Church giving kiosks were one of the first ways Christians explored online giving. The first instance of a church giving kiosk I could find is from 2003, and it cost about $50,000.
Church giving kiosks are far more affordable now, and they can do a lot more, too. These physical stations provide a digital portal to your church website, giving solutions, event registration, and other ways for visitors and members to interact with your church.
But while kiosks may have helped churches pioneer digital giving, are they the best tool for digital giving today? Let’s take a look at what they can and can’t do, so your church can decide if a giving kiosk is the right move for you.
Whether you plan to use kiosks as a supplemental tool or the main way you promote digital giving, here are thirteen things you should know about church giving kiosks.
1. Using kiosks can increase giving
If people can only give to your church when they pass the offering plate, you’re missing a huge opportunity. People today carry less cash and write fewer checks. And that means there are people in your pews every weekend who want to give but don’t have anything to put in that plate. (People are pretty cautious about writing down their credit card information and passing it around—and rightfully so.)
Kiosks provide another path to tithing by letting people give with credit cards and e-checks. And since seven out of ten Americans have at least one credit card, this digital path is far more accessible. People have to consciously remember to grab their checkbook or take some extra cash out of the ATM on their way to church. Credit cards, however, rarely get left behind, because we use them just about everywhere.
EasyTithe, Mogiv, MinistryLINQ, and SimpleGive all make slight variations of this claim: “Using giving kiosks has shown to increase donations by an average of sixteen percent.” None of them indicate where that statistic comes from, so we can’t be sure what situation it’s speaking to or how accurate it is, but it’s probably referring to churches that do not have any other digital giving option.
However, if you’re in this situation and are looking to implement a giving app at your church, talk to a Pushpay expert today. Click here to schedule time with one of our church technology experts to level up generosity within your community.
2. They can simplify event registration
As a youth leader, I’ve had to hand kids the same camp form three or more times before it even made it to their parents. (Let alone makes it back to me signed with a deposit.) And without an accessible way to register online, what’s the alternative? Should we have people print a form, sign it, scan it, and email it back?
That’s asking them to take way too many steps.
A giving kiosk can also serve as a fast, easy event registration system. Through the main menu, visitors and members can navigate to the event they want to register for and then pay with a credit card or echeck. Nobody has to remember to bring a form, and you’ll save some paper. (Those “extras” add up.)
3. Online giving is more secure than physically giving money
When people give digitally, their money goes straight from their account to yours. There are fewer handoffs and fewer opportunities for donations to be misplaced or stolen. When people give through a kiosk, there’s also no chance for someone to accidentally miscount it.
While we all want to believe our churches make secure physical handoffs, it’s disappointingly easy to find examples of donations being stolen by people inside the church.
Most giving kiosks don’t even require someone to enter their credit card number—they just swipe it and get a receipt.
4. They’re mobile—kind of
Wherever your kiosk is set up, people can give. You can give them prime placement in a highly visible area or tuck them off to the side. You can bring them to events as well. Once you have a kiosk, you can experiment with the ideal placement and take them wherever you want.
The problem is, they’re about as portable as a laptop—and with some kiosks, it’s more like hauling around a podium. It’s technically mobile, but moving it isn’t exactly convenient.
5. People can use kiosks before or after the service
Churches have passing-the-offering-plate down to a science. The ushers stand at the ready. The person doing announcements gives the cue. The baskets pass back and forth down the aisles in minutes. It all happens so fast that people who aren’t already prepared can’t keep up—it takes time to write a check! And despite your ushers’ efficiency, the ritual still takes precious time from every service.
And suppose someone feels led to give after an especially moving sermon. What are their options? Do you have an established location for them to give after “the offering”? A kiosk provides a designated place for people to give before or after the service. There’s no uncomfortable, “Who do I give this to?” question. You can tell people where the kiosk is and what it’s for, and the kiosk provides clear prompts to help them with the rest.
The downside is when your church doors are closed, so is the kiosk. This is an instance where, once again, mobile giving has the edge. People spend an average of five hours per day on mobile devices. If your church has a mobile app, people can give at any time they feel led, or whenever payday is.
6. Kiosks provide a physical reminder to give
Kiosks take up space. When your staff clearly communicates to your congregation what that space is for, that space becomes a reminder to give. Every time people see that kiosk in your foyer, it triggers that, “Oh, yeah,” feeling and gets people thinking about giving.
If a lot of people use your giving kiosks, it draws more attention to the giving process—similar to passing the offering plate, but without making people feel obligated to give.
Not everybody wants to give publicly, though. The frequency and amount that someone chooses to tithe is an incredibly personal decision. It’s a private decision between every believer and God.
One of the earliest adopters of church giving kiosks joked that, “It’s not like we’re just sticking this near the altar.” The placement of the kiosk can make people feel more obligated to give and make the actual giving process more uncomfortable.
DipJar encourages churches to “Choose a giving kiosk that has blinking lights or plays a happy tune after the donor gives.” According to them, “A fun and interactive giving kiosk can be an asset to churches who want to retain a unique tithing experience while collecting credit card donations.”
But you run a church, not a casino. And giving money to the church should be a private spiritual discipline, not a public spectacle.
The mobile app equivalent of a kiosk’s physical presence is far more subtle: Push notifications. A simple vibration prompts someone to check their phone and read a message reminding them to give. You can schedule them to go out during the week or set them up to send when people step onto your campus, but they’ll only go to people who have downloaded the app.
7. Digital giving can provide valuable data
If someone has to physically count your money, your “data” is pretty limited. And what you can do with it depends on how well it was organized. It could take hours to glean even basic insights into your church’s giving habits and trends.
But when giving happens digitally, data collection and organization happens automatically. It’s easy to see the amounts people most frequently give, and some kiosks even help you identify the ideal amount to suggest. You also get a digital record of basic information like date and time, so you can see trends like which days and services tend to have the most donations. Since all this data lives in one place, it’s also a lot easier when it comes time for reporting.
8. Digital giving solutions can integrate with your other tools
Churches can rarely find one piece of software that does everything they need. The administrative functions of a church are too diverse for one program to do everything perfectly. The problem is when churches choose the best tools for each task, they don’t always talk to each other.
Thankfully, many church giving kiosks you find today can integrate with your accounting software and your customer relationship management (CRM) software. This makes it easy to directly import your giving data from your kiosk, so you don’t have to manually upload all that information.
No matter which online giving solution you choose, you’ll want to make sure it connects to the tools you already use—if it doesn’t, there may be a better option. (Here are all the tools Pushpay works with.)
9. Kiosks come in a variety of models
When giving kiosks first came out, there were only a couple of models to choose from, and they all pretty much looked like an old TV on a really tall stand. Now, there are numerous companies that produce kiosks, and they come in a wide range of designs.
DipJar has one of the more interesting styles, with no screen and a simple credit card reader. And of course, there are accessories for smartphones and tablets that essentially turn them into a kiosk. (But those aren’t ideal for creating self-service stations.)
Each kiosk model is ideal for different situations. The stereotypical old-TV-on-a-stand design is more stationary and can be an excellent addition to an information booth because they can perform many different functions. While people are waiting to speak to someone at your booth, the kiosk can serve as a hub for information about your church.
While more portable kiosks may not always have the same range of functionality, their mobility makes them better suited for events like retreats, conferences, and gatherings that happen off-campus.
10. A fixed number of people can give simultaneously
One of the major disadvantages of a giving kiosk is that the number of kiosks you have directly corresponds to the number of people who can give at the same time. The cost of kiosks add up quickly, and it’s not like you’re going to line the walls with them. Lines aren’t the end of the world, but people do have a natural aversion to them, and the presence of lines does deter people from taking the desired action—in this case, giving.
When you also take into account that your kiosk is only available when your church facility is accessible, this digital giving bottleneck becomes more of a problem. (Not to mention, you’re also going to miss the people who slip into church late or rush out the door because they have other plans.)
This is one of the reasons why a kiosk is best used as a supplement to other digital giving solutions. If people can give via your website or church app, then it doesn’t matter how many people feel led to give at the same time. And since 77 percent of Americans now own smartphones (including 46 percent of seniors), a kiosk becomes an additional option instead of the only choice.
11. You can customize some kiosks to fit your church’s brand
The fact that a kiosk is in your church will make it obvious that it belongs to your church. But how people feel about a brand strongly affects how they interact with it. We’re naturally skeptical of brands we aren’t familiar with, especially when it involves our money.
If your kiosk doesn’t have strong ties to your churches brand, people may be more hesitant to give and find themselves thinking things like…
“How much of this actually goes to my church, though?”
“Will the church staff know how to help me if I get stuck or have problems?”
“That vending machine ate my money last week. I don’t trust this thing.”
Just as your church’s website should look and feel like your church, your kiosk should provide an experience that fits with your church’s brand. Most kiosk models and companies allow you to at least customize the digital style of the kiosk.
This means the forms, menus, etc., will all use your church’s colors and display your name and logo. Custom branding helps reinforce that donations made through the kiosk go to your church and that people can trust the kiosk the same way they trust your church.
Some companies also let you customize the physical aspects of the giving kiosk, creating an even stronger association between the kiosk and your church’s brand.
Note: In certain contexts, a kiosk can contribute to a more corporate feel. If your church intentionally avoids putting money into lighting, stage design, and other aesthetics, a kiosk may not be the best way to provide digital giving.
12. Church giving kiosks are relics of the digital revolution
Imagine if an event advertised that they had a “photo booth,” and when you got there, the camera was just an iPad on a stand. That’s what it’s like if your church only offers digital giving through a kiosk. People constantly make digital transactions on their phones, so when you say, “We offer digital giving options,” that’s what people have come to expect.
Many kiosks today are essentially just extremely limited tablets. They’re locked in place, and they can only perform a handful of tasks. At one point, this was highly valuable. When church giving kiosks first came out in the early 2000s, people didn’t have smartphones. The first iPhone wasn’t released until 2007. There simply wasn’t any other way to conveniently access a digital giving portal in church.
That’s far from the case today. Your church could spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars on a single giving kiosk. Or you could harness the power and convenience of the devices your congregation already has in their pockets.
13. Kiosks are like less-useful church apps
Almost anything a giving kiosk can do, a church app can do better. Digital giving has come a long way since the early 2000s, and most people already have smartphones on them at all times.
Imagine if even ten percent of your church decided to start using your digital giving solution. That’s a pretty low adoption rate, but if your only option is a kiosk, you’d still have lines of people waiting around. At Pushpay, we offer enterprise-level coaching and support (including an implementation coach) to help you get your congregation on board with your church app. And no matter how many people embrace your app, they’ll never have to wait in line to give or digitally interact with your church.
We’ve found that when churches provide a mobile giving option, 65 percent of that giving happens during the week—not over the weekend. Immediately before or after church clearly isn’t the time most people prefer to give digitally. But if a kiosk is the primary delivery system for digital giving, that’s just not an option for people.
And while kiosks can offer a great digital access point for information about your church, an app provides even greater accessibility whenever and wherever.
The one place I’d give the edge to kiosks is that they provide a designated space in your church to access digital information. This is most useful for new people because it’s easy to say, “You can do that right there,” and point them to a device that’s optimized for a handful of purposes.
At Pushpay, we believe kiosks have their place—and that’s why our online giving solution integrates with your kiosks. But their limited accessibility and functionality make them a supplemental tool, rather than a primary way for people to engage your church online.
For that, you’ll want an app. Talk to a Pushpay expert today to learn how you can implement a world-class giving app at your church.