Hope Fellowship is a fast-growing church of almost 4,000, with campuses in Frisco and McKinney, Texas. Although affiliated with Assemblies of God, they consider themselves Next Gen AG, having developed their own brand and intentionality with regard to reaching everyone in their community.
Their mission is Love God, Connect with People, Grow in the Word and Serve Others. Their motto is: "if people matter to God, then they matter to us."
How Hope Fellowship used Fellowship One Giving 2.0 online giving to eliminate seasonal giving slumps:
- Steady increase in online giving participation and donation levels
- Low-pressure promotion
- Enhanced and simplified user experience
- Increased giving rate despite drop in attendance growth rate + Option to offer credit and debit card offerings and payments
Linda Jewell has been the Finance Director at Hope Fellowship since 2006. She was a one-woman office, handling everything from HR duties, to payroll, accounts receivable and processing the Sunday offering. By 2008, even with a Church Management System (ChMS), she needed help managing these duties for a one-campus church of 2200 people! The ChMS they were using wasn’t 100% web-based and didn’t have some of the features they wanted, such as online giving and registration, work-flow assignments, and tracking. As the Financial Director, a top priority for Linda was reliable reporting about the congregation’s giving.
Hope Fellowship made the move to Fellowship One, now Fellowship One, in 2008. Linda believes that Fellowship One’s industry-leading innovation challenged the market to produce better software and that some of the features Hope Fellowship wanted are now available with their previous vendor because of this pressure.
Their migration to Fellowship One with online giving (including ACH and credit cards) gave them the expected returns of increased and more consistent giving levels, less cash to handle, fewer errors in the accounting process and simplified contribution record-keeping. As Fellowship One developed Core Reports, Linda and her assistant, Jacob Paukovitz, began to get reporting "down to a science."
Like most churches, the remaining issue to solve was getting the congregation onboard with online giving, which not only provides convenience for users but also eases back office administration and provides consistency of giving.
In 2012, Hope Fellowship agreed to beta test Fellowship One’s Giving 2.0 release. At that time, Hope was happy with what they had and congregational usage of online giving was at 45%. Fellowship One released the new functionality and Hope did a gradual roll-out. They never announced the change, but as more and more people used the product (through organic growth as well as a gradual increase in awareness of online giving capabilities), they became aware that the primary improvement in 2.0 was greatly enhanced and simplified user experience.
Success Story: No More Giving Slumps!
As 2012 came to an end, Hope Fellowship reported that more than 50% of their members were using online giving and online registration and payment for events. They have chosen a low-key, no-pressure approach to promoting online giving:
- It is mentioned in the weekly program
- If Pastor McKinzie’s weekly email mentions an event, he will include a link for online giving and payment
- Their website contains an Online Giving introductory section, and a FAQ section, plus simple login screens to access personal giving records
As the Figure 1 graph indicates, Hope’s 2008 giving levels barely surpassed 2007’s levels. When Fellowship One online giving was offered in August 2008 (designated with a star), August’s rate spiked, and by the end of the 2008, giving levels have steadily increased.
Although organic attendance growth accounts for some percentage of increase year over year, the the Figure 2 graph shows that by 2010, giving growth levels continued to increase despite a drop in attendance growth. Note that the typical summertime giving slumps all churches see leveled out once online giving was put in place, which greatly simplifies budgeting. By 2011, there is virtually no slump. The only real variance Hope sees is seasonal spikes in giving! (It should be noted that 2011 and 2012 were recession years.)
Now look at Hope’s online giving statistics (Figure 3). Overall contribution growth continues despite the aforementioned attendance drop. The church’s extraordinary 2012 year-end spike may include factors such as the enhanced usability of Fellowship One Giving 2.0 and the inclusion of American Express as a payment option, both instituted in August of that year. (Hope Fellowship discourages the use of credit cards for contributions if debt is an issue.)
Linda stated that in a culture that strives for friendliness and is dependent on the generosity of those they serve, they never want to mandate only one way of contributing or registering, even if it it is less convenient for the church. “We’re here to serve them,” she said. Offering a choice of online giving along with the traditional passing of the plate is one way they do that, and they could not be happier with Fellowship One Giving 2.0.