How Elevate Church Increased Online Giving Through the Peak of the Pandemic

75% of digital giving growth despite the pandemic

It has been a really pleasant surprise that [giving] seemed to hold up, and I do attribute some of that to Pushpay being there. We had already established digital giving, so it wasn’t like we had to teach everybody. Everybody already knew. So that was, honestly, a big help during that time.
Adam Friedrich, lead pastor of Elevate Church


Like most ministry leaders, when COVID-19 first hit, Adam Friedrich thought it wouldn’t last long—maybe 15 days. But soon, 15 days turned into 30. No one knew when Elevate Church in Orange, California, (or the vast majority of other churches in Southern California) would be able to meet again.

Friedrich’s parents started Elevate Church in 1985 to reach people from the streets of Southern California—anyone who wouldn’t feel comfortable in a typical church. For the past 35 years, Elevate Church (first known as Praise Chapel Orange County), grew and started new churches throughout Southern California and even in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Despite the church flourishing for 35 years, no one knew what to expect when COVID-19 hit. For 11 weeks, the church wasn’t able to meet in person. How the lack of gatherings would impact church engagement and giving, was anyone’s guess.


The COVID-19 shutdown brought clear stresses on congregants. It also brought challenges to church finances. No one really knew how giving at churches would respond to no in-person gatherings.

In April, a Washington Post article described how hard-hit congregations were seeing budgets ravaged by the closures — and this was already happening in the early phases of the shut down. According to that same article, less than half of U.S. churches could accept online donations as of 2018-2019.

“Everyone was saying that giving would be down and we’d need to think about laying off staff,” Friedrich said. “I knew those would be hard conversations to have, and I didn’t want to have them. I was worried about how this would work. It was going to be different for our church.”


Digital giving growth


In 2016, years before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19, Elevate Church made a decision that would prove essential during the pandemic. The church was looking for a top-notch mobile app and giving solution. At the time, the church’s digital giving made up only 15% of their overall giving.

“I did some research and saw some apps that Pushpay had done,” Friedrich said. “I called and talked to one of the reps there. They showed us how it worked— and I just said let’s do it. I felt it would give us the most bang for the buck. I really felt like with the demographics of our church, we needed a solid mobile app and a solid digital giving solution. That’s why we went with Pushpay, and I have never regretted it.”

By the time COVID-19 came in March of 2020, the Elevate Church congregation had grown accustomed to digital giving. Friedrich says at the start of the pandemic approximately 90% of giving came in digitally.


Friedrich believes that the church’s comfortability with online giving helped during spring and summer of 2020. At first, giving at Elevate Church was even higher than what the church had budgeted. By September, giving had settled to around the same level previously planned.

“It has been a really pleasant surprise that it seemed to hold up, and I do attribute some of that to Pushpay being there,” Friedrich said. “We had already established digital giving, so it wasn’t like we had to teach everybody. Everybody already knew. So that was, honestly, a big help during that time.”

As God took care of the finances, church leaders reached out to meet the needs of the community. Elevate’s leadership team decided to organize a massive effort to call every person in the church’s database and asked how they could help. Friedrich says they expected to hear people tell them of needs for help with groceries or rent.

“Honestly, after calling through the entire list, there were four people that actually felt a need, but the major response was people asking for prayer,” Friedrich said.

To help the hurting people Friedrich and other leaders organized an Easter wave parade and handed out care packages to the Sunday School-aged kids.

“I just didn’t really expect much of it, but driving through that day, people were just crying,” Friedrich said. “They were just weeping because they had missed each other so much. It was such a huge lift for everyone.”

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75% Growth in Digital Giving Through COVID-19

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