Technology has changed so quickly over the last 20 years that many of us (at least those in my generation) have trouble remembering a time when it was not such a part of our daily lives.
For example, I vaguely remember as a kid looking in the newspaper for the show times for an upcoming movie. It's probably been twenty years since I did that, because it is so easy to now search for that information online.
I also can't remember the last time I wrote a shopping list. I've been using a grocery list app on my smart phone for several years, and for the last six months, I've even been reading it off my smart watch.
However, one thing I have continued to do that is very different than most millennials is write checks for my family's offering at our church. That's about to change as our congregation just announced that we will now be offering online giving.
Not Just for Millennials
Now you might be saying to yourself "Well, you're a millennial, so of course you would prefer online giving, but my congregation is full of older people who would never give that way."
That's a common misperception that may have been true 10 years ago, but is really no longer the case. While it is true that only a small percentage of older adults currently contribute to their church electronically, the new reality is that many of them would prefer to give that way, they just don't have that option.
In their 2016 Churchgoer Giving Study, Vanco Payment Solutions found that 29 percent of respondents ages 55-65 would prefer to set up a recurring contribution from a bank account, but only 1 percent of their churches make this option available.
Additionally, 38 percent of respondents age 66-72 said they would prefer to set up recurring electronic contributions on a credit card, but only 3 percent are given this option by their church.
What's especially interesting to note is that when respondents ages 24-34 were asked those same questions, only 21 percent said they would prefer to set up a recurring contributions from a bank account and only 34 percent would prefer to set up recurring contributions on a credit card.
So while the numbers do indeed show that very few older adults give electronically, they would contribute that way if they had the option.
Appeal of Online Giving for Older Adults
When you think about it, it's not too hard to understand why older adults prefer to give electronically.
- Consistent Giving for the Church
Older adults have been around the church long enough to understand the need for consistent contributions. While Easter and Christmas may generate the largest donations, staff salaries, utility bills, and mortgages are due regularly throughout the year. Recurring electronic contributions means that there are always funds available to pay those bills.
- Consistent Giving for the Contributor
As people age, new and different things come up that prevent them from attending worship. From good things like increased time to travel and larger extended families, to no-so-good things like bad weather and health problems, many people find they can't attend worship as regularly as they would like. Online giving allows them to more easily contribute when they aren't there.
Everyone, not just older adults, prefers things that are convenient. Rather than sitting down to write a check 52 times a year, recurring electronic contributions mean that you set it up one time and you don't have to do anything with it again. While this convenience can be perceived as a negative, since you may not reflect on why you donate, alternatives exist to help you focus on the act of giving (such as turning in an offering envelope with the words "Gave Electronically" written on it).
- Fixed Income
As pensions become a thing of the past and people rely more on Social Security and retirement savings, older adults are more likely to have a fixed income. When contributing electronically, one can set it up so that the donation is given right after the Social Security check is deposited, meaning the first fruits are given to the Lord every time.
Those are just a few reasons why older adults are now giving electronically. As more people in that generation adopt technology, and more technology users join that generation, this trend will only continue.
Interested in learning more about the trend in online giving?
Download the full research report from Vanco Payment Solutions.