If Girl Scouts are doing it, will congregations be next?

200 Girl Scout troops in Ohio now take credit cards for cookies. One council reported a 20% increase in sales once they started using GoPayment, a little gadget that attaches to a smart phone, takes your money, and sends a receipt to your email address. Here’s a video from the Associated Press showing how they do it. And if you’re wondering how much it costs the Girl Scouts to take payment this way, here’s the scoop from a print version of this AP article:

Intuit, the Mountain View-based company that manufactures GoPayment, charges a small fee per transaction and offers various pricing plans to customers based on sale volume…. Intuit charges the Girl Scouts its lowest rate, at 1.6 percent plus 15 cents per transaction. Most customers pay 2.7 percent per transaction. [San Mateo County Times, 26 March 2011, p. A2]

As fewer and fewer people carry ready cash, this is an obvious way for the Girl Scouts to try to increase sales. But would it work for congregations who pass the collection plate in their services? If you watch the video, it’s obvious the transaction would take too long for the average offertory. It might possibly work for bake sales, rummage sales, ticket sales and the like, but my guess is that the cost is too high and the sales volume too low to make it worthwhile. If congregations want to fight their way out of the dark ages of cash transactions, my guess is that we’re going to have to change the way we do things — but I don’t know what that’s going to look like.

5 thoughts on “If Girl Scouts are doing it, will congregations be next?”

  1. Scott: You write: “And I wouldn’t use it for anything less than $10.”

    And religious liberals are notoriously stingy when it comes to giving to their congregations — another reason not to use this.

    But I’ve been thinking — what about taking offerings in services for charitable causes? Like what if we asked people in the congregation to give to the Japan relief fund during the service? Then having something like this might be worth it — you could get people on the way out of the service.

    And thanks for pointing out that there are plenty of vendors for this kind of service besides Intuit. I’m sure the San Mateo County Times focused on that since it is a local company.

  2. But it might be good for paying for pancake dinners and wreath sales — the kind of thing we would have once taken checks for, but isn’t really all that much.

    So not for a buck in the plate — or for an annual pledge, but with a bias towards to where there needs to be a record. A special collection as you suggest is right on target.

  3. My understanding is that almost all of our member contributions come through automatic bank transfers now. All the coins in our offerings are given to a designated charity, and we have talked about giving the whole collection to the charity, as many congregations do.

    This dynamic sort of obviates the usefulness of a point-of-sale device, and it looks to me like it’s probably the way things are headed.

  4. liberalreligiongetsloud @ 4 — You write: “This dynamic sort of obviates the usefulness of a point-of-sale device”

    Yes, but see Scott’s comment @ 3 above. The real point here is that fewer people carry cash, and congregations are probably going to need a range of ways to accept payments for pledges, pancake breakfasts, rummage sales, etc. etc.

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