Turning off your phone before you go into church is probably a good idea — unless you plan to make a donation.

Vanco Payment Solutions helps churches, non-profits and other religious organizations cut down on handling cash and checks from parishioners and supporters by introducing them to electronic payments.

Atlanta-based Vanco Payment Solutions, which was created by combining Veracity Payment Solutions and Vanco Services, plans to expand its customer base and transaction volume. Today Vanco works with more than 15,000 churches and processes more than $13.1 billion in electronic payments annually across various industries.

Ultimately, Vanco seeks to make the weekly visit to church similar to going to Starbucks, where patrons can use a mobile app to pay for coffee, said Vanco CEO Kevin Lee.

"You walk into the sanctuary with the mobile app on your phone, an iBeacon alert asks you if you want to donate the same amount this week, and you tap 'yes'," Lee said.

Vanco provides laminated cards that say, "I donated electronically" so the donors can place the card in the collection basket or plate, rather than letting it pass by as if they are not interested.

Vanco has targeted this niche as a payment processor because faith-based organizations deal with cash or checks for up to 90% of the donations they accept.

"There is no way to identify where the money came from to give them a tax record and no way to identify them to thank them," Lee said.

In addition, some donors would like to split a donation between two causes, maybe part for a school project and part for the church coffers, Lee said. "Electronic payments solve that problem because they can indicate where they want the money to go."

Vanco can also enroll churchgoers when they pay for other services, such as Bible school. When the parents provide their payment information, Vanco establishes a token for those credentials, and the parent has the option to use that same token for donations to the church made online or through a mobile device.

The tokenization process is vital, Lee said, because churches are just now "dipping their toes into e-payments" and have to be convinced that the technology is secure.

Because of the amount of cash involved in church donations, Vanco addresses a "very good niche and is making a very astute move," said Nick Holland, senior payments analyst at Javelin Strategy & Research.

"We track cash use at the point of sale, and it is diminishing year to year by about a half a percent," Holland said. "You have to think people are carrying less cash now, so this reduces a lot of friction for these institutions by accepting card payments."

In addition, younger people who attend some of the newer non-denominational churches carry less cash, Holland said. "If you are looking to capture a younger congregation and you want to collect money, you have to go where the money is going … and that's electronic," he added.

Mobile payments and charitable giving are finding some common ground.

Benefit Mobile Inc. offers software for consumers to tie charitable giving into their retail shopping. And Square manufactured red mobile card readers for merchants to encourage donations to the Global Fund to fight AIDS.

Vanco operates as the processor and acquirer for all of the major card brands and the Automated Clearing House. The industry has not matured enough for Vanco to use independent sales forces, Lee said. The company negotiates price and services with denominations and, in turn, promotes the service to various churches within a denomination.

United Methodist, United Church of Christ, Thrivent Financial Credit Union and many Catholic dioceses endorse Vanco Payment, Lee said.

The decision to combine Veracity Payment Solutions and Vanco Services came about through the major investor, Great Hill Partners, a private equity firm in Boston.

"Veracity had exceptional payments technology, while Vanco has had great brand recognition for 13 years with specialized solutions for faith-based and non-profits," said Lee, who has been CEO for nine months. "We combined and added far more scale."

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