Background and Important Facts
I am the steward of EGIVE LLC which provides a turnkey, web based, electronic giving service for churches and not for profits throughout the United States of America. Egive began in 2004 and has continuously changed since then. When we first started I was opposed to giving using credit cards and we offered only an ACH (automated clearing house) otherwise known as eCheck form of giving from checking accounts. I was opposed to credit card giving because I felt the cost was too high and that it would be poor stewardship for eGive to offer churches this option. I was also concerned about the possibility that givers might incur credit card debt that could not be repaid and did not want eGive to be a source of financial difficulty for givers.
A few of the churches using the eGive system began to contact me about the possibility of accepting credit card giving. They felt this decision on whether or not to offer credit card giving should be up to them and that their members should be able to give using any available method. Some of the churches cited statistics that credit card giving would increase giving through the online channel and that the average gift by credit card was higher than by ACH. People were accustomed to doing business over the Internet by credit card and had an aversion to providing their checking account number online. The perception was that somehow credit card giving was safer than using their checking account to give online. I disagree with this perception because the ACH network is more difficult to access than the credit card network (the main reason is that credit cards are accepted by almost all online and store front businesses opening up far more ways to perpetrate fraud as well as networks where card information is sold to multiple purchasers). Although the rules for how fraudulent credit card transactions and ACH transactions are slightly different they both protect the consumer and place the risk of loss on the financial institution originating the transactions or in some rare cases on the business accepting the funds. If you are using credit cards or ACH you will generally receive refunds for transactions that you do not authorize.
Should Credit Cards Be Used For Giving
An important decision had to be made on whether or not eGive should accept credit cards for giving. Like any other important decision I prayed for God to help me with this decision. I believe that my prayers were answered clearly the very next morning by email. An angry giver fired off an email to me the same evening that I prayed for God’s guidance on this decision. The email basically said that this giver would NOT use eGive because we did not accept credit cards like everyone else. I decided that eGive should begin offering giving by credit card in addition to ACH. Egive does not push churches to accept credit cards for giving and if the church does not want to accept credit cards we hide that option so the giver does not know credit card giving is a possibility. We intentionally designed the system so that eGive would not be a source of givers requesting the capability of giving by credit card. We inform the churches of this capability and leave the decision up to them.
What is the Effect of Offering Credit Card Giving
During the past few years we have discovered that credit card giving is a must have for all not for profits other than churches. Each church is unique but the credit card giving average per gift is higher than ACH giving. The churches that accept credit cards generally receive over 50% of their gifts by credit card and most churches that added credit card giving to ACH giving more than doubled their electronic giving. There have not been any organizations using the eGive system that have disputed the claim that credit card giving would pay for itself by increasing giving and we have not had any complaints by givers about credit card giving so my fears of people giving more than they could repay appear to be unfounded. The complaint we receive the most often is because a church does not accept credit cards. These complaints are forwarded to the church for consideration.
What to do?
Like I said, each church is unique and each situation is different. I believe the decision of whether to accept credit cards for offerings is one that you and your leadership team should pray about and decide based upon the response you receive from the Holy Spirit.