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Church Giving Kiosks: Is There a Place for Web-Based Giving in the Church?
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By Tami Cinquemani
 
I believe it was in the late Nineties when I saw the billboard. It was a large picture of a VHS-style video player. Next to it was a photo of a cell phone. The caption read, “Remember when you didn’t think you needed a video player either?” The message was clear: Even if you don’t realize it now, cell phones will become as common as video players. I remember shaking my head, confident my digital pager was all I would ever need and certain cell phones were an unnecessary extravagance.
 
Fast-forward almost 20 years, and I’m the first person to turn my car around and return home if I’ve forgotten my cell phone. This “unnecessary extravagance” has become another vital appendage for myself as well as most of the people I know. Technology is an amazing, quickly evolving, and essential part of our world. Any business—and any church—that desires to remain relevant and engaged with current culture is confronted with a decision whether to embrace technological progress or become obsolete.
 
Enter web-based giving.
 
A 2014 study by the Federal Reserve[i] revealed that:
 
  • Fifty-two percent of smartphone owners with a bank account have used mobile banking in the 12 months prior to the survey, up from 51 percent a year earlier.
  • Twenty-two percent of all mobile phone owners reported having made a mobile payment in the 12 months prior to the survey, up from 17 percent in 2013 and 15 percent in 2012.
 
The ability to make payments remotely has drastically changed the way we do our banking and, like it or not, this directly affects the way the giving population of the church is engaged in paying a regular tithe and offering.
 
“The use of mobile banking has increased substantially in the past year and appears likely to continue to increase as more consumers use smartphones or recognize the convenience of this service, and as more financial institutions offer mobile banking.”[ii]
 
With the intention of offering their attenders the greatest convenience in giving a faithful tithe and offering, the Florida Hospital Church (FHC) installed two Giving Kiosks® in their foyer in 2011. FHC Church Administrator, John Monday, began the process by meeting with the church staff. According John, “We realized that few people under 40 carry cash. It has long been a philosophy of the Hospital Church to simply remove barriers. We concluded that to not provide people the ability to donate to the church in the same way that they pay for everything else was unwise and unnecessarily regressive.”
 
At the time, John investigated a variety of online giving providers, but he’s sure the number of options has increased in the last four years. In 2011, Giving Kiosks® appeared to have the longest track record and most attractive interface.
 
Considering the number of people who regularly access online banking, FHC believed offering the kiosks would result in an increase in giving. During the first year the kiosks were in place, giving rose approximately 10%, but it was difficult to confirm a direct correlation to know how much kiosk giving was redirected from previous conventional giving methods. However, the giving received on the kiosk matched almost exactly the amount of the increase.
 
During the first year of use, the kiosks were used only for in-house (lobby) giving. After the first year, however, FHC began using the kiosk provider to collect all online giving as well. Currently, between 50% and 60% of total giving to FHC comes through the kiosk.
 
Installation of the kiosks was a fairly simply process. The system operates in harmony with the church’s merchant services provider, and Giving Kiosks® handled the biggest technical challenge of coordinating with them to get the system fully functional.
 
Anticipating some may be concerned about this new method of payment being available in the church foyer on Sabbath morning, the congregation was prepared in advance for its arrival. A letter to the membership, bulletin article, and educational video offered insight into exactly how and why the Giving Kiosks would be made available. On the first Saturday after installation, the worship host’s offering appeal addressed the reality of how the medium of exchange has morphed over the years. Drawing from Scripture, where followers of God were directed to bring in a tithe of mint, sheep, oxen, etc., the host explained how methods and mediums of paying tithe have changed over the years, allowing for cultural adaptations. The Giving Kiosks were simply a continuation of this long-understood process. Whether it was due to this intentional method of informing the church or simply the culture at the Florida Hospital Church of embracing innovation in worship, no criticism or push-back was encountered.
 
Leasing the kiosks costs $100 per month with an additional $50 per month for the software that runs the machine. Alternately, kiosks are available for purchase, or churches can build their own system and simply pay the monthly software fee. Essentially, the kiosk is a touchscreen PC.
 
There are always pros and cons to new technology. The Giving Kiosks® are no exception. On the pro side, there is an option of eight active giving lines that can be added or removed from the kiosk through any computer, or even a cell phone, in less than two minutes. This allows for the addition of lines for specific offerings, disaster relief, church functions, etc.
 
A new feature recently added has been the ability to set up recurring giving. This allows people to set their giving to automatically repeat weekly, monthly, bi-monthly, or every other week. Giving Kiosk® additionally offers the benefit of accurate reporting.
 
There are also some challenges with the kiosks. Once entered into the system, the local administrator cannot remove a giver’s name, and the kiosk company must be contacted. The limit of eight active giving lines can also be a problem. Though unlimited inactive lines are available, recurring giving can only be set up on active lines. If recurring giving is set up and the line is deactivated, the recurring giving is discontinued without notice to the giver or the church.
 
When asked what advice he would give to churches considering moving this direction, John strongly suggests, “Do it!” However, he advises churches to do their homework. “Four years is an eternity for technology. There may be better systems available including giving systems that integrate with church databases. This kind of integration is readily available for congregational churches but more challenging for SDA churches. I believe there are now ways to overcome those challenges, and FHC will soon be investigating our next steps for electronic giving.”
 
Tami Cinquemani is the Worship Director at the Florida Hospital Church and has her Masters in Worship Studies.  She is also a writer, actor, and compulsive organizer.  Tami has a passion for worship that is authentic, relevant and Spirit-led and enjoys crafting worship experiences for those in relationship with Jesus as well those who want to explore the possibility.
 
 
Additional Resources:
Letter to Church
 
April 12, 2011
 
Dear Church,
 
In Bible times, and for centuries after, people brought gifts for God’s work in the form of animals from their herds or produce from their gardens. Over time, this tradition disappeared. People came to use some form of money as the approved means of exchange, and monetary gifts were brought to church. Eventually, the banking system came into place and most people wrote checks as the means to return their tithe and give offerings.
 
I’m a regular tithe-returning and offering-giving member of the Hospital Church, but for several years I haven’t written a check to the church. Each month when I pay my bills with online banking, I have the bank send money to the church, and I attach a note as to where I want the funds to go.
 
Recently, we realized that while many of us write checks, use online banking or even online giving at our church website, that still doesn’t make it convenient to give by credit or debit card while at church on Sabbath. More and more people rarely carry cash or even a check book.
 
To illustrate, recently John Monday, one of our staff, took his son Luke, and they headed out to get a haircut. Before leaving the office, they decided to visit a real “barber shop,” not some salon. John went on his Google phone and pulled up “barber shops,” noting the five shops closest to the church, and they were off. It took four stops to find a barber shop that would take a credit or debit card! After they left the first “cash only” shop, Luke looked up at his dad and said, “Cash? Only old people carry money!” (Made me feel old because I always like a little cash in my pocket.)
 
The point is that, regardless of the need, appeal, cause or desire, if there is no way to take debit or credit cards, many of you cannot give while at church on Sabbath. To remedy this situation, we are installing “Giving Kiosks” in the lobby of the church building. Our finance committee has processed this, we have worked carefully with the Florida Conference Treasurer, researched other churches that have made this move, and our conclusion is this will be convenient for members and good for improved giving.
 
Just like when you use your credit card or debit card for any other purpose, there are merchant fees charged to the church ranging from approximately 2-3%. If you wish, you may give that much extra to cover the fees involved. If you use the giving kiosk you, will receive an immediate receipt and, just like all other givers, you will receive a year-end summary of your giving each January for the previous year.
 
If this is a tool you can use, we are glad to make it available. For those of you already using other means of giving, please continue your faithful support of the ministries of the Hospital Church.
 
Thank you,
 
Andy McDonald
 



 
Bulletin Announcement

 
 
Offering Appeal Video

 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 
 
 
[i] Consumers and Mobile Financial Services 2015, accessed August 12, 2015, http://www.federalreserve.gov/econresdata/consumers-and-mobile-financial-services-report-201503.pdf
[ii] Ibid., 27.