In this episode of the Generosity Labs Podcast, we sit down with Cindy Petroff, the Director of Finance at Faith Family Church. Cindy has been serving at Faith Family for more than 18 years and has seen the landscape of giving change substantially
In this episode, Cindy talks about
- What lead them to digital giving
- The biggest challenge of digital giving
- Why digital giving is 7x more efficient
In this episode, Cindy recommends
Reach out to Cindy on email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can listen, subscribe or watch my interview with Cindy Petroff 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 podcast land. My name is Kenny Jahng and this is the Generosity Labs podcast. Generosity and giving as it relates to the church is one of the biggest and most important conversation we can have among faith communities. And, that’s why we’re here today with Cindy Petroff. So glad to have you on the show today, Cindy.
CINDY: Thank you for having me Kenny.
KENNY: You worked in many fields of accounting, I believe, including government and public manufacturing and now non-profit. I think you’re currently on staff there at Faith Family Church, leading the accounting department. I think you’ve been doing that for 15-18 years, now?
CINDY: Little over 18 years, yes.
KENNY: I’m sure you’ve seen the evolution and the growth and just different time periods of how the church has handled money and giving and generosity.
CINDY: Yes. From 18 years ago to what it is now today is literally different.
KENNY: Completely different.
KENNY: First, let’s just hear a little bit more about you, Cindy and the church.Tell us a little bit more about you and what your role really means for the church. Tell us also, what is your church community like? How many people gather on a Sunday? Who and what would we see if we came to visit in a service, sat in and take a look around on a Sunday?
CINDY: Faith Family Church is a rather large church. We’ve got, on weekends, anywhere between 3000 to 4000 people that regularly attends. We actually have a Saturday night service and a Sunday morning service. Because we do find a lot of people who prefer to come on a Saturday Night compared to Sunday morning. We got a real mixed crowd of people who attend here — from young people who have a great youth program to people who have been here since the church began. Myself, am the Director of Finance here. I have been in that position, different titles, but basically the same position for 18 years. So, I like to try new technologies and I like to sometimes, there are some hesitation with that. But, you know, I’ve really watched not only the church grow but also things evolved with time.
KENNY: One of the things I love hearing about your church in Ohio is that you actually brought onboard digital giving, introduced it to the church as a response to some of the younger generation there. Tell us a little bit more about. How did that start?
CINDY: Well, it started probably around 8 years ago when we first went to online giving. We have some of the younger people had said, “Why don’t we go to online giving?”. And, we really thought about it for a while because with me, I’m not a younger person. And I was like, “Oh, it’s credit cards; it’s debit cards.” We just had that hesitation about doing that. But once we went to the online giving, they create an app that people can use the app on their phones or log in to our website and give. And, I mean, a lot of people use it. It was popular, but it wasn’t like mind-blowingly popular. People either liked it or didn’t like it. And, 8 years ago, there was still a lot of hesitation from a lot of people to use online giving.
KENNY: Definitely. We’ve come a long way, right? If you look at even e-commerce as a whole, people don’t think about giving a credit card even on your mobile phone today for a purchase, buying stuff on the run is the norm for many Americans today. Tell us a little about your digital giving options today. So, you got online giving on your website. You said, you got a mobile app that you can give through a mobile app. Do you offer text-to-give as well?
CINDY: Yes. We do now offer text-to-give. We initiated that I would say, 2 and a half years ago. That one really came from our youth, in our really young college age kids. They had originally come to our staff and said, “We really like to be able to give by text.”
CINDY: “Everyone’s is using their phones now and we really like you to think about doing that.” Having been doing the online giving, it wasn’t as tough to make that transition. But, I would say that text-to-give has really been a popular choice.
KENNY: Have you seen that it’s only limited usage to the younger? And by younger, are you saying, under 20, under 30, under 40? What is the population are you thinking as the bulk of people who use text-to-give?
CINDY: I would say initially it was the younger 30 and under crowd that really jumped on board with it, right away.
KENNY: What about today?
CINDY: Today, we have all age ranges using it. We have some people that are in their 60s that were using online giving but they had to do their username and their password, and it was more difficult. So, with text-to-give, they literally just send a text with their giving, and they’re like, they really like it because it’s easy.
KENNY: Nice. What are you guys using for text-to-give?
CINDY: For online giving, we are using our database software which is Shelby Arena and, that’s our people database. And when people login to the online giving, they’re literally logging into that database and, they can see their giving records from there. For text-to-give, we’re using Kindrid, which is of course separate from that. But, it’s a great option and, it actually merges really great into Shelby Arena.
KENNY: Got you. Do you have it fully integrated or you don’t need to do extra manual data entry?
CINDY: There’s no data entry. But, what we do is we go to Kindrid and we export the files everyday and then, we just import them into Shelby Arena.
KENNY: Great. In that way, you have one place in all your people profile and histories contain.
CINDY: Yes. that’s true,
KENNY: Got you. What was one of the biggest challenges in adopting text-to-give in your opinion?
CINDY: One of the biggest challenges was getting people to understand how to text-to-give especially if they wanted it to be their tithe, if they wanted it to be the building, if they wanted it to go to one of our other children or whatever. That’s probably the thing that we are continually just reminding people of how that works because if you’re new to it, it can be somewhat confusing.
KENNY: Right. One of the hesitations that I’ve heard from many people who are exploring text giving solutions is that they’re scared that people’s giving rates will drop off. People are not comfortable writing a check versus text in amounts. They rather write the larger amounts via check and that they would not give that much via texting. Have you noticed any loss in terms of the average gift size or are you only receiving small dollar amounts via text?
CINDY: I would say that I’ve not seen anything drop off but someone who would normally give text-to-give, if they did have a particular large gift that they wanted to give, they might write a check for that. And we have many people who do use multiple avenues to give.
KENNY: Got you. Depending on their own preferences, like the flexibility.
CINDY: Yes. They may give weekly with online giving having set up as something that’s automatic. They don’t have to go in and do anything. It’s just every week or every month or whatever give this amount, but they want to give in to a special offering then, they may give text-to-give.
KENNY: One of the biggest obstacles that we have when talk to church teams is that the back office, the finance team, it’s not like you’re out there doing 2 hour lunches everyday, and just sun bathing, right? You got a full plate in terms of what you need to do. So, the hesitation of bringing in another service into the mix in your workflow, tends to be some resistance in some church teams. Just realistically, have you had to add any part time or full time to integrate the Kindrid solution, the text-to-give to increase that giving option. What type of extra resources have you needed in order to do that?
CINDY: Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Because we have a larger congregation, everyone was giving by check, we have so much more data entry that we have to do. So, by them doing online, which is just integrated in there and with the Kindrid, all we do is in one batch, import that into our system and post it. We save time — more people who use that actually saves us time.
KENNY: Interesting. So, you’ve got a church scenario wherein you have a huge proportion is check manually based entry. A text-to-give solution might actually be a good time saver. Is that what you’re saying?
CINDY: Absolutely. We went through and looked to see if someone’s giving by check. How many times does the accounting department have to touch that check or that envelope? And it was literally like seven times whereas in the text-to-give you’re importing it, posting it and you’re done.
KENNY: Got you. And you’re not doing it individually. It’s done in a batch. Everyone. It’s one file. A day that you export and import.
CINDY: Yes, that’s correct.
KENNY: Not in a manual and individual basis.
CINDY: Correct. The only thing you would have to do manually is when someone new gives that isn’t in your database. Other than that it’s literally a five minute process.
KENNY: Have you seen any optic in new givers embracing the text-to-give mostly or is it mostly just old time givers?
CINDY: I would say that as new people come in to the church that’s the way their giving is by text-to-give. Younger people, many of them don’t even have checking accounts or use checks. For them, they’re like, “Oh, I can do that. I can give” It’s so easy just to do it. First initial text-to-give and you’re setup. It’s so much easier than ‘Oh, I didn’t bring my checkbook’, ‘I don’t have any cash on me’. It’s a very great advantage.
KENNY: If you have a chance to talk to the people who are listening today who are considering making that leap into digital giving, what’s the one piece of advice that you would give them as they go into this whole decision process?
CINDY: I would say for and I’ve said this to people in the past for a text-to-give option, make sure that it integrates well with the software you’re currently using. Make sure that it’s something that you can import in and you’re not creating another data entry issue for your staff.
KENNY: Great piece of advice. It’s important to make sure everything works together, right?
KENNY: Thank you so much for spending a little bit of your time with us and sharing your experiences with digital giving. We’re going to end the interview with a lightning round of questions. Are you ready Cindy?
KENNY: So, the first one is, can you share one thing for the top of everyone’s list. Whether it’s a list of books, great books that they should be reading, website that they should be visiting, conferences that they should be taking note of or some other type of resource related to church and the vocation or ministry.
CINDY: I would say I recently read a book called The Leadership Triangle. And, that was really great. It’s by Ford Kevin and Ken Tucker. It was very helpful for me and really understanding our roles as leaders and how to involve everyone in some of your decision making.
KENNY: Nice. that’s a good one. So, what’s one thing that you’re looking forward to 2017 regarding the church?
CINDY: We are going to be opening a campus in 2017. In 2016, we opened some prison campuses and we’re doing those every week in multiple prisons. It’s an awesome program and we’re really looking forward to opening a campus somewhere that we’ll able to reach to our people.
KENNY: Wow. that’s exciting. That period of growth is stored whenever you’re adding another campus. That’s a great time to be a part of the church. Third question is, where are you getting your inspiration and education about donor development these days?
CINDY: I would say my inspiration is coming from our younger staff members. I’m a little older. I won’t say how much older. But, they have the pulse of the younger people. Sometimes, they bring ideas to me that I’ve never not necessarily even heard of and it gives me the information I need for the research.
KENNY: Just a whole story about your church. I love that repeatedly there’s so many examples of being open and listening to the community and being responsive to that. I think that posture is something that everyone really needs to take note of. I think it’s an awesome posture to have. You’ve shared so many good things today. If someone listening today wanted to get in touch with you, what’s the best way that they can do that today?
CINDY: They can email me at email@example.com.
KENNY: Awesome. And that’s your website also, myfaithfamily.com?
CINDY: That’s correct.
KENNY: And that church is in Ohio. Thank you so much Cindy for being in the show today.
CINDY: Thank you Kenny.
Kenny: Thank you for our audience for listening to our conversation on digital giving and the church. If this episode has been useful to you, do me a favor and like and review this podcast episode today. It really helps us reach more church leaders across the country on such an important issue with the future of the church. Well, that’s a wrap. I’m Kenny Jahng for Generosity Labs. ‘Til next time. Check out our website at www.generositylabs.org. Remember learning to give with your heart is when the real giving starts.