Getting started with the Giving module

Welcome to ChurchSuite's Giving module! This module is designed to help churches manage the donations they receive and the givers who gave them. The Giving module also includes support for Gift Aid reclaims (UK churches) and Tax Deductible donations (North American churches). This article is designed to provide your finance team with a broad overview of the Giving module's functionality and highlight key features that may be useful to them in their role and to your church.

In this article

Getting started - module settings
Getting started - module security
Getting started - creating funds
Getting started - online giving
Getting started - SMS giving
Managing your givers
Recording donations
Giving module reports
Claiming Gift Aid
Produce statements of donations for your givers

Getting started - module settings

We recommend you begin by reviewing the module's settings. Click on the cog wheels in the top right corner of the module and check all the settings on each of the Module, My ChurchSuite and Donate tabs. Remember to save your changes before navigating away from the module settings.

On the Module tab, in addition to in-built Donation Methods, add any additional custom giving "methods" by which your church receives donations. When recording donations you'll be able to select the method that the donation was given by. For more information about custom donation methods, see the related support article ar the end of this article, or click here.

You can optionally set whether new Givers are assigned to a particular Tag, perhaps so that you can follow up with those new Givers in some way. Tags are a great way to create custom groupings of your Givers, especially for communication purposes. For more information about tags, see the related support article at the end of this article, or click here.

If your church produces annual donation statements, add any optional custom message that will displayed on your statement - the message will show on emailed and printed statements. For more information about producing giving statements, see the related support article at the end of this article, or click here.

For UK churches only, you can enter your church's HMRC Online information. Entering the information here will save you having to enter the details each time you submit a Gift Aid claim online. Be careful to enter exactly the right information in the correct fields. Do not confuse the Charity ID (issued by HMRC) and the Registered Charity Number (issued by the Charities Commission for your Regulator). The User ID and Password are those issued by HMRC, not your ChurchSuite user login details. For more information about reclaiming Gift Aid using ChurchSuite, see the related support article at the end of this article, or click here.

For more information about the My ChurchSuite settings tab and the Donate settings tab, see the related support articles at the end of this article.

Getting started - module security

You can optionally secure your Giving module with a module password. This prevents Administrator users, who ordinarily have full access to all modules, from being able to access the Giving module unless they have the module password. In this way you can restrict access to the module to just your finance team if you wish.

To activate the module password, see the instructions provided in the related support article at the end of this article, or click here.

Getting started - creating funds

When recording donations in the Giving module they're assigned against a fund. Donations must be assigned to a fund, which means there must be one active fund in your Giving module. Typically this might be your "general tithes and offerings" fund, but equally you can create multiple funds for other purposes - you might have different funds to distinguish donations made for particular missions or projects or special offerings. Churches can also use different funds to distinguish their restricted, unrestricted and designated donations, so that they are complying with the wishes of the giver when the donation is given.

You can order your funds so that your most frequently used fund is at the top of the list and therefore suggested by default when adding donations. You can also choose which funds are to be visible in ChurchSuite's online giving Donate platform, so that potential givers can select between your funds as appropriate when making a donation.

A great feature is that each fund has its own public-facing "fund page" that can optionally be distributed as a link in your church's communications or embedded in your website - ideal for when you want to invite givers to support a particular cause or project in your church. Using a fund page Donate can be locked down to just that one fund, making it really easy for prospective givers to make one-off and recurring donations that are correctly processed back against the fund in your Giving module. Givers can even Gift Aid those donations and ChurchSuite will store an electronically-signed Gift Aid declaration for the donation(s) - UK churches only.

Churches commonly receive donations by a wide variety of methods - cash, cheque, standing order, and envelopes. A large number of churches have a seen a growing trend in the use of online giving. While not intended to necessarily be a replacement for existing giving methods, online giving is growing rapidly as more and more givers find that they can begin the discipline of giving and stewardship in a much more accessible way. ChurchSuite includes an inbuilt online giving platform called Donate. With very little configuration, churches can easily begin receiving online donations.

There is a cost to online giving - a transaction fee is deducted from the donation at the point of giving, with the net donation being deposited direct in to your church's bank account. You can receive both one-off and recurring donations via online giving. Givers can easily make one-off or recurring donations, optionally select from your available funds and, for UK churches, Gift Aid their donations, with Gift Aid claimed on the gross donation, even though you receive the "net of fees" amount. 

We've chosen to integrate to two online financial merchants - Stripe*, for card donations (also used by ChurchSuite for handling your online event ticket sales and booking charge payments), and GoCardless*, for direct debit donations. Donations are passed directly from the giver's card or bank account in to your church bank account. Both merchants process one-off and recurring donations and have been selected because of their excellent reputation for efficiency and security, and also for their competitive low fees. Many churches who use online giving find that those transaction fees are more than offset by the savings in administration and cash handling, and in the overall increase in giving that many churches experience by providing an online giving option.

Online donations are recorded into your Giving module automatically; and either matched to an existing giver's profile, or a new profile is created. ChurchSuite includes reports to help finance teams reconcile gross donations and fees.

For more information about receiving online donations, see the related support article at the end of this article or click here.

Getting started - SMS giving

Once you've set up the Giving module for receiving online donations, you can also optionally receive donations using the in-built SMS giving functionality.

Using your church's existing SMS text integration (e.g. Textlocal, Bulk SMS, Twilio), givers can text a donation to your church's unique SMS number (provided free by the SMS service provider) and they'll receive back a link to your online giving Donate platform, with all their donation details pre-filled. Each SMS giving text received will use one text provider credit (used when the Donate link is texted back to the giver's mobile device). Stripe or GoCardless transaction fees will also apply to donations made by card or direct debit.

Like online giving, SMS giving is intended to provide another accessible way for prospective givers to be able to participate in giving to your church, meaning givers can respond in the moment, even if they don't have their wallet or purse on them. For more information about setting up SMS giving for your church, see the related support article at the end of this article, or click here.

Managing your givers

Within the Giving module, each giver will have their own giver profile. For givers that also exist as contacts in your church Address Book, the giver profile can be linked to the underlying Address Book contact; meaning changes made to a contact's details are automatically updated to the giver profile too. For givers that are not part of your church, and therefore not in your Address Book (e.g. visitors), unlinked giver profiles can also be created - unlinked givers can easily be added to the Address Book later, if you wish.

Duplicate givers are highlighted (and there's a "duplicate givers" report) and can easily be merged where they are confirmed as genuine duplicates (or ignored, if they are separate individuals).

Ordinarily a giver profile represents an individual. However, where a giver's donations represent a couple, the giver profile can be set as a "couple" profile. Then, either the linked giver's spouse/partner is also linked automatically, or an unlinked giver's spouse/partner name can be manually added. For UK churches only, the Gift Aid split between the couple givers can also be specified.

For churches transitioning from other finance software, you can easily import your givers into the Giving module from a CSV format file.

ChurchSuite includes comprehensive multi-site functionality. In the Giving module givers can be assigned to a site, and their donations reported on by site if you wish. UK churches can also run site-specific Gift Aid claims.

Within each giver's profile you can view their donation history, upload and manage Gift Aid declarations (UK churches only) and record and manage pledges. You can easily add notes against a giver too - ideal for jotting down important information.

Churches can further categorise and group together givers using Tags - either using Fixed Tags, to create custom groupings of givers; or with Smart Tags, to identify givers who match a defined list of conditions.

Communication is central to ChurchSuite's functionality, and that extends to the communications functionality in the Giving module. From giver profile pages, tags, reports and the module's communication utility page, communicating with just the right individuals or groups of givers is really easy. You can produce labels, envelopes, send an email or SMS, or export giver details to a CSV format file.

Recording donations

While all online donations processed through Donate are automatically recorded into the Giving module against the appropriate giver profile, you can just as easily add donations by other methods too...

For UK churches, each donation's Gift Aid status is correctly set based on the underlying Gift Aid declaration(s). For North American churches, each donation's tax deductible status is correctly set based on the fund the donation is assign to. In both cases, you also have the option to override the default Gift Aid/tax deductible status of a donation.

When importing donations, perhaps from a bank statement, you'll assign donations to their appropriate giver. ChurchSuite will remember the imported bank statement giver references so that, for future imports, the correct giver will be auto-suggested as part of the import process. Multiple bank references can be recorded for each giver, catering for those givers who might give through different bank accounts for different purposes.

Giving module reports

Like all the other modules, the Giving module includes a suite of helpful reports for finance team and treasurers. The list of available reports is divided in to sections relating to Donate, Data Cleansing, Declarations (UK only), Donations and Givers and Pledges. Each report has a range of contextual filters and printing/export options. You can also easily assign a tag or communicate to the givers matched by the report's results.

For example, the following Recent Changes report shows a list of all changes made to your donations, including details of the change that was made, by whom and when, helpfully providing an audit trail of user activity within the module.

Claiming Gift Aid (UK churches only)

As mentioned in the previous section, ChurchSuite maintain an up to date Gift Aid status against all donations in the Giving module, which is dependent on the presence of a valid Gift Aid declaration. You can even process Gift Aid overclaims and refunds where there are changes in a giver's circumstances, or where a user error has been made.

You can easily run a Gift Aid claim in the Giving module and even submit the claim online to HMRC.

An intuitive claim process takes the user through each stage of creating a new claim, reviewing and completing the claim (including highlighting common issues, such as missing addresses required for Gift Aid), and then to either download the claim file for manual submission, or to upload automatically using HMRC online. The donation status of claimed donations is automatically updated as part of the process.

The Giving module includes comprehensive reporting around Gift Aid, to enable your finance team to filter reports of claimable or non-claimable donations, or perhaps those that have been claimed, unclaimed or overclaimed.

Produce statements of donations for your givers

ChurchSuite enables you to easily produce statements of donations that can be printed or emailed direct to each giver, thus saving postage costs. Module settings allow churches to add custom content into the body of the statement, perhaps a note of thanks for people's support, or that all-important "Tax Exemption" notice that North American churches have to include in their statements to comply with filing requirements.

In addition to providing printed or emailed statements, your givers can also view a full history of their donations in the My Giving section within My ChurchSuite.

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