Mobile Giving for Churches: Apps or SMS?
By Eric Bryant, Gnosis Media Group

Churches often struggle to find ways to collect more donations from their congregations. In trying to offer their members’ convenience, many churches have explored mobile giving options. The most popular forms of mobile giving currently are church giving apps and text-to-donate (SMS) services. Both have their pros and cons, but which should your ministry choose?

Church Giving Apps
A church giving app is typically a custom-designed software that runs on a mobile device, enabling users to donate to your church through the app. The apps may include your church’s logo and cover photo, as well as other opportunities for your users to instantly recognize you through branding. Some apps allow users to connect their bank account information and transfer money securely that way.

Since we’re moving to a paperless society, with church donation apps, users usually don’t have to worry about dropping cash and checks into the collection plate. Some  apps can store donor bank account info, eliminating the number of steps involved to complete subsequent donations. Some of the more sophisticated apps even give users the ability to select which specific ministry to apply funds to.

While apps are great, they’re not for every congregation. For less tech savvy congregations, apps can be intimidating and actually cause confusion or frustration. Also remember that apps require software to be downloaded to a mobile device, and many people don’t want to add more apps to their phones. But perhaps the biggest drawback is price: Building one of these apps for your congregation can ne expensive, and sometimes churches have to pay for ongoing technical support from the vendor for bug fixes and upgrades.

Text to Donate
Text to donate works a little different from an app. With a text to donate type of mobile giving platform, the donor texts the church’s predefined keyword to a short, 5- or 6-digit phone number to give a donation. This starts the donation sequence, enabling the user to then donate by a mobile wallet service (e.g., PayPal). In contrast to an app, a text donation application does not require anything to download.

As with church giving apps, with text-to-donate you don’t have to worry about transacting with cash or checks. Text to donate is generally easy to do, quick to set up, and has been shown to be quite successful for increasing donation revenue. Virtually everyone knows how to text, but you’ll find that many people are still not skilled in using apps. So the barrier to entry and learning curve for text to donate is lower. Also apps can easily frustrate users if they are not user-friendly.

Text messaging is one of the most ubiquitous forms of technological communication ever invented. Texts are so easy to send that many peoples’ grandmothers and grandfathers are regularly doing it. (Have you ever been so lucky as to receive a loving “have a good day” text from your grandmother? 🙂 It’s a beautiful thing to have a communication service that works across all demographics.

Some people feel that receiving text messages feels less private. Also, there can be more steps involved in completing a donation by text, as compared to a mobile app. This is because text-to-donate services don’t typically store your bank account or credit card info. (Of course, the plus side of this is increased privacy and security).

Apps or Text to Donate: Which Is Right for Your Church?
Every church could benefit from setting up a mobile fundraising service, whether it be a text message donation service or a mobile giving app. Both apps and SMS can activate your younger patrons, who tend to transact business more on their mobile devices than via more traditional mediums. Therefore, if you want to motivate the current generation of millennial donors, you’re much more likely to reach them via text than through other means.  And church members will be excited to have such an easy way to donate to your ministry.

Eric Bryant is a social entrepreneur who has been building telephony and SMS applications since 2008. An artist at heart, he won a full scholarship to The University of Texas at Austin for classical piano in 1993. In 2007, Eric began teaching himself Javascript, PHP, and Ruby in the evenings while working as a marketing professional by day. In 2008, he founded Gnosis Media Group (GMG), a communications consultancy whose first successful product was a text-to-donate application for nonprofits. Today, GMG helps nonprofits use SMS fundraising to connect with donors and increase donor contributions. Eric and his team are also thought-leaders in the text-to-donate space and share valuable insights on the GMG blog. Contact Eric at to learn more.