September 25, 2007
ATMs: Automatic Tithing Machines
How can you pass the plate to people who don't carry cash? You can't. So the next big wave may be the "Giving Kiosk" in your church's lobby.
"A lot of people no longer carry cash or a checkbook," says Marty Baker, pastor of Stevens Creek Church in Augusta, Georgia. So he installed two ATMs in 2005. The experiment has been a success.
During the first year, the kiosks processed over $100,000 in donations at Stevens Creek. In 2006, that number increased to just over $200,000, representing more than 25 percent of the church's total income. Even more impressive is the fact that giving as a whole increased 18 percent since the ATMs were installed. "It's a safe, convenient way for people to donate to their church," Baker notes, "and it meets people where they are today."
These positive returns encouraged Baker to launch SecureGive, a for-profit company that produces and maintains several different versions of the giving kiosks. "We knew that if this concept and technology was so beneficial for our church, others could benefit from it as well," says Baker.
SecureGive currently operates in 25 churches around the country. One of them is Family Church in West Monroe, Louisiana, where Terry Taylor is the executive pastor. "We wanted to help those who were not giving to start walking in obedience," says Taylor. "We feel that is being achieved."
Princeton Pike Church of God in Hamilton, Ohio, had featured online giving for years, but the service was used consistently by only ten families. The church engaged SecureGive in January and now has more than 150 families contributing regularly through the giving kiosk.
The company points out an array of practical advantages. One example is a decreased risk of embezzlement, since donated funds are transferred directly into a church's bank account, bypassing the counting committee. And the kiosk documents satisfy Internal Revenue Service regulations requiring taxpayers to present a written statement from a bank or charitable organization when claiming a deduction on their returns.
Phil Martin of the National Association of Church Business Administrators says that Automated Tithing Machines might only be the beginning. "Whether we'll have an offering plate with a card reader one day, who knows," he said. "But we're certainly not far from that."