Streamlining Church Giving with Cutting-Edge Technology
In today’s increasingly cashless society, congregations are coming to realize that debit and credit card processing terminals are useful tools for receiving offerings from givers who don’t carry paper money anymore. These terminals are also valuable for fundraising dinners, event registrations and bazaars.
To collect the offering, trained volunteers can carry terminals before and after services, or stand in a specific location in the narthex or fellowship hall during the coffee time. If your church is willing to expend the extra money for a larger terminal, it can even be set-up as a stand-alone kiosk that donors can use without the assistance of a trained volunteer. This enables donors to discreetly contribute as they enter or exit the church.
When accepting card-in-person donations, there needs to be a system to capture or confirm the contact information needed for the charitable tax receipt. Typically, contact data can be retrieved from the system for repeat donors. All transaction data is available online through your PC or Mac web browser. A secure online dashboard associated with the terminal allows you to upload a list of regular donors to your donor database, making it easy to quickly search and locate a donor’s contact information when needed. Index cards could be created for donors to fill out with their home address, email and phone numbers. These could be given to new donors by the volunteers or put beside the terminal. Repeat donors could be told only to fill one out when their contact information changes.
Ease of Bookkeeping
Credit and debit card terminals can make bookkeeping easier by providing streamlined financial reporting. Transactions made through terminals are automatically recorded and organized and transaction data often integrates seamlessly with popular accounting software, reducing human error and enhancing accuracy and transparency for recording donations. Payment card industry compliance and security standards help protect sensitive donor information and mitigate the risk of data breaches. Funds from card transactions are typically deposited into the church’s bank account within a few business days.
Multiple competitors offer card terminals, each with unique features. For security reasons, we don’t recommend that churches acquire the less expensive “reader” devices that connect to mobile phones as transactions should not be processed through an app on a volunteer’s personal cell phone and the cost of acquiring a mobile for the church is greater than that of a stand-alone terminal.
Below is a table which outlines the features and prices of stand-alone terminals from Square, Clover and Stripe, three competitors in the Canadian market. Currently, we have found that both Square and Clover offer terminals that offer good value for low-volume users like churches. (Despite the lower initial outlay, the Stripe terminal lacks a built-in printer, and its fee structure can be as much as 70% higher for a normal church.) All three of these competitors sell their terminals outright, which is preferable for most churches. We don’t recommend terminals that charge monthly rental fees. For example, the Moneris Go terminal charges a monthly rental fee of $30. By the second year, the cumulative rental fee of a Moneris unit surpasses the cost of buying a terminal outright from a competitor.
Training a greeter to operate a credit card terminal is a straightforward process. They can help donors quickly navigate the familiar screens required to complete transactions with their debit or credit cards. Both Square and Clover Flex terminals can print receipts and offer a tap-to-give option, which is particularly advantageous in our post-COVID-19 world.
Square, Stripe, or Clover all sell their terminals for a flat fee and then charge processing fees for each donation based on the way the transaction is given. This eliminates the burden of a flat monthly fee when the terminals aren’t being used, which is especially helpful for churches that experience periods of inactivity during the summer.
Credit Card Transactions
The fees charged by financial services companies for credit card transactions depend on the number of transactions and the method used to gather card information. Since churches usually have only a few transactions per week, the fees are not as low as they are for big retailers. Clover offers PCC churches a transaction fee of 2.40%. Square charges 2.65% and Stripe charges 2.9% plus 30¢ for in-person tap, dip, or swipe. (See table below)
Interac (Debit) Transactions
If your terminal has internet access (by using the church Wi-Fi system or hot spotting a cell phone), debit card gifts can be made over the Interac network. Transaction fees are much lower over the Interac network. (Clover charges the lowest fee, at $0.10 per Interac transaction.) When the terminal is offline, debit card donations must be processed by the VISA Debit or Debit Mastercard network, which usually have the same fee structure as credit cards. The same applies when card information is manually keyed in rather than “tap, dipped or swiped”.
Terminal devices come with full instructions. Setting up the device and conducting a test donation before your first gathering is essential. Keep in mind that devices often require charging and firmware updates when first taken out of the box, which can take several hours. To ensure a smooth experience, allocate at least 24 hours for device setup and testing before the first time you want to use it in a public setting. We recommend that someone make a small donation to ensure the device is working at least a day before its first use during worship or at an event.
More Than Just Terminals
Most financial service providers that offer debit and credit card terminals often provide additional features, such as the ability to place button-links to donation pages on websites. This allows people to contribute remotely, without having an additional system to process the donations. Furthermore, churches can print and display QR codes in the narthex or on envelopes and worship bulletins, allowing donors to access an online donation form by scanning the code using a personal mobile device. This not only fosters convenience but also enhances donor and volunteer safety by minimizing physical contact.
Credit and debit card terminals help churches promote healthy stewardship. By offering convenient and accessible ways to give, members are encouraged to actively participate in supporting the church’s mission and ministries. The ease of making donations through card terminals can contribute to a culture of generosity within the church community.
|Financial Services Comparison
|Stand-alone Terminal Cost
|Incl. built-in printer?
|Kiosk-capable terminal available?
|Credit Transaction charges
|Tap, dip or swipe
||2.9% + $0.30
||2.9% + $0.38
|Card not present (i.e. online)
|Manually entered cards
||3.4% + $0.15
||2.9% + $0.35
|In-person and online (tap or dip)
||0.75% plus $0.07
Comparing In-person Giving Solutions