SmartGiving

Recently, we launched a new giving option for our church... SmartGiving. With smart phones being in nearly everyone’s pockets, this was a no-brainer.

Since we’ve received so many questions about how we launched this, here’s a little insight into the nuts-and-bolts. Even though I’ve summarized for the sake of this post, a more detailed write-up from our senior application developer is attached at the bottom of this post.

We’re obviously big fans of taking inspiration from others, so we learned from LifeChurch.tv’s SmartGiving. After several conference calls with their team, we were able to build out our approach.

Considerations
There are three primary ways you can achieve this: use an off-the-shelf system that’s fee-based (monthly fees plus transition fees), have the gift billed to their phone number (with an obscene fee portion paid to the carrier) or build your own, avoiding most of those fees.

The former is probably the easiest option for most churches, and I’d recommend that if you don’t have in-house web development. We chose the latter because we already had some of the infrastructure existing. Do not do the second approach... no one wins with that.

After studying others who’ve already done this, we borrowed what we loved about their approach, and hooked it into our existing payment tools. Here’s a look at what our approach looks like:

SmartGiving User Flow

Our user flow:

  • Giver texts in to start the process.
  • Our system responds to provide (one-time) registration link.
  • Giver registers their phone number to a credit card, which we “vault” so it’s safe and secure.
  • Every time after that, they simply text “give $(amount)” and it’s automagically accepted.

There are three major components to this system: a message gateway, payment gateway & a website to tie it all together.

Message Gateway
We use Twilio to handle the text messaging portion of our process. It accepts the initial text from the giver, and kicks back the appropriate response. Really simple to set up, and they’ve been a good vendor to work with.

Payment Gateway
You’ll need someone to connect the transaction to your merchant account, that’s where Authorize.net comes in. They take the giver’s info (name, contact & billing info) and send us a user ID that ties into our system. This keeps everything secure, but enables the convenience of SmartGiving.

Website
Our site ties these two systems together. There’s a lot of back-and-forth, and the site facilitates all of the communication between Twilio and Authorize.net. This all happens “behind the scenes,” meaning that there’s nothing on the public-facing parts of our site, but still, it’s a critical piece of the machine.

Okay, that’s a really simplified view of our SmartGiving. As mentioned above, here’s a PDF containing a deeper look at how we have our system structured.

Finally, if this all seems a bit too much, another approach is using a hosted solutions like Kindrid or Simple Give. Though we haven’t used either of them, their approach looks pretty similar to ours, and it’s all fee-based.

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Greg Vennerholm
Design Director
Venny serves as the Design Director for Church on the Move. He brings his passion for crisp, clear design to everything he works on at COTM, which includes interactive and print projects. His 25 years in the agency world did not, however, prepare him for the ridiculously fast pace of Church on the Move.
@gvennerholm