Lessons from the world’s first instant donation system

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

Responding to its core faith and charitable verticals, Pushpay has grown from humble beginnings above a gym in Glenfield to over 470 staff and more than 10,000 global customers across New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US.

Responding to its core faith and charitable verticals, Pushpay has grown from humble beginnings above a gym in Glenfield to over 470 staff and more than 10,000 global customers across New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US. I speak with Bruce Gordon, who now heads up Pushpay, about where Pushpay has come from, and where it’s going next.

Bruce Gordon screenshot to crop2

Pushpay CEO, Bruce Gordon

Thanks for joining me, Bruce. It’s a crazy time – how is Pushpay faring with the prospect of remote working for the foreseeable future?

Yes, it’s a super busy time, Cat. That said, I’m super proud of our team, made up of approximately 370 people in the US and 100 people in New Zealand. As things stand, we haven’t missed a beat and we’ve kept up with all the demand. This trying time is actually also a proof-point of further needs to modernise churches, and to help communities right now support each other.

Here in Redmond, which is used to weather events, we’re all pretty used to remote working so it’s nothing new. Still, for somebody that’s 35 years in the industry, it is weird.

Great work on the rapid adjustment! So, tell me about Pushpay’s ‘why’? Chris has obviously left an awesome legacy.

Social good is at the core of Pushpay. We essentially ask, ‘how can we embed opportunities for generosity and giving within a communication platform?’ with two main objectives within that. First and mainly, is our ability to provide customers with the highest level of competitive value and innovation in the market. This leads to very good things for the community and resonates deeply with our church customer base. As we move donors from non-digital to digital means of giving, we create more consistency of cash flow. We know that on average digital donors give 33 percent more than non-digital.

 

“We essentially ask, ‘how can we embed opportunities for generosity and giving within a communication platform?’”

 

Second, Pushpay is more a social platform than a giving platform. Our customised apps allow each individual church to brand itself to its customer and congregation, to become a social media link between the church and the and the church goer. It’s a very sticky solution in regard to the relationship between the church and the church goer. 

Convenience is the new currency, so we look at it through a lens of ‘is it convenient?’  That’s created and serviced by digital. People who give more frequently also give more in actual dollars, which in turn leads to the church and other charities being able to do more in their communities and support the outreach programs which they are associated with. 

Then, speaking in financial terms, ours is a value-based product which basically allows churches and other organisations to reach people and causes all around the world. It’s a really rich solution that’s frankly unmatched in market. Currently we’re processing over US $4 billion dollars per annum across our platform – drawing on our deep understanding of the church community as well as the back end financial and administrative tools that church leaders need.

That sounds highly effective… But surely you’ve faced some challenges in Pushpay’s growth? How did you overcome them?

The US faith sector has historically operated with outdated systems that have not kept up to date with modern day technology. With churches there is still a big cohort tied to the paper-mode of doing things. So that’s our main challenge and really speaks to the mission we’re on, to modernise these incumbent ways of giving.

 

“With churches, there is still a big cohort tied to the paper-mode of doing things.”

 

There is a significant shift for churches in their community outreach, either leaning into the digital platform or looking to implement digital for delivering services and sermons.

Customers can support communities and causes with funds that otherwise they might not have received.  For our niche church market, we really speak to its purpose of creating discipleship – churches are interested in knowing who you are and increasing your participation as part of their journey. Community events are big and it’s very common for churches to have outreach programs at homeless shelters and food drives, orphanages, women’s refuge centres, and drug rehabilitation right across the board.

We have rolled out some unique features to meet demands, such as the ability to prompt frequent or regular givers and say hey, ‘you might find it more convenient to tie this to your pay day’, which typically in the US means they’d be giving twice in a month, as opposed to spasmodically. Recurring by default is also very popular. It essentially prompts you to give on a regular basis and it really is transformative for churches.

Super smart. Still, we’re obviously in a world of rapid change now… Are there any transformation areas that spring to mind for Pushpay’s future?

Yes, we’re transforming our business model. In December we acquired an established SaaS-based church management system provider called Church Community Builder, which serves over 4,000 churches in the US. Church Community Builder’s platform is very complementary to Pushpay’s and will see us, as early as Spring, combining the two businesses to deliver a unique and best-in-class integrated church management system, custom community giving app and giving solution for customers in a way that nobody else has thought to do.

The faith market has very specific needs and specific language and so on. Additional to that, each church has its own specific needs which we have considered, such as child check-in registration, managing attendance and organising volunteers. Church activities require creating and managing small groups and making consistent information available to church leaders, particularly in today’s more digital world when church going is happening in a more distributed way. Churches actually also each have their own specific brand.

Now, that’s all being completely turned on its head in the last two to three weeks. Communities particularly need support right now as churches are closing their premises on a temporary basis.

What does the current pandemic mean for Pushpay and its customers? Any changes to BAU with Covid-19?

As terrible as the situation is, we’re probably the best placed of many businesses. The health and safety of our associates is the total priority for us. As a digital first company, we’ve fast-tracked our response efforts, and as will any leading company, have a forward-looking business continuity plan in place in line with the mandates.

The most profound and clear impact is on our customers and prospective customers. During this time and more than that ever, our churches are finding that leading their communities towards online services is a necessity. The switch has been flipped with Covid-19 especially for churches with the government and local governance saying, first, please don’t congregate 250 people and above and now, of course, all the way down to restricting the physical premises of the church. There’s significant pivot out of necessity, which means it becomes even more important than to educate, to motivate churches to having digital strategy as part of their overall offering.

Everything is certainly different right now, but our essential mission and vision remains. Because we come from a point of view of giving, our customer base is largely inspired by faith. This means doing so digitally is nothing but good news for them.

Thanks for your time today Bruce – just quickly, what’s your advice for upcoming changemakers?

 

“be where your customer wants to experience you”

 

Believe it or not, the speed of innovation, technology and the role that New Zealand’s now playing is absolutely stunning. So that’s some advice in starting from a local level, and thinking global, businesses need to be where your customer wants to experience you. That’s whether it’s digital, whether it’s physical, and whether it’s a combination of both, depending on your go to market strategy.

Cat Mules

Cat Mules

Umbrellar's Digital Journalist, coming from a background in tech reporting and research. Cat's inspired by the epic potential of tech and helping kiwi innovators share their success stories.

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