New York Times: Card Swipes in Church Make Giving Easier
... Whatever people pay, however, it hasn’t always been easy for administrators and lay leaders to get them to donate regularly and increase their contributions each year, no matter their faith. Over the last decade or so, entrepreneurs have seized on the opening and tried to automate the process.
One big player is a service called ParishPay, which works with many Catholic churches and a few synagogues to help sign up worshipers to pay via credit or debit card or automatic payment from their bank accounts. Nearly 1,000 institutions have joined the service, and it claims a 20 to 30 percent increase in giving by individuals who enroll.
That’s a nice lift, though the process is a bit antiseptic given that no money changes hands at the house of worship (though Jews are not supposed to handle money on Shabbat). Marty Baker, the lead pastor at Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Ga., came up with the idea for an in-church giving kiosk in 2003, when he wondered whether attendees with pockets full of plastic might give more than they were depositing in the collection plate if he found a way to accept their cards.
Today, his for-profit company SecureGive has kiosks in churches, Hindu temples and some zoos and hospitals, too. “You could do this at home or online,” he said. “But there is something about swiping that card at church. It’s a reminder that your gifts are making a difference in a broader context.”
Few things are more visceral than the collection plate, however, and it persists for many reasons. “The liturgical act of placing an offering of money into the offertory plate is understood to be a form of worship,” said the Rev. Laurel Johnston, the officer for stewardship in the Episcopal Church. Episcopalians generally make annual pledges in the fall and fulfill them throughout the year through electronic payments or by making periodic payments via an envelope that they put in the collection plate.
Regular worshipers with a regular paycheck may also appreciate the formality of handing over hard currency each week if they believe in the idea of paying God first. Then, there are the parents who like the fact that their children see everyone else giving and can toss in a few coins of their own.
Finally, there’s the peer pressure of having others’ eyes on you as the plate goes around. “Some would call it Catholic guilt,” said Matt Golis, a lifelong Catholic and chief executive of ParishPay’s parent company, YapStone. Many churches that allow electronic giving encourage those who have used it to drop a symbolic receipt of sorts into the collection plate if they wish. ...