04/21/2014 01:52 pm ET Updated Jun 21, 2014

Church Donations Rely on Easter

While Christmas is known as the season of giving, it does not rank as the day with the most donations given to religious organizations. Easter sits in the top spot, a reflection of the 50% increase in church attendance that is seen on the day (compared to a 25% bump for Christmas.) Churches often hold several Easter services to manage the crowds and to allow congregants the chance to donate.

Why does Easter generate such an influx of donations, especially compared to the massive anticipation of Christmas? For one, it isn't quite as commercialized (besides the Easter bunny and chocolate). It doesn't involve the same level of gift buying or decorations that comes with Christmas. People only have so much funds to donate. The National Retail Federation reports people individually spend nearly eight times as much on Hanukah and Christmas spending than they do on Easter, a grand total of more than $400 billion compared to $13 billion. This big spending impacts family budgets, and the Christmas season also often includes expensive airline tickets to grandma's house or another destination.

The good news for religious organizations is there has been a post-recession jump in donations, with so-called "mega-churches" posting the biggest donation gains. Churches are still having difficulties with retention and encouraging the younger generation to attend, but are looking at new ways to raise funds through donations so they can improve their outreach and help the community at large.

A significant reason for the jump in Easter donations is that it's just one day. Christmas gets an entire season, one that is unfortunately creeping towards beginning in late summer. Therefore people spread out their spending, which cuts into their funds for donations. Easter is also important because scripturally it is about the Resurrection and encourages people to self-reflect and think about their own spirituality. These feelings drive some people to attend services (and hopefully donate) that might not typically go to church. Despite the reasons, Easter donations are vitally important for religious organizations that count on them for summer programs, effectively holding them over until Thanksgiving donations.

Gathering donations is a consistent challenge for churches, one that is getting more difficult in the age of mobile payments and the future of a cashless society. There are new ways of gathering donations such as automatic debit, online giving, and applications such as FlowPay. It's an application that enables people to securely submit donations while providing the organization with great reporting features. It eliminates the troubles of handling and reporting cash donations, and helps people to donate if they miss the donation plate on Easter or any other Sunday of the year.