaders. These vendors tend to offer more training, advise introducing online giving to a congregation, and more.

3. Are donors happy with the online giving experience?

If givers aren’t confident that their online transaction is secure or if the process of giving is difficult, they may stop giving online. Contact a few people who’ve recently started giving online and ask about their experience. Make sure you talk with a few people who are tech-savvy and a few who aren’t. You could even conduct an online survey of the congregation to get their feedback about online giving.

Once you’ve gathered some feedback, you might talk with your online giving provider to see if they can help alleviate concerns.

4. Is your accounting team happy with the online giving vendor?

This might be a conversation with yourself (and maybe a few staff members). Unfortunately, the accounting team tends to be the last group considered when selecting a new vendor or software. However, it’s vital that an online giving provider offers a service that supports accurate accounting and doesn’t make it more complicated.

Here are a few questions to discuss:

  • Is the process of importing card transactions into the church’s accounting software or ChMS fairly simple?
  • Are you able to get sufficient data so you have up-to-date donation records?
  • Are you also able to get data into your accounting software to make month-end reconciliations with the bank statement straightforward?

If you think it might be time to find a new vendor, use these evaluation tips to research other options:

  • Ask about their onboarding process and if they offer sample emails, slides, and other communication tips for rolling out online giving to the congregation.
  • Find out if they solely serve the church market.
  • Request a demo of their online portal for the accounting team.
  • Ask about the process of migrating from your current vendor to a new vendor.
  • Get a detailed explanation of their fees.

Online giving is an excellent tool to enable people to give faithfully even when they’re unable to attend church in-person. Even as you’re able to resume in-person services, online giving makes it easier (and contactless) to receive the offering.

Invest the time to evaluate your current online giving provider and compare it against a few of its competitors. Make sure your church is getting a good value for the fees it’s incurring. Don’t settle for just a payment method — find a vendor who will partner with your church to make online giving a success.