We are living in The Future.
It’s true. So we don’t have jet packs, flying cars, moving sidewalks, and many of the other magical inventions we used to see in cartoons and at the World’s Fair.
But rest assured, this is The Future, and one thing you didn’t see in Star Trek was people writing checks. Granted the inhabitants of The United Federation of Planets had moved beyond need or want of money.
But the point is we all have a Star Trek-style device with us. It’s not a Tricorder or a Phaser: it’s our smartphone.
Checkbook Donations Are History
All the evidence is right there in the facts: people don’t carry checkbooks anymore.
This statement comes from no less an authority than the Federal Reserve Bank. Its 2013 payment transaction study showed:
- The number of checks paid fell to 18.3 billion in 2012—less than half the number of checks paid in 2003.
- The average value of online payments was almost twice the value of checks paid.
- Card payments increased 17.8 billion from 2009-2012, while non-card payments (cash, checks) decreased by 3.1 billion.
What does this mean? Consumers are leaving cash and checks behind in favor of cards, online and mobile payments.
The simple takeaway is this: by expecting people to make donations by writing checks, your church is overlooking a huge segment of potential donors. That segment is people carrying smartphones (pretty much everybody).
The Bounced Check Bummer
Some of us are better at managing our money than others, but almost everyone has written at least one bad check. We don’t mean to do it. Sometimes it just happens.
Regardless of your donors’ good intentions, your church will receive a bad donation check from time to time. With that NSF usually comes a fee from your bank (some banks offer exemptions to churches) and a laundry list of accounting headaches.
Your financial administrator has to return the check, write or send a boiler plate letter to the donor explaining what happened, include a copy of the check, and keep a copy for your church’s records. Then the donation must be deducted from the register, etc.
The Money Hustle Hassle
How much time does it take to process checks? More than you might think. If you’re not sure just ask your treasurer.
Donation checks must be manually tabulated and entered into the rolls. Then they must be endorsed, a deposit slip filled out, and then taken to the bank.
All of this takes precious time you could be using for something else.
Credit card swipers and giving kiosks are good options for accepting electronic donations when your supporters are physically present. Online donation forms are also great for those perusing your website.
Mobile donation apps tend to offer the best of both worlds for those who are physically present to donate and those who aren’t.
No one donation solution fits all, but by offering a combination of all of them you are encouraging active, repeat giving.