Not long ago, I made online donations to both Presidential candidates. My purpose was not to support a political agenda, but to evaluate the donation and follow up process and see what we could learn. The experiment was fascinating. Here are nine things I learned or realized during the process.

1. It never occurred to me to try and find my local campaign headquarters to make a donation – I went straight to the web. Digital is my default. If you’re still REQUIRING people to give or pay in person or with cash or checks, you’re missing it. Nobody is getting elected President without being able to receive digital contributions. And receiving digital donations is a MUST for churches these days.

2. Both websites made it EASY to find the contribution page. I didn’t have to search through a site map to get to a donation page. It was super clear and easy to find.  When we went to more than 100 church websites to make donations, it was usually more difficult to find the link or button.

3. I was able to donate with my American Express, which is my credit card of choice. You’re crazy if you don’t take all four major credit cards. I know some churches do not accept credit cards at all because they don’t want to encourage debt. But I think there are better ways to educate and help people with their finances.

4. Both candidates gave me the opportunity to turn my one time donation into a recurring donation with one simple click. Right after I entered the amount, there was a button that said, “Make this a recurring donation.” One time donations are great, but they know that recurring contributions are a home run. When we surveyed over 1,000 church leaders, we found that emphasizing recurring donations was the leading indicator of churches who were exceeding their budget. You can see all the results from this FREE study.

5. Both websites gave me the option of setting up an online profile for expedited giving later, but only AFTER I made my one-time donation. If you ask people to set up an account before they give, you’ll lose people in the process. Churches, go ahead and ask people create an account, but make sure you give people a “no registration required” and super-fast option as well.

6. President Obama’s website asked for slightly less information that Governor Romney’s site. I was able to cut and paste my credit card number into a field on President Obama’s site, but Governor Romney’s made me remove the dashes. On one website, I didn’t have to enter the 3-4 digit security code; on the other it was required. If you don’t have to ask for it, don’t ask for it – the simpler the better.

7. The process was quick.  Donating to President Obama took me 64 seconds. Donating to Governor Romney took me 95 seconds, mostly because the credit card number field required no dashes. We made online donations to 100 different church websites and found the average time to be over 3 minutes.

8. Both websites offered me extra incentives to give. President Obama was featuring an evening with George Clooney and Mr. Romney offered me a chance to meet his wife. My donation entered into a raffle for these things. A lot of times we talk about how giving will help the church or expand the kingdom, but it’s rare for churches to talk about what giving will do for the donor.

9. I received immediate confirmation of my donation. Both emails were short and both asked for another donation. Mr. Romney’s confirmation email looked better, but Mr. Obama’s email was more clear and did a better job asking me to make another donation and set up recurring contributions. Quick and clear follow up for donations is a MUST.

In the Giving Rocket core coaching program, we have in-depth training on digital donations, follow up and ten other topics related to increasing giving in the church. You can preview the program or sign up here.

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