As finances move more and more into the digital world, online giving has emerged as a convenient option for accepting donations. Just as ministries protect the tithes they receive in the offering plate on Sunday mornings, they should take care to protect online gifts and donors.
“Online giving can be done safely,” says Jason Lee, IT director at Northwoods Community Church in Peoria, Illinois. “We just have to be wise in the decisions we make and guard our organizations and our donors appropriately.”
The primary issue to consider is the storage of financial information. When a church stores its donors’ credit card numbers or bank information, it becomes responsible for guarding that information. If someone steals the information and runs up fraudulent charges, the church could be legally obligated to pay for the damages. The church also may be required to notify donors of the data breach, which takes time and money.
Lee says his church pays a third-party vendor to process online donations, which helps keep sensitive data off the church’s computers. He says there are plenty of trustworthy options for securing donors’ financial data, from church management software programs to web-based services.
When searching for a reputable partner, be sure to look for:
As you weigh your options, ask colleagues from other ministries for referrals. You also may want to ask the vendor for referrals from its other ministry customers. These referrals can give you a better idea about the vendor’s reputation and work quality. Also, remember to evaluate any fees that the vendor will charge. Once you choose a vendor, ask your ministry attorney to review any agreement before signing.
Your ministry probably already takes steps to protect the checks and cash that come in the offering plate each Sunday. Many of these traditional anti-fraud measures can be applied to online donations, too. Consider these steps:
High-profile data breaches serve as reminders that even major companies are not immune from cybersecurity threats. Review your ministry’s insurance policy and ask about cyber liability coverage. This coverage often includes protection against many of the expenses related to data breaches, such as notification expenses, credit monitoring costs, and potential fines. Some coverages even apply to third-party technology vendors who maintain your ministry’s website, but coverage generally does not extend to an online giving platform operated by a third party.
To test your knowledge on financial controls, take our Fraud Prevention Quiz.
Thank you for your interest in Brotherhood Mutual. We appreciate the opportunity to provide your church or other ministry with an insurance quote and will reply to your request as soon as possible.
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