How mobile giving needs to be easier and available

Somebody needs to solve this problem of mobile donations aka mobile giving. A few companies I know of that have. But it doesn’t do most churches and nonprofits any good if I know a few of them, they have to know about them.

It dawned on me this is an unsolved problem as I went to 7 churches over the course of Easter weekend, from Thursday to Sunday, affectionately known as the OC Easter Tour. I wanted to give as a part of worship at the churches I visited, but discovered that 5 out of 7 churches didn’t have an accessible & working mobile giving solution!

So I could only give a donation via my Android smartphone to 2 of those churches. (Like a growing segment of the American population, I don’t do cash, I don’t carry a checkbook, and I didn’t see credit card kiosks either.)14232725735_c8e09ff633_z

The 2 mobile giving solutions that I used with those 2 churches::

And the other mobile donation solutions I know of with text-initiated giving::

And this is a problem worth solving, with lots of money at stake. (Aside: Yes, I’ve got plenty of other ideas that don’t involve money-making, and that doesn’t motivate other people to work on them.) While I may not yet be the average nonprofit donor, as an early adopter, I’m probably a good profile of the fastest-growing demographic of future donors that would give donations by smartphone.

Friction discourages giving, and those UX (user experience) experts and designers can tell you every extra click or field reduces results. The following are all hurdles that get in the way of mobile giving:

  • installing an app – every extra app I have to install is making my smartphone (and on the vendor side, extra costs involved with maintaining apps on iOS and Android)
  • creating a church account – I don’t want to have to remember another username and password
  • entering my credit card number – I know the current solutions listed above require a credit card for digital payment, and what would be so much easier and more convenient is a secure & easy digital payment method that would just work and be commonly accepted by anyone; what if there was Venmo or Uber for making donations?
  • not Apple Pay or proximity-based NFC – physical checkout isn’t the typical situation for giving a donation

I realize that getting an easy-and-secure commonly-used and mass adoption mobile payment method raises all kinds of complications with technology infrastructure and security and the challenge of gaining market adoption for yet another thing. And I’d say, that’s all the more reason for having a market-leader in mobile donation. Anyone know of a solution that fits what I’m describing here?

Aside: I’ve also listed other vendors for mobile giving, both by text and by app, at cf. Mobile Giving and Online Giving for Churches


(photo credit: Image of people on their cell phones BY HomeAndGardners.com – CC BY)

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13 Responses

  1. djchuang says:

    Also read this timely Church Tech Today article, The Value of Digital Giving via Text, by Mark Schrader
    http://churchtechtoday.com/2015/04/08/value-text/

  2. Hey DJ,

    Great thoughts here. The ‘accepted by everyone’ point is probably the biggest hurdle to overcome on your list. I’d be very interested in being part of a team that tackled that problem in an ‘Uber’ type way as you suggested.

    The other point I will add is that we don’t want to create one more insider system that new attendees have to master. There’s already a big enough struggle with the lingo, learning names, finding classrooms, getting plugged in.

    We don’t want to put up barriers to getting involved with giving by things like creating logins (like you mentioned) or learning multiple text shortcodes.

    -Derek

    • djchuang says:

      Derek, thanks for adding your comment and recognizing the opportunity and challenges. I do get the sense that many companies are working on a streamlined mass-adopted mobile payment system, but the use cases tend to be limited to transactions at brick-and-mortar retail stores. To have a payment solution that’d work for both retail purchases and donations, I think that could be a winner. I know I wouldn’t want to manage 2 mobile payment systems, if I don’t have to. There’s a few that have a head start in the e-payment world, the likes of Facebook and PayPal, but it’s anyone’s game, and I think the world’s big enough for multiple payment systems, just like there are multiple credit cards. Just thinking out loud.

  3. DJ Chuang says:

    Justin Wise quote, via http://www.christianitytoday.com/parse/2015/april/building-online-community.html?start=2

    In 2015, most people are viewing the web through a smart phone. When a church refuses to update their website so people can view it easily on a mobile phone, they are communicating something. They are saying, “We do not care about you. We like our way better.” The culture responds appropriately.

    In 2015, most people are donating to charities and nonprofits online. When a nonprofit does not have a simple way for people to give online, they are communicating something. They are saying, “We do not want your money. Please go give it to another worthy cause.” The culture responds appropriately.

  4. John says:

    Great piece because consumers are used to paying for things electronically. Nelson Searcy really addresses this well from a “leadership” perspective in his book “Maximize.” A couple of items for the article though. The amount of merchant providers (even with digital channels) is not limited to the list above. There are many prevalent players in the market that you do not have included. Some of these are actually very innovative and even have the type of system you are speaking of. One way they have tacked this is to access their app. Yes its an app, but in theory you only need the one. Then each ministry or non-profit can partner with the app provider/merchant and ask to be included on their list. So when you are sitting in a service and open the app, much like a “yelp,” search, your location will bring up the church you are closest to. Then you can select the church/giving opportunity and process the gift.

    • djchuang says:

      John, thanks for your good & helpful comments. Yes, there are other mobile giving solutions using apps and texting too, so the list above is clearly not comprehensive, far from it. In the few occasions I’ve looked for online donation and mobile giving solutions, it’s been hard for me to discern which one is a reputable one, which is the market leader, which are being used by churches, etc. It would be nice to have one app that can be smart enough to know all the donation opportunities to nonprofits and to churches, that it can make it easier to give all around, maybe something like a mashup of Guidestar & Cash app.

      • John says:

        Again yes. There are so many players right now and not necessarily a clear leader. That is good and bad. I think they are constantly trying to innovate because of competition but it may also mean that 1 player may not have the resources or volume of business to take that far leap ahead.

        Do you have a preferred giving channel?

  5. Have you checked out Givelify? One app that works with every church and nonprofit in the U.S. No text message codes, no forms, just three-tap giving.

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