Is a donation kiosk right for your parish? In a recent study of church giving conducted between 2015 and 2017, the traditional methods of donating (cash and check) are declining whereas electronic giving (online, credit/debit card, via bank transfer) is on the rise. The study indicates that the availability of electronic giving extends the opportunity to donate to your church to occasional attendees and those who are absent.
St. Katherine’s Greek Orthodox Church in Falls Church, VA decided electronic giving was right for its parish when it placed an encased iPad (pictured below) in the narthex of its church and began taking donations via credit card in April 2017.
The parish did its homework and learned that the kiosk could be integrated with Parish Data Software (PDS), a program used by a many parishes across the Archdiocese. “I was apprehensive at first,” said Parish Council past president Jim Stoucker, “but once I saw some of our older parishioners using it, I knew we made a good decision.”
Electronic giving has been on the rise across all age groups since 2015. Consider:
• 66 – 74 years of age: Prefer a debit or credit card for donations
• 55 – 65 years of age: Prefer electronic transfers from bank accounts
• 45 – 54 years of age: Prefer making payment via a computer or tablet
• 35 – 44 years of age: Prefer a debit or credit card for donations
• 25 – 34 years of age: Prefer to use a smart phone app for donations
The common element to all of the age groups listed above? Their donations in support of your church are made electronically. And 75 percent of Millennials (a coveted age group by all religious denominations) prefer e-giving.
At St. Katherine’s, young parishioners were early adopters. The millennial generation does not carry cash (or write checks), opting to pay with a debit or credit card. “In fact, we know that some young people are staying away from church altogether because of this,” said Fr. Jim Kordaris, Archdiocesan Director of Stewardship, Outreach and Evangelism.
St. Katherine’s teamed up with Vanco Payment Solutions to integrate the kiosk into its accounting system and the parish website as well, which mirrors and expands the capabilities of the kiosk for people who wish to donate online.
“There are one or two people who receive notifications when a donation is sent through our website and I was one of them,” said Stoucker. “I made a donation after 11 PM on New Year’s Eve 2017 and then got eight more notification emails later that night. I believe our parish is receiving donations we would have otherwise not gotten because of the kiosk and our online giving capabilities.”
Vanco provides detailed reports as the parish defines them (on a weekly or monthly basis) so it understands what donations are being made for stewardship, weekly collection trays, candles and more.
When a parishioner makes a donation for the collection tray, for example, he or she is given a receipt to place in the tray as it is passed - the same for a stewardship donation – or for a candle donation at the candle stand.
“I had one parishioner wag her finger in my face and tell me I was worse than the money changers Christ through out of the temple. And that’s okay,” added Stoucker. “The praise has been effusive. People like the convenience of the kiosk and I recommend it to other parishes without reservation.”
With Vanco, one of many companies that can provide this service, there is the cost to purchase the iPad and receipt-printing base, a monthly maintenance fee and a per transaction fee (similar to fees incurred for festival credit card charges). But parishioners have the option to offset those fees along with their donation – and often do, according to Stoucker.
“We have had inquiries about our kiosk from parishes across the country,” concluded Stoucker. “I tell the other parishes, ‘Yes, we are getting more contributions but, more importantly, we are making it easier for stewards to give and support our church.’”
If your parish is interested in learning more, please contact Effie Marie Smith, Senior Manager of the Orthodox Software Initiative of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America (212-774-0273 or [email protected]). Effie has worked with St. Katherine’s as the parish went through the process of integrating the donation kiosk into its website and PDS system.
Click HERE To view a video with Fr Kosta and Jim from St Katherine's in Falls Church explaining their process of adopting e-giving for their parish. The video is hosted by Stacey Stathulis of the Deparment and opens with some background from Effie Marie Smith who heads up the Parish Software Initiative of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.