How to Choose the Right Tithing Software for Your Church
July 24, 2018 |
In general, more of our day-to-day tasks are becoming automated and digitized, and the church has felt this in major ways. From online giving to nurturing online communities, the ways in which we communicate and relate to church members and staff alike are evolving. Online giving through church apps and online platforms is transforming the way people give financially.
A tithing software not only simplifies giving, but also helps churches record and analyze tithing information. Whether your church has twenty members or several thousand, a tithing program does more than eliminate tedious weekly tasks— it can even increase giving.
Most churches today offer some type of online tithing, whether that’s a form on their website, a giving kiosk, text-to-give, or a church app. Each of these solutions has unique strengths, and many tithing programs bundle these services to give churches multiple options.
Before you start digging into the various companies that develop tithing software, you need to think about the features you need, and how each choice will affect your congregation and your staff. This is your complete guide to choosing a tithing software.
In this guide, we’ll break down:
- The biggest benefits of having a tithing software
- How tithing programs affect your church
- How to identify the features you need
- Other factors that help you make the right choice for your church
But first, there’s an important question we need to address…
Is Tithing Software Right for Your Church?
Churches have to worry about more than just the financial impact of their choices. Pastors and church staff need to think about the spiritual implications of tithing software, and how they feel about allowing people to give via credit card.
Here are three questions you need to answer:
1. Does tithing software make giving “less spiritual”?
Every weekend, the vast majority of churches still pass the offering plate, and church members make a conscious decision to put money in it. Some people feel that this physical act is more spiritual than tithing online.
But when the Bible talks about tithing, it’s pretty clear that God cares a lot more about what happens in our hearts than what happens in our hands. People can give just as intentionally with their phone as they can with their wallet. And since tithing is a private decision between each person and God, why not make it a more private ritual? When people can give whenever, wherever, there’s a lot less external pressure to give out of guilt.
That means making it easy for people to donate privately is a critical factor to consider when choosing a tithing software. But there are several other key factors to take stock of when looking to implement a giving platform. Discover everything you need to know to choose the right platform for your church. Download the free The Church technology Buyer’s Guide today.
2. Is it okay for people to tithe with a credit card?
Seven out of ten Americans have at least one credit card. Most people carry $50 or less in cash. And people write fewer checks every year. Credit and debit cards are the preferred payment method. They’re the most convenient by far.
But many Americans are also drowning in debt. So should churches allow people to tithe with credit cards?
According to Nonprofit Source, eight out of ten people who give to churches have zero credit card debt.
While it’s true that credit cards can be abused, they aren’t intrinsically evil. Many people regularly use credit cards and pay off the debt each month. So the question is: When it comes to how your church talks about debt, do you tell people not to use credit cards, or do you teach them how to use credit responsibly?
That’s up to your church staff to decide. But keep in mind: If you prevent people from tithing with credit cards, you are creating a barrier between your church members’ desire and ability to be generous. And the harder it is to act on a desire to be generous, the less likely people are to do it.
It’s important to remember that debit and credit cards offer similar convenience, but they function very differently. While a credit card has to be paid off each month, a debit card takes money directly from your checking account. For people who have trouble managing debt, debit cards offer a healthy alternative.
One more thing you’ll want to think about before investing in tithing software: Is your church ready for it?
3. How do you know if your church is ready to tithe online?
89 percent of Americans use the internet. And hundreds of millions of people read the Bible on their phones. Take a look at how many people use YouVersion—just one of the many Bible apps people download.
If your congregation already reads the Bible on their phones, they’re already using digital tools for spiritual discipline. Send out a survey or take a quick show of hands to see how many people already use their phones this way.
If people ask you how to give online or how to find your church app, that’s another clear sign that it’s time to go digital. Those questions mean they expect you to have it.
A decrease in giving can mean a lot of things. But it doesn’t necessarily mean people aren’t willing or interested in giving. It might mean you’re simply not letting them use their money the way they do everywhere else.
For how many other situations do your church members regularly write checks? How often do they take more than $20 out of the ATM? If your members have to work harder to accommodate the way your church handles money, you’ve got it backwards, and it shouldn’t be a surprise that giving is going the wrong direction, too.
Once you’ve decided your church is ready to consider online giving options, it’s time to look into the major benefits of tithing software. These are the things you’ll want to keep in mind as you’re exploring what’s out there.
4 KEY BENEFITS OF A TITHING SOFTWARE FOR CHURCH COMMUNITIES
Every tithing software is a little different, but they all provide the same major benefits:
1. ONLINE TITHING SIMPLIFIES GIVING
This is probably the single greatest benefit of tithing software: It removes barriers to tithing by making it as easy as possible to give. Every person has their own spiritual barriers to overcome, but remembering to bring their checkbook to church or to stop at the bank shouldn’t be one of those barriers. Tithing software makes donating to your church as easy as any other transaction.
Pushpay’s tithing app lets a first-time giver tithe online in seconds. They can also save their information to give faster next time, or even set up recurring giving so future tithing happens automatically. They can choose the date to process the transaction to make sure it happens right after payday, too.
With the exception of church giving kiosks, tithing software lets your congregation give wherever they are. People don’t have to be physically at church to tithe.
2. TITHING SOFTWARE INCLUDES AUTOMATIC PROCESSING
When someone tithes online, nobody has to collect an envelope, count bills, enter anything into a spreadsheet, or drive to the bank. Your tithing software automatically processes the transaction, provides a receipt or confirmation, and keeps a record of the payment.
This saves your staff time every week, and it ensures that you have the most accurate records possible. There’s no opportunity for money to get lost or stolen because it goes directly from your members’ account to yours.
3. CHURCH GIVING SOFTWARE PROVIDES BETTER DATA
Right now, how long would it take you to look into giving trends in your church over the last few months? Or to see the average amount people give? Or to find the days and services people give most often?
Tithing software not only processes everything automatically, but it records dates, times, amounts, and other data that you can use to explore giving trends in your church. Nobody has to manually “crunch the numbers,” because you already have them. Instantly.
Most tithing software programs provide basic analytics, and some can help you draw out advanced insights about tithing in your church.
4. GIVING APPS AND SOFTWARE INTEGRATES WITH OTHER TOOLS
Churches can rarely rely on one piece of software to do everything they need. Most churches have tools like accounting software and church management software. Most tithing software integrates with tools like these to simplify tasks like year-end giving statements and other tithing-related tasks.
For reference, here are all the tools Pushpay integrates with.
When you’re comparing tithing software options, pay attention to how well they deliver on each of these benefits.
HOW TITHING SOFTWARE AFFECTS YOUR CHURCH’S GIVING HABITS
With any major change you roll out, you obviously have to think about what will change. The tithing software you choose will affect your staff and your congregation in different ways.
1. How it affects your congregation
If you don’t currently have an online giving solution, any tithing software will make giving easier for your congregation. But online giving can mean a lot of things:
- Will they only be able to give at a kiosk?
- Will giving happen via text?
- Is it an app?
- Do you need to point them to a page on your website?
The logistics of how your church members actually use your tithing software greatly impact its usefulness.
Church giving kiosks can be a great supplement to your digital giving strategy, but if that’s the only way people can give, you’re missing one of the major benefits of tithing software: People can only give when your doors are open.
Many churches want the option to use text-to-give, but think about your first-time givers, or the people who aren’t sure how they feel about online giving. Most people are already skeptical about interacting with unfamiliar phone numbers, and you won’t have the benefit of your church’s branding to visually reassure them that their money is going straight to your church.
Unlike text-to-give, an app provides a total engagement solution by connecting your church members to everything else your church does.
With any tithing software, you’ll want to think about how long it takes your congregation to give each time, and how complicated it is for them to learn. The more steps there are, the less likely your members are to actually use the software. That’s why at Pushpay, we make sure first-time gifts take seconds, not minutes.
2. How it affects your staff
Your first priority when choosing tithing software should be providing the best giving experience for your congregation—but you don’t want to create headaches for your staff, either. Your staff will use your tithing software in a completely different way than your members.
Some tithing software programs are pretty hands-off, and your staff won’t have to actually do much with them. This sounds convenient, but it means you’re more disconnected from what’s going on in the backend, so when you want to change something, you’ve got to make a phone call.
Other programs, such as options that include church app builders, give you more control, but if the interface is clunky or complicated, your staff may get frustrated every time they open it. This is why you always want to test software out (or at least watch some videos) before you get too invested. (You can schedule a free demo of Pushpay here.)
You’ll also want to find out how often customer service and technical support is available. If you can’t get help when you need it on weekends and holidays, you probably want to find another option.
Emergencies aren’t all you want support for, either. Some tithing software companies only help your staff with setup. Others (like us) provide ongoing support to make sure you’re getting the most out of your software. At Pushpay, our world-class support team includes implementation coaches, customer success managers, technical support, admin support, and user support staff.
HOW TO IDENTIFY THE TITHING SOFTWARE FEATURES YOU NEED
Most tithing software programs offer the same handful of features, but some offer pretty advanced tools, too. Sometimes features are bundled, and other times you get to choose what you want and leave out what you don’t. Your price range can also limit the features you can afford.
So how do you know what you need? Here are three questions to ask:
1. Which giving option(s) do you want?
For starters, think about the giving options you want to provide your congregation. This comes back to the kind of experience you want to create for your members.
It’s okay if you’re not sure what the ideal option is. Speed and convenience should definitely be huge factors. You’ll also want to think about what’s most familiar to your congregation. Which option is most similar to how they make other transactions?
Part of what makes digital giving important to have is that it gives people another option. If you don’t know which giving method you prefer, you probably want to choose a tithing software that offers several choices at the same price point, rather than one that forces you to rely on a single type of online giving.
Some giving options (like kiosks) work better as a secondary option. You’ll probably want something that’s at least mobile-friendly, but ideally you want a giving method that was designed for mobile, such as text-to-give or a giving app.
If you have a larger digital strategy that involves creating an online community or distributing content (such as sermons, devotionals, or blog posts), you probably want a church app that combines the simplicity of mobile giving with the engagement capabilities of an app.
2. Would your church benefit from integration?
It’s also important to pay attention to which tools each software program integrates with. If your tithing software doesn’t talk to your accounting software, you miss out on a big benefit to your staff when it comes time for reporting. If it doesn’t connect to your church management software, then you have to manually upload that information (or go back and forth between tools) to look at overlaps between giving and engagement.
But maybe you don’t have a lot of other tools, and this is your first big software purchase. Integration may not be important to you right now, but you’ll at least want to pay attention to what options you’ll have down the road.
3. What does your digital presence look like?
If your church website still looks like it’s from the 90s, and your web traffic is barely a trickle, you may not care whether your tithing software can help you reach people online. But if you have a blog, live stream, sermon archive, devotional, podcast, or other materials available online, you might want to think about a tithing software platform that includes a church app.
A church app couples engagement with giving. People use the app to interact with your content, and all the while, they’re just a few taps away from donating to your church. That means when they feel inspired to give after watching your sermon or listening to your podcast, they can act on that inspiration immediately. As people become more engaged with your digital content, it creates more opportunities to give.
Those are some of the key choices you’ll need to make when it comes to features. If you need help deciding what your church needs, check out our comparison page to see how Pushpay stacks up against the competition, or give us a call to talk about how each feature actually affects your church.
ADDITIONAL ADVICE FOR CHOOSING TITHING SOFTWARE FOR YOUR CHURCH
Read and Watch Tithing Software Reviews
When you see what real customers say about a product, it reinforces the biggest benefits of that product and provides a story you can relate to. You might listen to a pastor talk about their pain points and think, “That sounds just like my church.”
As you read and watch reviews, try to identify the common themes.
- What does everybody say about this company or this product?
- Equally important: What are people not saying about them?
These insights are especially helpful when you’ve narrowed your choices to two or three options.
Be sure to talk to pastors and church leaders you know, too. The more you know about their situation and how it compares to yours, the more helpful their feedback is. See what churches are saying about us.
TITHING & GIVING SOFTWARE: TRY BEFORE YOU BUY
The last thing you want is to invest in a tithing software and discover that it’s just not going to work for you. Each of the top tithing software companies we mentioned above offers an opportunity for you to explore the actual product before you invest in it.
At Pushpay, we’ve personally demonstrated our church apps to thousands of churches. We give every church a private demonstration so you can get the one-on-one attention your church deserves, and we can talk through the specific needs of your church. Schedule your demo today.
FINAL THOUGHTS: TAKE YOUR TIME
The tithing software you choose has a long-term impact on your church. It’s a tool you should plan to use for years to come. Once you’re invested in a platform, it becomes a lot harder to pull the plug and switch to a new one, so it’s worth taking the time to thoroughly explore your options.
We’re confident that once you experience the way we proactively support the churches we serve, you won’t want to use anything else. But we also want to help you make the choice that’s right for your church. Discover everything you need to know when considering giving platform options for your ministry. Download the free Church technology Buyer’s Guide today!