One of the most common fundraisers you see within a church, particularly if there’s a school associated with the church, is the Scrip table at the back church after Mass. Scrip is a simple concept that does indeed earn money for your church but can require a lot of volunteer effort. It also comes with a few challenges that need to be managed as well.
The concept of Scrip is simple. The church purchases discounted gift cards either directly through a retailer or through national Scrip consolidators such as Great Lakes Scrip, http://www.glscrip.com/. These gift cards are purchased with a discount of usually a few percentage points, but sometimes as high as 12% off. They are then sold to parishioners at their face value. So if a church purchases as $100 gift card to Target that only cost them $96, they get to keep the difference. The parishioner gets the entire value of their purchase. They don’t save any money necessarily, but it doesn’t cost them any money either.
Scrip is a nice, simple idea, but it can require a lot of volunteer hours to manage. There are also a couple of challenges with Scrip:
Pre-activated Gift Cards are as good as money – Even a medium size church will often find themselves maintaining an inventory of thousands of dollars of gift cards. This is risky. If they’re lost or stolen, they’re as good as cash and cannot typically be traced or canceled.
- Scrip consolidators make inventory management easier, but only focus on national retailers – Sure your church can order and easily have shipped a bunch of Home Depot gift cards, but what about your local Ace Hardware store and its owner that’s also a parishioner and staunch supporter of your church?
I recently encountered a service called Online Scrip, http://www.onlinescrip.com/, which addresses some of these needs. I spoke to Chuck Devanso, a volunteer with All Saints Catholic Church in St. Peters, Missouri who manages the church’s Scrip program and now uses the Online Scrip service from SMB Creative. Online Scrip eases Chuck’s work in managing Scrip orders while helping control their inventory. The service interfaces with the Scrip Consolidators like Great Lakes Scrip, but can also take orders for local retailers that wish to work with the church’s Scrip program. You can see how All Saints makes this available to their parish here.
By letting their parishioners place their order online, the church doesn’t need to keep nearly as much inventory on hand. The system administrator places orders after the requests and the money has been received. Instead of needing to compile paper forms or requests via email, Chuck’s volunteer life is eased as the system aggregates the orders for him. Chuck said he hopes to eventually get 90% of their parishioners using the online service although he does still envision having the “table at the back of church” for some masses.
For Chuck, it made his job as the Scrip coordinator noticeably easier. Its also helped address two of the problems he had from day one:
- Parishioner complaints that the process wasn’t convenient enough for them.
- Volunteers not showing up to staff the table.
Now with most of their orders being placed online, Chuck can fill all orders in a few days and while they still have the table at the back of mass, they don’t need as many table (volunteer) hours as before. He says he’s seeing more people leverage Scrip as its now easier to use and even finding a few extended family members using the system, like Grand Parents, who want to help out their grandkids’ school.
The Online Scrip system is an Internet-based system. Chuck gave me a peak behind the scenes at its administrative functionality. It seems to be a well laid out, well designed system. The system has configurable forms so the administrator can capture the order information needed from the parishioners. It also accepts credit card and ACH (EFT) transactions. This way the parishioners pay for their Scrip online, the church takes in the money, and then places the order. The system supports entering local businesses. Gift cards from local businesses still need to be purchased per business, but now orders can be aggregated and filled once per week or maybe once per month once a sufficient volume warrants it.
The costs of the system are $29.95 per month with a $0.30 transaction cost and reasonable credit card rates. Note, using credit cards is optional and something to consider carefully. Credit card rates can be anywhere from 1.9% of the transaction to 3+% of the transaction. Having a parishioner pay by credit card can wipe out much of the discount the church receives from the retailer from the gift card.
More information on Online Scrip can be found at http://www.onlinescrip.com.