Churches often frown on worshippers bringing mobile phones into services. But they may have a different view if those churchgoers use their phones to make donations to the church.

To enable such donations, Church Office Online announced last week its software now integrates with PayPal's mobile app.

Churches can use PayPal's mobile app to begin accepting mobile donations that connect to the donation payment page on a church website, says Mike Smith, chief operating officer of Issaquah, Wash.-based Church Office Online LLC.

Any church can sign up for a PayPal account and start collecting electronic donations and provide information to its worshippers on donation envelopes, church bulletins or on display screens during services about downloading the free application to set up a Church PayPal account, Smith says.

"PayPal makes it very simple and customizes the application for churches of all sizes," Smith adds.

Some churches incorporate a "donation button" on their payments page to connect the worshipper to various payment gateways, while others list various payment options, Smith says.

"The church management software automatically enters donations from PayPal into the church database and, for tax purposes, associates it with the individual who gave the donation," Smith adds.

Church Office Online offers other options in addition to PayPal, he adds. Church Office Online serves clients in every state in the U.S. and in 30 countries, mostly English-speaking congregations in all denominations, Smith says.

Church Office Online also promotes the use of mobile payments as a way to attract younger people to a church because they would interact more often through mobile commerce technology.

Smith said his company's research indicates that 25% of a congregation makes church donations online, and that 70% of those people do so through a mobile device.

"There is a huge push for non-profits and churches to convert more cash and checks into electronic payments," says Todd Ablowitz, president of Centennial, Colo.-based Double Diamond Group, LLC. "Right now, the number of people making donations in that way is in the very low double digits."

The addition of PayPal to Church Office Online offerings also illustrates that consumers are continuing to get exposure to new payment methods "for things that didn't seem possible before," Ablowitz says.

In 2011, Secure Vault Payments began providing test services to the Mormon Church, which wanted a secure payment option for those who may not use payment cards or have bank accounts. Secure Vault Payments operates as the alternative payments unit of Nacha, the organization that oversees the U.S. Automated Clearing House system.

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