Church of Scotland using contactless for donations

It’s the traditional part of the church service when the collection plate is solemnly passed along the pews, accompanied by the sound of rummaging and the clink of coins and the rustle of banknotes.

The Church of Scotland could introduce contactless payments for donations. Picture: Jonathan Brady/PA Wire

But now the Church of Scotland is encouraging its congregations to think about going ‘contactless’ to make donating easier and faster in an era where more and more people no longer carry cash.

Different collection methods are being used ranging from using devices small enough to sit in a brass collection plate allowing parishioners to tap their bank card and make a cashless donation.

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This involves the church setting a donation level such as £5 or £10.

This type of collection plate also lets people donate the traditional coins and notes.

Other churches have terminals at the back of the church where people choose the amount they want to pay and type in their pin number.

Indeed, some congregations already using contactless payment systems including Paisley Abbey, St Giles Cathedral and Murrayfield Parish Church, in Edinburgh.

Rev Bryan Kerr of Greyfriars Parish Church in Lanark in South Lanarkshire introduced a PayPal system seven months ago.

He said the electronic ‘giving station’ allows people to give a one-off denotation, set up a standing order or regular payment of sign up for Gift Aid, and that donations had increased.

“The first Sunday we did it was quite funny as one of my elders put his debit card on the collection bag for a laugh.

“One of the big issues we’d been finding was that people who come to church know about the ‘offering’, so they were prepared knowing that we take a collection.

“But they didn’t understand why visitors didn’t know this.

“So, this is a way of making donating as easy as possible for everyone and it takes the embarrassment out of it all for people who don’t have money on them.”

Different vendors provide contactless payment technology but Kirk officials are recommending GoodBox, a company specialising in supplying charities with technology.

David Lynch, national stewardship co-ordinator, described the GoodPlate as a “game changer”.

Mr Lynch and his team are showcasing GoodBox devices at the General Assembly’s 2019 Heart and Soul festival in Princes Street Gardens on Sunday.

Mr Lynch said: “Digital giving shows that the Church is willing and able to embrace modern technology and it recognises that we are living in changing times.

“It fully understands the need to look at new and emerging methods of income generation.”

Mr Lynch, who divides his time between Edinburgh and Inverness and is a member of Trinity church, said the number of people who do not carry cash is ever increasing.​

“The purpose of encouraging congregations to adopt a system is to provide those people looking to donate with the widest possible options,” he explained.

Mr Lynch added: “They could be one off visitors to services, event attendees, tourists or regular church members who have moved to a cashless lifestyle.

“It will also give congregations the option of a new portal of income generation for events and hall rentals.”