Teressa Frazier and her finance team had a routine. Immediately after worship service every Sunday at Victory Grace Center, they would walk around handing out envelopes containing pay checks to church staff and contractors.
But that was before COVID-19 closed down in-person worship services. While the Maryland-based congregation of 400, under the leadership of Senior Pastor Dr. Jasmin Sculark, also known as Dr. Jazz, were not meeting in the building, worship services and church activities still continued virtually and staff and contractors, such as musicians, still needed to be paid.
That’s when Frazier, VGC’s Director of Finance, opted for Direct Deposit and other ACH payment solutions. Like many other churches and small businesses, Frazier found that having the option to pay using ACH, or the Automated Clearing House Network, was a saving grace as electronic payments provided a simpler, more automated way of paying for their goods and services.
In fact, it took COVID-19 to break VGC of its paper check habit. Since the church was founded in 2015, checks were one of its primary payment methods. “We used checks – and credit cards, of course – from day one,” Frazier said. “In the last nine months, we’ve transitioned payroll and about 95% of our bills and invoices to ACH. Checks just aren’t a reliable way to do business anymore.”
On the recommendation of Dr. Jazz, Frazier used the ADP payroll processing service to fully transition the church to Direct Deposit. “It was very easy to set up for our employees and contractors. Direct Deposit flows like clockwork. It’s a great automated system that allows me to pay staff and contract workers the same way,” she said. “It makes my job easier.”
Direct Deposit is fast and reliable, and it’s the way 93% of American workers get paid. It also puts employees in control of their finances. They can access their money quickly, and pay no additional fees to receive their pay.
Of course, before the transition to Direct Deposit, Frazier did experiment with paying staff and contractors via a peer-to-peer (P2P) money transfer app. “A lot of people wanted to get their money in real-time. And they didn’t want to wait for checks to be mailed. We decided to give [the P2P app] a try because most people were already using the service,” she said.
However, some employees were hit with fees and others had difficulty moving their money. “The process was harder for some and easier for others,” she said. “But the biggest complaint were fees. In a pandemic, a $14 fee is a lot.”
Compared to the issues with the P2P app, the transition to Direct Deposit was seamless. “A few people asked if there would be fees,” Frazier said. “And, fortunately, there are none with Direct Deposit.”
Frazier also said that donors are primarily giving financially to the church electronically. There are only a few paper check holdouts. “Of the hundreds of people who give on a regular basis, less than 10 still give by check. And, yes, they mail their check into the office even during a pandemic,” Frazier said, adding that while it’s still a bit of a hassle to make mail pickups even now, when COVID-19 first hit, she and her team couldn’t access the church’s mail at all for a period.
“And it’s not just seniors who still give by check. You don’t have to be older to prefer checks, just antiquated,” she said. “We’ve actually converted most of our seniors over to electronic giving.”
The transition has been overwhelmingly successful. “Dr. Jazz is very cutting edge, fast paced, and technologically savvy, and members want to follow the leader, even in matters like this,” Frazier said. “And checks aren’t the way.”
Helping churches, other places of worship, businesses and organizations of all sizes to more easily make and receive ACH payments is one of Nacha’s strategic initiatives aimed at increasing adoption of ACH payments. For more information on how to leverage ACH for your religious organization, visit www.Nacha.org/ReligiousOrganizations. You can learn more about direct deposit at directdeposit.org.