My Verizon and Synagogue Bills

The other day I received an email reminding me to pay my Verizon bill. I am “old school” when it comes to paying our monthly bills. I use Quicken for our checkbook and on the first of each month, print the checks for all of the bills that need to be paid, and drop them off at the post office. As an aside, it should be noted that several years ago the post office removed the mailbox on our street due to lack of use.

Anyway, I decided to follow the link and pay my Verizon bill online. I could use a credit or debit card and incur a $2.00 transaction fee. Or I could pay by an electronic fund transfer from my checking or savings account for a $.45 transaction fee. Less than the cost of a stamp! While I like United Miles as much as the next person, $.45 seemed like the best way to go.

The first “Statement” from our synagogue came the other day as well. I can also pay by credit or debit card. But there will be a transaction fee of 2%. Online payments are not yet an option.

This is okay for old school guys like me. But what will younger people think?

Millennials are our future congregants. Born between 1980 and 2005, they are the age cohort that we all hope to be welcoming to our synagogue communities in the coming years. There are 74 million of them, a group that is even larger than the baby boomers. And as we know – particularly as parents of Millennials – they have grown up with technology at their fingertips.

By 2025, Millennials will account for 46% of the nation’s income.

What will the 34 year-old – with a 2-year-old baby and one on the way – think when she receives the synagogue’s initial “statement”? Put aside the amount of money for the moment. She conducts the business of her life by making online payments with a credit or debit card, or simply waving her telephone. In her mind, to become a member of the synagogue she is charged an extra fee. Or should she just accept the fact that she will need a check to pay for her synagogue dues?

Along with the invoice, there was a general letter, a budget breakdown, information about ARZA, and a survey included. Maybe I am coming around to new school thinking here, but I have to ask about whether it would be more cost effective to send this important packet via email. QuickBooks and other similar financial programs have the capability to send invoices electronically, and send multiple pages. If the office staff can master the technology, sending such information electronically would be a significant savings in both time and money (paper, envelope, ink, and postage).

Two years ago, I wrote a blogpost on this topic that talks about “high tech” as actually being “high touch”. If we want to encourage Millennials to be part of our sacred communities, then we have to have the technology to meet them where they are at. This is not to say that synagogues should go totally paperless, and totally electronic. I know there are a handful of congregants at my synagogue who don’t have email addresses.

Rather, we need multiple channels for communication and transactions so no one feels excluded.

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7 comments on “My Verizon and Synagogue Bills
  1. Skylar Cohen says:

    We moved to online invoicing, using Quickbooks, last year and it’s been a great thing. We can accept payment via ACH and we absorb the .50 fee. Many congregants pay through their banks online bill pay. When we’re really fortunate, they pay through payroll deduction and we get a match from the employer. We’ve included in our pledge renewal a request that members find out if their employer will match charitable giving to a religious institution (not all will).
    We are not prepared to accept credit card payments for pledges and tuition — the service charge is still too big a hit for us — but will accept PayPal for general and special fund donations, class fees, etc.

    • admin says:

      Skylar,

      That is really helpful information. Sending invoices via Quickbooks or other similar accounting software is something I hope other synagogues look into. I am glad your shared this in this space to confirm my thinking about this.

      Many thanks again.

      Best,

      David

  2. David
    Is your issue the transaction fee, the old school mailing vs. Sending this stuff electronically, or both?
    My guess is that Verizon either builds in the credit card fee or has such high volume that they negotiate with the credit card companies to make it come to almost zero. Synagogues do not have that leverage. We do allow for credit card payments and we give people a choice. One price for check and another for credit card (like at a gas station where two prices are listed on the pump). We also have an ACH option. While I wish we could set up an ACH once and forget it, our challenge is that if dues/fees go up, people have to set up a new ACH.

    • admin says:

      Daniel,

      Thanks for taking the time to share your thoughts. A couple of years ago, I commented on one of these blogs that another alternative is to offer a discount for those who pay by check, and what is the normal price for those who pay by credit card. My point is to have multiple payment options – check, credit card, ACH, EFT – and that people shouldn’t feel they have to pay extra because they are paying their synagogue bill like they pay all of their other bills – that don’t require an extra fee.

      Thanks again. Hope things are well at Community Synagogue.

      Best,

      David

  3. Howard Feinberg says:

    David’s observations about how millenials live their lives and do business are spot on. And, increasingly, even baby boomers and their parents who are computer literate have taken to the “electronic highway” when making philanthropic donations and/or paying regular monthly, quarterly and annual bills. All synagogues, non-profits and businesses should offer this option both for the consumers and to lower their costs for operations. Thanks for your thoughtful posts, David.

    • admin says:

      Howard,

      First time commenting on this blog. Many thanks for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

      Best,

      David

      • admin says:

        And there was one more comment today from my good friend Tom Wiener that came directly to my email. Electronic bill paying is something to consider, even old school guys like me. From Tom:

        Absolutely right, but if you are going to use the credit card, the temple needs to recoup the service charge. My bank lets me pick who I want to pay electronically and actually charges nothing for the service. You don’t do it through “Verizon” or whoever the vendor is, but through the bank’s website. I do it all the time. I can make payments to my temple that way if I want to. You should check to see if your bank does the same.

        Be well.

        Tom

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