Foundation steps up to meet need for online giving

July 28, 2020 by Robyn Davis Sekula

In a typical month, the Presbyterian Foundation’s online services team receives 12 to 15 online giving applications.

But there’s been absolutely nothing typical about 2020.

The online giving service program operated by the Foundation allows churches and ministries related to the PC(USA) to receive online donations. The Foundation handles the back office and administration, processing credit card or debit card transactions and ACH drafts, and makes a monthly deposit in the church or ministry’s bank account. The Foundation charges a 2 percent fee for this service.

Online giving services became a much more attractive proposition when the world went into quarantine, and churches stopped meeting in person in March as COVID-19 spread rapidly. Churches that did not offer online giving suddenly knew they needed it, and many reached out to the Foundation for help.

While January brought 13 applications, February brought 16. March was when the uptick began, with 162 applications from churches.

And in April, 321 applications flooded in from churches – more than the Foundation processed in all of 2019.

“The sheer volume of applications was simply staggering,” says Tom Taylor, President and CEO of the Presbyterian Foundation. “When we established this program in 2012, we knew it would be helpful, but we had no idea how absolutely vital it would be for congregations.”

Working remotely

At this same time, the Foundation itself was shifting into working remotely. The online services team of three was working overtime, literally, to get the applications processed and online giving systems up and going for churches. Other team members from operations pitched in, too, to help keep up with demand.

The program has grown exponentially every year. “This year will no doubt beat them all,” Taylor says. “This team has done an incredible job of working together to serve churches, supporting them as they navigated through offering non-traditional means of giving.”

The online services team has other duties beyond just setting up online giving accounts. They handle other types of accounts that the Foundation offers, and also helps existing clients with questions. The volume of questions ticked upward significantly during the pandemic as churches wanted to know what options they had with the online giving accounts, and if they could set up ministry-specific accounts for various purposes (yes, that’s possible).

Operations team pulls together

Some operations team members worked as long as 18 hours each day to get applications processed and accounts set up, and a few even handed out personal cell phone numbers to churches and ministries to be available to answer questions.

“It took all of us working together in these extraordinary circumstances to meet this challenge,” says Shonita Bossier, Vice President of Operations for the Foundation. “It’s awesome that we could provide these services to churches and ministries and can still continue to do so.”

Through April 2020, the Foundation has processed $9.4 million in gifts to congregations and ministries through the online giving funds. The total for all of 2019 was $7.9 million.

“This shows that Presbyterians are incredibly generous, even in tough times when they themselves may not be prospering,” Taylor says. “They just need to be provided with the means to give.”

Deanna Powell, Clerk of The Community Church of New Boston, N.H., wrote an email to Taylor just after her own church signed up for the service. She is appreciative of its simplicity and availability. “By offering this service, I think people will appreciate the ease of giving,” Powell says. “The younger generation has been living in a cashless and, really, checkless society. I think that generation will be glad to have the opportunity to give to their hometown church with this online option.”

If you’d like to know more about the online giving program, you can find it on the Foundation website.

Robyn Davis Sekula is Vice President of Communications and Marketing at the Presbyterian Foundation. She is a ruling elder in the PC(USA) and a member of Highland Presbyterian Church in Louisville, Ky. She can be reached at robyn.sekula@presbyterianfoundation.org.