First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia ~ Welcome home!

As we come back together to start a new church year, we know it’s only a matter of time before a friendly usher will be accosting us in our pews, brandishing the collection plate. This shouldn’t cause stress or worry—after all, we all decided months ago, during the annual pledge drive, how much we each would give this year. That should be the hard part, right?


Yet something always seems to go wrong: we forget our checkbook, we miss a Sunday (or was it two…) and try to figure out how much we owe to make up for it, or we remember too late to get an envelope and pen to identify our cash donation and have to hold the plate hostage while others look on impatiently. We’ve all been there.


For several years, First UU has offered members the option of fulfilling their pledges electronically through automatic online giving. Setting up a recurring donation online is easy, and alleviates all the complications of remembering to make a weekly paper donation. Automatic online giving also reduces the weekly workload for Norman and our ushers, and creates a steadier, more predictable revenue stream for the church.


Given these clear benefits, I was surprised to learn that last year only 11% of members used the online system to donate. I asked around to find out why more people hadn’t gone paperless. Two concerns topped the list.


First, people were worried that once they setup an automatic withdrawal from their checking account or charge to their credit card, it would go on forever, outside of their control. However, after you setup your automatic donation, you can log back in to the same site and modify or cancel your donation. Moreover, when you first set up your donation, you can specify an end date to the recurring transaction. (I think the easiest way is to set up a new transaction each year based on that year’s pledge. I divide my annual pledge by 10 and set up a monthly payment recurring from September to June.)


The second concern was that paper giving is a public act of supporting the church, whereas online giving is private. People want to be seen putting something in the plate each Sunday so that others know they are sharing responsibility for the good financial health of the church. With the help of the Finance Working Group, I’ve got a low-tech solution to this high-tech problem: This year, the pew pockets will be stuffed with a green card that says, “I give online!” If you have set up automatic online giving, simply drop one of these cards on the plate each Sunday. The ushers will separate out the cards so that they can be returned to the pews each week. People will see that you support the church and might even be persuaded to jump on the online giving bandwagon themselves!


Take a moment this week to setup automatic online giving. Navigate to and click Donate under the Quick Links to be directed to the Vanco Services website that handles our online donations. Contact Norman or me with questions.



Michael Johnson


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