Online giving is quickly becoming the preferred way people support their church. This is a great thing for the church. If the online giving platform your church uses offers recurring giving, you could see a significant increase in overall giving at your church!
Here's the catch: Donation platforms carry risks. If your church accepts donations online, below are the risks you should be aware of and what you can do to minimize them.
Scanning a credit card, writing down the number, or storing the card info in any way puts your organization at great risk. If any fraud occurs on that card, your ministry could be held liable.
To minimize this NEVER store anyone's credit card info for ANY reason.
Scammers will use an online giving portal as a platform to test stolen credit cards. They'll "donate" a small amount from each stolen card just to see if the transaction goes through, indicating the card is active.
As a church, we are liable to pay any chargebacks due to fraudulent charges. These chargebacks can range anywhere from 10-$20 each time they are done. Though it may not sound like much, multiple chargebacks can cause serious financial strain.
Thiefs will do everything they can to access your church's database or any information you have stored for your members. If your church is managing credit/debit card or bank account info, this opens your members up to hacks or fraud.
The best way to block scammers is to only allow members of your church to donate online. Whatever giving platform you use should require the donor to log into an account so that you can identify them.
If you don't know who the person is that gave online, it would be good to do a little research, reach out if necessary, or even reject/return the donation.
I see this all the time. A church shares its livestream on social media and includes a link to their giving platform.
It only makes it easier for scammers to find what they're looking for. Did you know that thieves will often sift through church livestreams to find an online giving portal to test out stolen bank info? If someone genuinely wants to give to your church, they will make it happen whether you add the link or not.
Most churches put the giving link online because they want anyone and everyone to be able to support their organization. But the truth is, random strangers on the internet are very unlikely to ever donate to your church. Sharing a link to your online giving platform increases risk without providing many benefits.
The giving portal has the resources to store bank or card information safely and securely. You do not need to manage the info yourself. This way, your organization does not take on any liability and your members are protected.
If a member hands you their credit card and asks you to set up online giving for them, the best thing to do is walk them through the process of setting it up themselves on the giving platform.
Individuals with stolen credit cards will run very small charges to make sure the card works before they attempt to run up the card with multiple fraudulent charges. Donations of only a few dollars should be viewed as suspicious.
Voluntarily returning donations before getting hit with chargeback fees greatly reduces the financial burden caused by fraud.
It's best to return online donations from anyone you can't identify. If you suddenly receive a batch of several very small donations from different credit cards, return every single one of them immediately. Those are likely from a thief testing stolen credit cards.
The best way to avoid chargebacks is to proactively refund all suspicious donations ASAP.
It is significantly cheaper to eat the cost of a transaction than it is to have a chargeback. Worst case scenario, a legitimate donor will simply have to redo the donation. Check your donations every few days. Don't let your "online offering plate" go unattended.
Would you take a full offering plate and leave it by the front door of your church all week unattended? Of course not! Your church must take the same level of care with your online giving platform as well.
As the technological landscape shifts, we have to remain vigilant to protect our ministries and our parishioners. Following these tips will go a very long way in reducing risks while receiving donations online securely.