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Small changes

15 April 2016


“GOT any spare change?” These four words, often quoted — in fiction at least — by street beggars, could soon become obsolete as we head with increasing speed to a cashless society. Credit and debit cards are taking over our lives.

No longer used solely for expensive purchases, a debit card can now be used to pay for a sandwich by waving it across a payment terminal; and, in London, you can do the same to pay for bus and Tube fares.

In this modern cashless world, it can be uncomfortable for occasional church visitors to find a collection plate under their noses. And when the church treasurer makes a plea for church finances, most people will struggle because their purses and wallets are likely to be empty.

There are a number of apps and electronic solutions. The first two are very simple: churches could set up a PayPal account; and they could link a mobile phone to the church’s bank account so they can receive donations using Paym, the new system offered by most UK banks. Using it, people can donate up to £250 per day using their own banks’ mobile banking app and the church’s dedicated donation mobile-phone number.

These solutions can be promoted on church websites, in addition to parish magazines, pew sheets, or display screens. If used on a website, a donor can give to a church using PayPal without the need to open a PayPal account. And Paym will become increasingly universal, as banks continue to promote it.

Of course the downside of these solutions is that it is difficult to collect Gift Aid on people’s donations — not because the rules do not allow it, but because, since people give a one-off amount electronically it is difficult to ask them to fill in the paperwork also.

But there’s an app for that: the ChurchApp is a collection of online modules to help churches manage a range of administrative tasks, from membership directories to attendance logging, from rotas to finances. There are two sides to the product: a management side, with online access using an internet browser; and an app that can be used by church members and also by the treasurer.

Church members can use the ChurchApp to make one-off payments, or because they are visiting a church; and they can also set up payments for regular giving. And, by ticking a button, a donor can specify that Gift Aid applies. The same app will give administrators access to various management and reporting functions.

The pricing for the app depends on the number of adults in the church’s contact book (an essential module needed to run any of the other modules), and the number of add-on modules included.

A small church of up to 200 people using just the address book and giving module will be charged £20 per month; a larger church of up to 500 people using the same options will be charged £25 per month.

A very large congregation of up to 4000 people, using all the apps modules, will be charged £160 per month, or £1920 per year. At that price, a church ought to be looking at commissioning a bespoke app.




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