Fintech for the faithful as Pushpay answers investor prayers
For the financial year ending March 31 Pushpay processed $US5 billion worth of donations for the 10,500 churches that use its technology. This includes the US operations of Hillsong and the majority of the 100 largest churches in the country.
“We still have plenty of opportunity to go, and of course with the advent of COVID-19 there’s been a significant shift to digital platforms,” says Gordon.
Pushpay has found favour during the pandemic because it offers much more than a digital payment option. Its solution combines a mobile app with a backend church management system – akin to a customer relationship system and operations management – creating a platform that not only manages a church’s digital relationship with its flock but also what Gordon refers to as their “giving”.
“Sermons are recorded mid-week now and streamed throughout the course of the entire week. We have churches running services seven times on a Sunday and our largest churches some of them are reaching upwards of 300,000 attendees over the course of a week through the digital streaming through the mobile app,” says Gordon.
It gives the churches the tools to know and grow their participation creating what Gordon calls a “very sticky, loyal customer base”. Embedded into this pastoral relationship is what Gordon refers to as the “digital giving experience” that might involve volunteering services but also cash donations.
“We have essentially embedded opportunities to express your generosity and build out what we call a donor management system, which identifies where individual church participants are relative to their giving journey,” he says.
Gordon emphasises that the pastoral element remains important in this relationship. An estimated 50 per cent of Americans identify very strongly with the idea that church is central to their life, which is very different to Australia and New Zealand.
“There is a misunderstanding in Australasia that the US churches are all out generating more income,” he says. “Actually they are interested in discipleship and giving is a deeper expression of connection and community.”
The pandemic has not tested the loyalty of churches to the Pushpay solution, quite the reverse, according to Pushpay. Many church organisations have become completely reliant on the company as they were forced to close their doors.
It has also put Pushpay firmly on the radar of some of the laggards when the pandemic first hit in March.
“Suddenly in mid-March our phones rang off the hook for a number of weeks in the US as the churches said ‘by golly I’ve closed my doors I need a digital strategy, I need the ability to reach my congregation through mobile,’ so it’s been a high growth period for us,” says Gordon.
The market certainly agrees. Pushpay’s shares have more than tripled from a March low of $2.64 to a high of $9 last month, which is almost double the previous record high of $4.68 it reached in February.
After Pushpay’s May full year results announcement in May, Jarden analyst Wassim Kisirwani noted the acceleration in digital transactions over the last 6 weeks of the financial year ending March 31.
“The implied processing volumes for the year of $US6.8 billion is a level we previously expected would take until FY22E to reach,” he said.
Gordon says the pandemic has brought out the best in parishioners and the Pushpay product has helped many of them donate more to their church.
“Our top 25 churches have experienced an average of a 15 per cent increase in giving in June versus the previous June, it’s huge.”
“People are more generous in a crisis,” he says.
Colin Kruger is a business reporter. He joined the Sydney Morning Herald in 1999 as its technology editor. Other roles have included the Herald’s deputy business editor and online business editor.