Thursday, November 18, 2010

(empo-tymshft) SecureGive - donations in the 21st century

I finally found a Facebook ad that intrigued me. Now that Facebook has quit presenting French-language ads, I'm seeing some more relevant stuff, and I wanted to write about one of the advertised products, SecureGive.

First, I read about them:

SECUREGIVE is the original donation kiosk company. Dr Marty Baker, founding pastor of Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, GA came up with the idea in 2003 when he realized very few folks walk into church with a checkbook anymore. His goal was to meet the need of his church.

Depending upon the practices of any particular church, the church may accept regularly scheduled offerings, and it may also have one-off fundraisers. The old practice was to prepare a check before going to church for the offering, and then to either write a check or fish out a few bucks for the fundraisers.

Well, times have changed, and everyone has moved to the fantastic plastic and/or online financial transactions. Church offerings, for example, may be done by electronic transfer. But what about fundraisers? In a world in which many small businesses refuse to take checks, it's ridiculous to expect a church volunteer to do so. And some churches are just too small to sign up for standard credit card handling.

Perhaps this may not affect an aging church, but church demographics are obviously going to skew younger as time goes on (unless the church dies). And there are some clear differences between the young and the old:

We hope your organization is receiving cash and check donations for many years to come, but if that’s all you’re receiving, you’re probably missing out untold amounts of missed revenue. A groundbreaking Federal Reserve Study released in December of 2007 has shown a sharp and consistent decline in the use of paper checks and cash for all transactions since the year 2000 and this trend is expected to continue. Currently, 90% of people under age 35 carry a debit card but the vast majority of this same demographic does not consistently carry a check book. Our culture is moving away from traditional “paper” transactions and organizations that don’t respond may be left behind.

(Off-topic aside. Left behind? Heh. Steven Creek's core values don't get into that level of detail, although my church does.)

For part of the solution, SecureGive offers several kiosk configurations that can be set up to handle transactions. In addtion, SecureGive supports online giving.

One postscript that is outside of the realm of technology - back in 2006, Brad Richert expressed some concerns about the set-up of SecureGive in relation to Matthew 21:12-13. This is (part of) what he said:

Sure, there is no difference between using my debit card at a gas station and for giving tithing. Churches should not be afraid of change. The problem though is that change, as many Christians know, is not inherently positive. Mr. Baker’s proclaims that his motives are innocent: bringing the church into the 21st century. If this was true, I would pat him on the back. However, the fact that he is making a business out of tithing pretty much puts him into the “money changers” category, don’t you think?

Marty Baker responded in a comment:

About profiting from the percentage: Yes when a [person] uses a credit card a few pennies will flow to SecureGive. What most of our installations have opted for is Debit Card Giving. With a debit card, the church would pay [approximately] a dollar for the donation regardless of the size. A thousand dollar tithe would cost a dollar to process.

I don't think those fees are going to permit the Lord to buy Baker a Mercedes-Benz. (His friends may not have Porsches, so he may not have to make amends.) And anyway, the church preaches the concept of downward mobility - words that are definitely heretical in a secular business blog.
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