In an ever-changing world, tradition can often be left at the wayside. Traditional offertory envelopes have been a staple of the church community for almost 100 years and the decision to move from loose plate to planned giving is perhaps the most critical turning point on the journey to mature giving. For many people, that turning point is taking weekly giving envelopes that represent a fresh identification with and commitment to the church. Weekly envelopes help with the discipline of giving and make that all-important connection between worship and giving and for many, the journey to generous giving starts with weekly giving envelopes. Properly understood, offertory envelopes reduce the impact of fluctuating attendance and establish intentional, regular planned giving focused on Sunday worship.
Benefits of a Weekly Envelope Collection:
Weekly envelopes offer the advantages of being tangible and easy to use. On the mantelpiece or in a drawer, week by week they are a reminder of our commitment to give. There is something to hold in the hand and put in the plate. Envelopes are also very easy to use and have the attraction of being a very familiar way of giving. When understood and properly managed (on which, see below), envelopes make our giving far less dependent on weekly attendance at church. They offer real advantages over loose plate giving. When people miss a Sunday they can simply put two envelopes on the offering plate. It is also worth noting that many people still manage their money by using cash, either by preference or by necessity.
Going a little deeper, planned giving envelopes make a formative and tangible connection between our giving and our worship. The physical act of putting the envelope on the offering plate and the accompanying prayer of thanksgiving and dedication can help to shape how we think and feel about giving. There is something about the connection between giving and worship that underwrites the lasting appeal of weekly envelopes as a way of giving in a planned manner. Envelopes offer an early and formative connection between worship and giving.
The advantages of giving by standing order or by direct debit are compelling. However, they are often outweighed for both planning groups and givers by one consideration: there is nothing to put on the offering plate when it comes round. People are understandably embarrassed to put nothing on the offering plate. It does not feel right and may mystify newcomers when half the congregation appears to give nothing! It also runs deeper. When the gifts are offered to God with those beautiful words of King David, ‘all things come from you and of your own do we give you’, parishioners want to feel our gift is represented there on the offering plate. And, as noted elsewhere, it is important for givers to make and keep that early and formative connection between their giving and the worship of the church. Standing orders lose the tangible connection with worship that loose plate or envelope giving retains. It is artificial at best and misleading at worst for standing order givers to find a spare £1 to put on the plate to avoid embarrassment.
Cyber Fraud and Security on the Rise for Charities:
Something to also consider is the ever-growing rise of cyber-crime in charitable giving streams. Charity fraud is on the up, with reported losses reaching almost £8 million in 2018/19, according to Action Fraud figures, while shockingly, the real cost is thought to be as high as £2 billion a year. While all organisations, as well as individuals, are at risk of fraud and other cyber-crime, charities and churches need to be particularly alert. Not only are the funds and types of data they hold attractive targets for cyber-criminals, but charities can be seen as a soft target due to their reliance on volunteers, which can give fraudsters easy access into organisations. Also, people’s good faith in charities can make them less suspicious with individuals less likely to query payments from their bank accounts to appears to be a charity (especially if it’s from a joint account), or to ask for a fundraiser’s ID.
A report commissioned by the Department for Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) found that as many as 22% of voluntary & community organisations have identified security breaches or attacks in the last 12 months. The Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2019 showed that for larger charities that rose to 52% – hackers don’t often know what type of organisation they’re targeting. It is arguable therefore that there is a greater chance of a church suffering a cyber-attack than any other risk it faces.
The financial security of supporters’ data, donations and financial details cannot be over-emphasised. It is particularly difficult for small charities and churches to be completely aware of all the areas where fraud and cyber-crime are prominent. This is due to their lack of overall resources to put understand and implement strong protections that cover the full scope of cyber-crime vulnerabilities. If you want to know more about the ongoing fight against cyber-crime then you can contact the National Crime Agency for more information.