Households & Bill-Pay Checks

Households in PCO Giving

In PCO Giving, households are not tracked. Donors may belong to a household in PCO People, but they are not tracked this way as donors.

Why donations belong to individuals and not households:

Before writing a single line of code for PCO Giving, we talked to many churches. Some tracked households and some didn't. Here's what we found as we talked to admins, bookkeepers, and accountants:

Tracking households is messy business for software and for people. Couples get divorced. They get remarried. They donate before their divorce is final. In common law jurisdictions it gets even stickier. Occasionally, parents give on behalf of their children, their spouse, on behalf of an elder, etc. 

There's no requirement to track donor households. Consider how the IRS treats income. It's not the household that earns a wage, it's the individual. At tax time, they add their incomes together and file their joint return. Similarly, if two donors file their taxes together they'll combine their charitable donations into one number.

Inserting yourself into the finances of your donors is a road many churches avoid. Yes, it's nice to deliver household statements as a convenience to donors who file jointly year after year. That nicety however, comes at an administrative burden and system complexity.

Attributing donations:

So, what do you do when the donor envelope says one name and the name on the check says something else? Ask the donor. Since PCO Giving keeps contact information in sync with all the other apps, chances are, you already have their email address. With shared checking accounts, a physical check might have two names. Most counters go with the first name on the check and follow up with the donor to ask their preference.

With online donations, attributing the donation to a single person is already taken care of. 

In all cases, remember that it's easy for an administrator to change later. See the article All About Donors section entitled "Reassigning donations".

Bill-Pay bank checks

Some donors may use the bill-pay system provided by their bank to donate. Most of the time, the bank itself will cut a physical check on behalf of the donor and put it in the mail.

This system works well for the donor because:

  1. It's easy for donors to see all their recurring bills at once
  2. It automates the task of giving.
  3. There's no need to set up & verify an ACH connection to the church.
  4. The bank covers the cost of postage.
  5. The donor doesn't have to share their account number with the church.*

It also works well for the church because:

  1. Any type of automated, recurring donation typically means people are better about giving regularly.
  2. The only cost associated with accepting a check is the administrative labor associated with processing it (there are no processing fees as there would be with ACH).
  3. Before printing a check, the bank will check to see if the funds are available. Because of this, it's typically impossible for a bill-pay check to bounce since it's issued by the bank.*

Bill-pay checks and check-scanning:

* As mentioned above, most bill-pay systems cut a check from the bank itself... not the donor's account. That means the routing and account number are the bank's account number rather than the donor's. That poses a problem when using a check reader in the course of processing a physical batch of donations. When the check is passed through the reader, PCO Giving will match the routing & account number with any donor that has used the bill-pay system of that particular bank. 

If you scan a bill-pay check, the donor will be automatically detected by the system. If it's associated with only one donor thus far, you can use the following link to change the associated donor:

The next time that particular check is scanned, the system will recognize that multiple donors have used this account to donate. It's a "shared" account in the same way a couple may share a joint checking account. In the case of bill-pay checks, it's likely that many donors will "share" this bill-pay account. You'll need to enter the name of the donor every time when one of these checks is passed through the reader.

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