Online Giving and the Internet Campus – what is the connection?

Money, Money, Money.  It’s time we talked about the economics of the online church work.

 

Businesses determine cost effectiveness with simple math and a cost benefit analysis. With non-profits, however, the cost benefit analysis is far more complicated.  After all, churches follow a spiritual leader who taught that it’s ok to leave the 99 to expend time and effort to save the 1. That’s a very backwards system.  It places giving and effort as its own reward system, apart from utilitarian measurement.  It only makes sense if you believe in eternity and the value of the human soul, which, as I tell my kids, is worth more than all the shiny things you can see with your eyes.

 

The flipside is how do we measure effectiveness and prioritize our investment so that we reach the most souls possible with the resources we have?  How do we make the greatest return on our investment in people reached, but also in finances, so we can reach more people?  That involves hiring more staff, getting a bigger building, buying more media, etc.  I understand this perspective as well, while wrestling with the tension that we should all be feeling if we truly believe the points I made in the first paragraph.  Let all the executive pastors and finance committees say Amen.

 

With that in mind, let me pass on a few stories my clients have shared with me recently.

 

Leaders of a smaller online church (comparatively speaking) told me how they have a PayPal account for online giving but it was so rarely used and in such small amounts that they had stopped checking it.  One Sunday, their attendance was lower than usual and, as a result, so was the offering amount. The staff was very concerned. The bookkeeper called them the next day and asked if they had checked their PayPal in a while. “There’s a huge amount in there,” he told them. “Huge” is a relative number, but in this case, their online giving had gone from non-existent to a 10 – fold return. In percentage numbers, that’s 1000 %!  Not bad after three months of having an Internet Campus.

 

That story struck me because I had heard something parallel from a similar-size church a few weeks earlier.  In this case, the pastor was worried that if he started an Internet Campus, people would use it as an excuse to stay home and in-person attendance would drop.  After about 6 months with an Internet Campus, the church had grown in-person and also added a healthy number to its online congregation. Online giving had gone from $200-300 per month to $2,000-3000 per month.  Geographically, those churches are very far from each other and there are several other demographic differences.

 

That peaked my interest enough to investigate further.  Since these churches were both in the 200-400 range in attendance (including children and youth),  I decided to ask some larger churches (one with 900 in attendance and one with 3000+,  both including children)  if they had seen any correlation between online giving and streaming their services live. Here is what the pastors in those churches shared:

 

The 900 member church shared that there is a strong correlation between online giving and having an internet campus.  Once this church started offering their services live online, their online giving grew by 25% and it resulted in a 5% increase of the overall church budget.  Given the size of their budget, this was a significant increase.  One of the biggest benefits was that the giving became much more consistent and less dependent on people missing services. Even if the in-person attendance was down for a service, the online attendance and giving offset that so the church was able to have greater financial stability.

 

The 3,000 member church shared only that their online giving went “from the hundreds of thousands to over a million.”  Their online attendance is over a 1000 and the corresponding giving amount was like adding a second physical campus except without all the expenses like parking, utilities and additional staff.

 

Based on everything shared, it appears that there is a strong link between an Internet Campus and an increase in online giving.  If the number shared by these four churches holds true, having an online church experience is the best single investment from a purely financial prospective.

 

What is the spiritual return on investment?  There are real people behind those dollars. It’s
clear that a large group of people are choosing to connect with the church using the internet medium.

 

Connect:

What have you noticed? Do the stories shared by these churches mirror your experience? Do you have a good example of “spiritual return on investment” from your online campus?

 

 

One response to “Online Giving and the Internet Campus – what is the connection?”

  1. Joe says:

    Great thoughts! No doubt there should be more focus on this topic. Your article offers some great tips toward getting the conversation started.

    Thanks!

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  • The Church At (Part-4 Who Do You Reach Online?)

    We asked Dr Alex about the reach of video streaming. He told a cool story that had happened recently. We hear this often its surprising who you reach once you being to broadcast your services live.