Seventy-four percent of churches across the U.S. now offer ways for congregants to give online, according to a recent Dunham+Company/Campbell Rinker study. As recently as 2015, just 42% of U.S. churches enabled online giving.
This proportion grows to nearly 9 out of 10 among churches with congregations of 200 or more, up from 70% in 2015. However, the greatest increase appears among smaller churches.
Churches with fewer than 200 weekly attendees offering online giving more than doubled from 29% in 2015 to 59% in 2017. Churches offering the option of online giving with an annual budget of less than $250,000 doubled from 27% to 54%, and those with fewer than three paid staff jumped from 30% offering online giving in 2015 to 58% in 2017.
Despite the jump in the percentage of churches offering online giving as an option, it still represents only 15% of overall church giving, up from 12% in 2015. This increase has come from larger churches.
“In 2015, we stated that it was imperative for churches wanting to increase their income to not only provide a way to give online, but to become more effective in promoting and making online giving convenient,” says Trent Dunham, President of Dunham+Company. “Clearly larger churches are making that a priority while smaller churches are still struggling – even though the percentage who are offering the option to give online has basically doubled.”
Methods of promoting online giving have changed little. Roughly the same proportion of churches use their website, e-mail or service bulletin to encourage giving outside the plate.
The proportion who talk about the option to give online during services, however, has grown from 52% to 65% since 2015. Twenty-two percent also use their welcome center to broadcast the option to give online, and 21% use a church app.
Larger churches are far more likely to use a website (91% vs. 65%), app (29% vs. 9%) or welcome center (25% vs. 16%) to promote online giving than churches with fewer than 200 weekly attendees.
Eighty percent of donations to smaller churches (fewer than 3 staff, 200 in attendance and $250,000 in annual budget) still come through the offering plate. In 2015, that was 81%, so no real change. And online donations to smaller congregations have actually stalled or dropped slightly, from 12% in 2015 to 8% in 2017.
By contrast, the larger churches saw donations through the offering plate drop to 74% in 2017 from more than 80% in 2015 and online donations nearly double from 12% in 2015 to 22% in 2017. It’s possible that the driver to this increase in online giving is giving through kiosks and apps.
“Although smaller churches have begun to adopt online giving as an option, it’s clear that the trend is not catching on with congregants,” Dunham says. “That could be the result of not promoting the option effectively, the demographics of the smaller church not aligning with online transactions as much, not having giving kiosks or apps like larger churches, or the technology they use making the user experience of giving online too difficult… or some combination of all of these factors.”
Campbell Rinker conducted the online study of church leaders and administrators in August and September 2017. A total of 512 respondents answered these questions about church software, curriculum, and other church practices. This sample delivers an overall margin of error of ±4.3% at the 95% confidence level.