Online Giving, Security Explained.

open security lock on computer keyboard

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”
― Winston S. Churchill

Empower Givers to Make an Informed Choice

The joy of giving is timeless and universal. Each of us can most likely readily call to mind a time when a gift left our hands while light seemed to simultaneously flood our hearts. Parishes, and the organizations that support them, have the gift and responsibility to enable parishioner and visitor gifts of time, talent and treasure.

Empowering giving lies not simply in offering the best options to support giver lifestyle and preferences, but also removing obstacles that might stand in the way of their making the most informed choice about how to give.

Barriers to Giving, Giving in Security

When Marianne, a 65-year-old Diocese of Lansing parishioner, uses her card to pay for goods, services, or donations online, she will wait on the phone to verbally deliver her credit card information to a live person, whom she’s never met. The fact that the person on the other end of the call is punching her payment information into the same system she could have used online somehow makes her feel more protected. Marianne is, in fact, adding risk to her account. Is the person accepting her account information also writing it down to use later? Maybe not, but how can she ensure that her personal information is secure?

Statistics show Marianne is in the minority. Following the steady climb in generosity among givers is the shift in how they’re choosing to contribute. Blackbaud’s 2015 Charitable Giving Report highlights a striking 8.8% increase in online donations, 14% made with a mobile device.[1] Online donation platforms, such as ParishSOFT Giving, offer spectacular benefits – convenience and ease of use for givers and staff nearly tops the list – but security remains paramount. But for some, such as Marianne, the question remains: is it really safe?

ParishSOFT takes security very seriously and is honored by your trust. Our promise to you is this: our giving solutions are PCI Compliant and meet all the strictest PCI/DSS security standards such as SSL Certificates and encryption, intrusion detection, and transaction security.

Understanding Online Giving

It may be helpful to attend a free webinar on ParishSOFT Giving to learn more, but a basic understanding of the terminology and online giving processes will also help you address potential first-time users concerns with confidence and ease. Let’s get started!

  • ParishSOFT Giving is PCI Compliant

“The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is a set of security standards designed to ensure that ALL companies that accept, process, store or transmit credit card information maintain a secure environment.”[2]

Credit card information (i.e. cardholder data) transmitted under lock and key includes, but is not limited to: Primary Account Number (PAN), cardholder name, expiration date, service code, Sensitive Authentication Data (e.g.: magnetic strip data, PINs, etc.).

So… how does it work?

Meeting the Strictest Security Standards, SSL Certificates and Encryption

  • ParishSOFT Giving meets all the strictest PCI/DSS security standards, such as SSL Certificates and encryption, intrusion detection, and transaction security.

The SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certificate is a security protocol used to secure data across two machines – in this case, between the giver’s Internet browser and our secure servers – using public key encryption.

Take Brian for example. Brian is logging into your parish’s branded ParishSOFT Giving page (branded for your parish by ParishSOFT[3]) to make a one-time donation to a special fund. Without having to think about it, Brian’s transaction will be guarded from the first keystroke he makes.

He types his login credentials into the required fields. As they are entered the information is encrypted via a public key (a long string of randomly generated numbers).[4] His login credentials have already been totally scrambled, creating an indecipherable “message” when he hits the “Submit” button.

In a flash the message shoots to our server, accompanied by an SSL Certificate, i.e., its digital passport, which will establish a secure connection between the two machines. The message arrives at our server, the public key that locked the message is identified, and the corresponding private key (another long string of randomly generated numbers, accessible only from our server) unlocks the message. Brian’s login is confirmed.

This took about two seconds. The near immediate processing time further safeguards the encrypted message from possible intrusions or attempts at interception. You don’t see Brian’s account information from your parish administrator’s seat. ParishSOFT doesn’t see Brian’s account information from our offices. Encryption gives Brian the highest level of protection available . . . protection that is exponentially better than writing his payment information on paper or giving it to someone over the phone.

Multi-layered Security, Intrusion Detection and Transaction Security

Yet another layer of security built into ParishSOFT Giving is its intrusion detection systems. Intrusion detection can be defined as “…the act of detecting actions that attempt to compromise the confidentiality, integrity or availability of a resource.”[5] Although they come in a host of varieties, intrusion detection systems have one essential goal: monitor networks and systems for malicious activity or policy violations. Meaning any suspicious behavior, or possible attempts to interfere with our secure connections (and the delivery of encrypted messages like Brian’s), would be immediately flagged and appropriate investigative measures taken – ensuring transaction security.

Enhancing the Giving Experience through Technology

It may be helpful to provide curious parishioners, or the reluctant like Marianne, with additional resources, such as these helpful tips from Get Safe Online. When appropriate, consider directing them to local tech resources, for example AARP’s TEK workshops, designed to enhance daily living and foster connection through the power of technology. Parishioners who are feeling left out of the digital age will appreciate the opportunity to gain some know-how through a source your church recommends.

As Mr. Churchill said, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Ultimately the goal is to respect and support giver’s generosity with the best possible giving experience – including up-to-date conveniences and airtight safeguards – for seamless and fruitful giving.

Interested in learning if ParishSOFT Giving may be right for your parish? Call us at 866.930.4774 ext. 6, to find out more about how ParishSOFT Giving can support your parish’s givers, securely!

[1] Charitable Giving Report, Blackbaud, February 2017.

[2] PCI FAQs, PCI Compliance Guide, February 2017,

[3] According to Network for Good’s 2015 Digital Giving Index , branded giving pages received over 50% more in donations than generic giving pages. Here’s the good news – ParishSOFT automatically customizes your parish’s ParishSOFT Giving page and gives you the ability to make changes in the future!

[4] What is an SSL Certificate?, GlobalSign, February 2017,

[5] Intrusion Detection System, Wikipedia, February 2017,

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