Giving is a fairly young product for us and it's in a constant state of improvement. There's so much more to build and improve upon! While we don't publish a roadmap for feature releases, we'd like to touch to some of the most common feature requests we get for Planning Center Giving here.
How we decide on features
"No Contracts. No Setup Fees. Cancel Anytime." This means we're earning your subscription dollars every single month. It means we have to keep advancing and refining the products we make, we have to provide great support, and we have to continue proving that Giving is a great fit for your church.
When it comes to knowing which features to build next, the single greatest resource we have is you: our customer. We don't spend much time looking at what competitors do an we don't run focus groups. We listen to you and what you're asking for when you hit that big ? mark in the top right of the application. At Planning Center, product teams are in tight communication with support teams. When you ask for a feature or a change, that communication really does make its way into the hands of the people that are building the thing. Don't ever feel like a request is too small or too weird to be proposed. Chances are, there are other customers asking for the same thing and a little more prodding is what we need to make it happen.
Every day, we get a LOT of feature requests. With each one, we ask a number of questions: Are a lot of people asking for this? Is there another feature that could serve this need? Is there a short term solution that doesn't undermine the long term solution? Is it something that relates to a forthcoming feature? Does it fit with the core purpose of the application? Would it be rarely used by a few or often used by many?
Commonly requested features
Some of these are great ideas. We just haven't gotten to them yet. Some of them seem like great ideas until you break them down a bit. Some of them are a mix of both.
Sub-funds (or a "notes" field)
On the surface, it seems like a "notes" field would be a simple thing to add to the donation form. And technically speaking, it would be! After all, Giving has little administrative "notes" fields on many areas of the application. However, this gets really sticky when it's something exposed to the donor because it allows a donor to basically "write in" their own fund or anything they'd like.
Here are four examples:
1) Amount: $100. Fund: General Fund. Note: "IOU to Pastor Bob"
With a notes field, the church would have no way of preventing this non-donation from happening. The donor just used the donation form to pay a personal debt, but the money went to the General Fund, will be transfered to the church's bank account, and will appear on the "donor's" giving statement. It's enough to drive a bookkeeper crazy.
2) Amount: $300. Fund: Foreign Missions. Note: "Johnson Family"
Err... the Johnson Family returned home from the mission field 3 years ago. Maybe this donor didn't get the memo.
3) Amount: $100. Fund: Youth Camp Sponsorship. Note: "For Becky Thompson"
How nice! Someone sponsored little Becky's ticket to youth summer camp this year! Oh... it was her mother. The IRS explicitly says that this isn't a deductible donation – it's a payment for a good received (the benefactor was the donor's own child).
4) Amount: $200. Fund: Foreign Missions. Note: "New Building"
What were the donor's intention here? They selected the Foreign Missions fund and then wrote in something that has nothing to do with that.
It's easy to see why an open-ended notes field might present a number of issues. We think this feature request is really about "sub-funds." And there are all kinds of legitimate use-cases for those! But they are much harder to implement in a trackable, manageable way. First, just like normal funds, they would always need to be defined and managed by an administrator. The church always needs to be in control and able to say "Here are the things you can donate to" or "Here is the list of foreign missionaries we support." Just like with regular funds, sub-funds must be able to be able to be archived and hidden from the public. They'd also need to work with text-to-give, split-fund donations, and a lot more. Nothing is impossible – it's just a huge project we haven't tackled yet.
Your church may receive income from all sorts of avenues. You may sell baked goods at a fundraiser. You might run a thrift store where all the proceeds go to a homeless shelter. You may sell tickets to the youth summer camp. You may ask members of small groups to reimburse you for the purchasing of books.
The point is, all of these types of transactions are instances where someone is actually receiving some physical good or service. These transactions need to be processed outside of the donation form provided by Planning Center Giving. They should be entered into your general ledger (Quickbooks, Peachtree, etc) and tracked there, as separate income. If a donor wants to pay for $100 for a ticket to an event at your church and also wants to donate $50 to the church, these need to be treated as two transactions- a sale and a donation. The donation is what will be tracked in Planning Center Giving.
A Giving kiosk is something that we don’t offer at the moment, but might consider as a future feature. Currently, the donor interface at churchcenteronline (here's an example) offers donors the ability to give via their smartphone, tablet, or personal computer. This way of donating is more private, immediate, and gives us the opportunity to make it easier for repeat donors to give and manage those recurring gifts. Our concern is that we didn't want to build a kiosk functionality when the donor interface already provides a solution for easy giving.
Still, we recognize that there are some scenarios (such as fundraiser events that are open to the public) that it still might make sense to have a physical giving kiosk. So, we may still build a kiosk feature in light of that. It kind of depends on how many customers communicate that they need it and they think the advantages would be.
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