In this episode of the Generosity Labs Podcast, we sit down with Jacob Paulkovitz, the Executive and Financial Assistant at Hope Fellowship in Texas. Hope Fellowship is a growing church in the North Dallas area.  

In this episode, Jacob talks about

  • Early adopted of Digital Giving
  • The Kindrid User Experience
  • Advice for pastor’s considering going digital

In this episode, Jacob recommends

You can listen, subscribe or watch my interview with Jacob Paulkovitz below.

The Generosity Labs Podcast is part of a new resource hub for pastors, providing free resources and information about digital giving. You can find more free resources  here.
A full transcription is below

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KENNY: Greetings to everyone in podcastland today. Generosity and giving as it relates to the church is one of the biggest and most important conversations that we can have across faith communities today. That’s why we’ve got a special treat. Today, we have Jacob Paulkovitz. So glad to have you on the show, Jacob.

JACOB: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you for inviting me on.

KENNY: So, Jacob, you are the Executive and Financial Assistant at Hope Fellowship in Texas. You just have this part and passion for really advancing the Gospel and others in that ministry. So,  let’s get straight to it. Tell us a little bit about what your role is at that church and tell us a little bit about the church community. If we visited on a Sunday and we took a look around the seats, what would we see? What kind of community do you guys have?

JACOB: Sure. Absolutely. Again, thank you for having me and I appreciate to share this opportunity. I am, as you said, the executive and finance assistant here at Hope Fellowship. My job is to handle partly the finances, expense management, typical backend office stuff. But, then, also to kind of encourage new processes, new systems into the church, incorporating that ideas of new technologies that come into this world. How can we use that to advance the Gospel whether that is through just a new customer management or we look at membership management systems or potentially we could do that as well with the technology. That’s what I do for our church. Hope Fellowship is a multi-site church here in Dallas, Fort Worth area. We have three locations, right now. We run about 6500 on a weekend across those campuses. We are in the North Dallas area. It’s a very growing and booming area especially for younger families. Our typical age range is early adult, 25-35. That’s our kind of core range. Of course, it’s spread all over. Young families, of course. Kids is a big portion of our attendance as well. If you come on a typical weekend, that’s our demographic set you’ll see and that expands in all of our campuses. But, I hope you could still feel that it is warm and inviting. We are definitely very volunteer-driven on a weekend to all of our activities. We really push that whole idea just opening up to anybody, just giving them a handshake and a welcome.

KENNY: Nice. At what point did your organization or your church step into digital giving whether be mobile or text-giving?

JACOB: Sure. So, I’d classify digital giving, if that includes online giving.

KENNY: Sure.

JACOB: We started way back in 2005. It does kind of, some of those early adopters of church management systems are just introducing it around that time, maybe a few years prior, but we kind of caught on in 2005 and 2006. Just the online giving world for a little bit. It developed for us. We got a good portion of our giving gone through that. I came onboard on 2011. That’s also around the time, we really just stepped back and said, “How are people giving? What are new ways that we can offer people giving that really meet the need of the individual?” We all know that culture changes. It used to be that people carried around cash or checkbooks and that’s not the case anymore. So, we are now to the point, ‘Okay what’s the easiest way for them to give?’ So, going into 2012, we started looking at those things. We knew that kiosk giving had been around for a little bit. We weren’t a hundred percent sure on that, weighing the benefits of it. But them, we started getting introduced to the idea, ‘Okay, we’re grasping this idea of a small computer in our pockets every single day. How can we leverage that?’ Of course, we see all this stores and companies putting their apps out there, buying stuff in Amazon, Apple store or whatever that may be. They’re buying stuff on their phones so why can’t they give on their phone? So, going into 2014 and 2015, we started introducing a text-to-give platform force.

We used Kindrid, which is a very good and robust system for digital giving. It also includes text and you can also do an online feature for them. We started introducing that and man, right when we introduced it, we just saw the congregation really embrace it. Not that it’s our primary way of giving, it was not just 1 or 2 people using it. We had hundreds of people using it every single week. It wasn’t just people transferring their checkbook and their cash into doing it in a digital way while it’s good to because it saves us from the backend having from having to go and count all that and enter it into the system. But, it also just makes it easier for them and consistent with their giving. Because like you and me, we don’t carry cash and check every single day. Most of that your congregation probably does not. But, now that we can offer them a way to put their credit card information in and then, they could easily give when they want to, where they want to. It’s really caught on whether online giving or through a text-to-give platform.

KENNY: Now, for text-to-give, I think it’s about 2 years since you adopted it, right, in that timeline? Do you have any sense of what percentage of your giving or donations come through texting, text-to-give?

JACOB: Yes, we just kind of passed 10% of our weekly giving as coming through a texting platform. And then, to go along with that, about 60-65% come from online. And so, what I found really, really encouraging when we did adopt text-to-give — again, we weren’t just transferring people over — we saw a consistent number of people that were new givers. There are first timers and we send out first time giver email every week to say, “Hey, thanks so much giving. Do you have any questions? Please, let us know.” When we look over at the report who that went to and we see where they gave from whether it’s online, check, cash. We see this note of Kindrid, a lot. ‘Wow, they’re really giving through Kindrid’. We’re really offering that opportunity for someone else to engage in giving. And actually, really embrace that whole idea of generosity to the church and hopefully, they feel a little bit more connected to the church because of that.

KENNY: There’s a lot of people though that were making these decisions in churches and teams. There is always some obstacles or some voices that are playing in their heads saying “Look, it’s hard to go to from system where you’re receiving checks, taking a 100% of the collection and then  to a point where you need to reconcile the fact that now, you’re going to give away a certain percentage to bank and merchant fees. Has that been an issue internally, in terms of your discussion, at all? What would say to churches that’s one of the biggest struggles, the obstacles before they get to the actual text or online giving solutions?

JACOB: Definitely a valid concern. I think people should look into that when they’re looking at the different platforms. There a lot of great platforms out there and they’re pricing a little bit different. But, really weigh in on what those costs really mean. Okay, so, I’m going to incur a few additional dollars and fees, but yet my giving is going to go up, much more than what those fees are.

KENNY: Have do you guys seen that? When you went from offline giving to online giving and then you adopted text-to-give, your overall giving superseded the incremental fees that you guys collected, right?

JACOB: Absolutely. I can’t give a percentage or how much or a tenfold or whatever, but it definitely was worth those small percentage points that you’re giving as a bank fee. We’re making now new donors or increased giving. ‘Cause if you’re going to think about it, if somebody gave — let’s create a scenario here — if someone gave weekly a hundred dollars cash. Yes, you get 400 dollars at the end of the month from that person. There’s no bank fee that have to go along with that or credit card processing fee. Let’s say, they miss a week because they’re sick or they’re on vacation. That’s only $300. We miss a hundred dollars there. But, if you offer that text-to-give platform or just an online giving platform, they can still give, whenever, wherever. And so, it’s a little bit more probable that they’re going to give a hundred dollars or four hundred dollars each week. Especially, if you can get them to scheduled giving where it automatically just charges their card or their bank once a week for a hundred dollars, then, I won’t say it’s cheap but again, it’s it’s a much higher probability. They’re going to give every single week from here or now whether they’re in the congregation or not.

KENNY: Right. So, does the text giving solution allow you to setup recurring giving as well?

JACOB: Absolutely. So, when you setup your text giving for the first time, it brings you to a screen. Of course, you put your credit card information in. It also offers an e-check option, if you want your banking information in a which is little bit cheaper if you want to look at that as a pricey point. So,  they can put that information in and put a little bit other information in there. Then, you could give. So, at the very last option we ask, “Hey, do you want to set this up as a one-time giving or upon a monthly, weekly, or however.” There’s a lot of different options that can set that up as. They can do it that time or if they wanted to go back in, they can easily go back into that account and set it up. That’s how my wife and I do it. That’s how many others do it so, it’s a very convenient feature.

KENNY: Now, if you’re talking to a lot of people here that are considering digital giving for the first time, what’s the one thing that you would give as a piece of advice that they should be looking out for or they should actually really be concerned about or pay attention to as they transition in digital giving?

JACOB: I will definitely just tell them to look at all their features. And definitely, from a backend side, I work on the backend side with the finances and the reconciling, see how whatever platform you’re looking at and you’re interested, see how it does adopt and integrate with whether it would be your church management system or your accounting software. What were the accounting and reconciliation process kind of look like? Yes, we kind of look at that when we went in to Kindrid or online giving.

KENNY: What backend system are you using?

JACOB: For our church management, we use FellowshipOne, which does have a direct integration with Kindrid. Kindrid has a direct integration with it. So, it’s not that we have to go and record all of our donation from Kindrid and it just immediately posts to FellowshipOne which again makes the reconciliation process really easy. And also, when we send out giving statements,if someone gave by online half the month, or by text half a month or half the year, it’s all on one statements. We don’t have to send out multiple statements. Definitely, put that it into consideration when you’re looking at the platform that you want to use. That’s about it. And, overall, a lot of them are very church-minded they understand that and they are willing to offer those features.

KENNY: Thank you so much for sharing some of that nitty gritty and the overall experience. That’s really encouraging to hear more churches taking on digital giving like yours. Let’s finish off with a lightning round of questions if you’re ready?

JACOB: You got it. Let’s go.

KENNY: So, the first one is everyone’s building a list, as we go through and enter the new year. Can you share one resource that people should be putting on a top of their list, whether it’s a good book, a website, a conference, a resource they need to be looking for?

JACOB: I encourage anyone that’s on staff of a church to definitely have something that feeds into them whether that be — again, I’m working in the finance world — if you want a little bit more finance driven or just leadership driven. And so I look to a few different things as far as leadership training, and that’s Global Leadership Summit. I’m blanking on the name.

KENNY: Willowcreek, right?

JACOB: Thank you. We’ve just had jumped onboard going to some of their conferences the last two years. It’s very encouraging; very enlightening. That can open up to multiple different books that some of the speakers that they have. Another website that I look at is Leadership Network. They offer a lot of sessions and collaborations with other churches across United States that might be of similar size or similar obstacles that you may have. They can put you guys together in a room and kind of talk through some of those things. But also, they just put out some very good reports on the church and the status of the church and then also maybe pointing in the right direction on what you need to be looking at as the next steps. We’ve been a part of that going in a month or so to look at a little bit more multi-site strategies again and so, just really looking forward to that as well.

KENNY: What’s one big thing that you’re looking forward to 2017 regarding the church?

JACOB: It’s just the opportunity for growth in our area, not just in getting more people in the door, which is more seats and chairs means more people having the opportunity to hear the Gospel. But, we ultimately want people to grow in their faith. We ultimately want them to grow in their generosity, whether that it’s in their time, in their money, just in their everyday, just showing goodwill to others. Hopefully, we kind of get to see that in our community that we can make a little bit more of impact and share. I’m definitely more excited about that. I’m also kind of a techie guy. I’d like to see what new technology can come available and how the church can use it and just see what some of those developers come up with, whether a brand new developer that’s very small, just  making a name for themselves or some of those bigger player names. What do they incorporate in their current existing platforms that can benefit us.

KENNY: Love that future forward posture. Where are you getting your inspiration and education about giving and donor development these days?

JACOB: I mentioned a few of those a little bit more on the leadership side. Leadership Network offers some tools as far as giving. And also, out of those platform that we use, we use Kindrid, FellwoshipOne, they typically will offer some insights to, “Hey, start maybe looking at this. These are the trends that we’ve seen. Are you seeing the same trends?” They help keep you on track and see how your giving is increasing compared to others your size. So many, many churches, they have that data available, too, and see other churches are using it. Not every churches are the same, so, we understand how the church is gonna have the same results. But, it’s at least something to compare it, too. So, definitely look at those other platforms. The last one is connecting with other churches, whether that it is in your geographic area. Just see how those churches are doing. Connect with their business managers or their pastors and said ‘Hey, what are you guys using? how effective is it or is it effective?’ And, they’re probably having the same demographic in their seats every week. If they’re seeing a high digital giving experience where most of the donors are giving that way and you’ve not seen that, maybe you can start to evaluate what is it they’re doing different that may help you. I think that’s a really good way to go. We have at least 3-4 churches that I talk to. Probably on a monthly basis so just to say how is it going but then, also sharing different ideas.

KENNY: So, good. Thank you so much for those insights Jacob. Thank you for being with us on the show today.

JACOB: Oh, you’re welcome. Thank you so much, Kenny.

KENNY: And thank you to our audience for listening into our conversation on digital giving and the church. Hope this episode has been beneficial and really been useful for you. Do me a favor, like and review this podcast episode today. It really helps us get the word out to more church leaders across the country on such an important issue that’s facing the future of the church. Well, that’s a wrap. I’m Kenny Jahng from Generosity Labs. ‘Til next time. Check out our website at Remember, learning to give from the heart is when you really start.