Faithtech play Pushpay hits collect on surge in virtual congregations

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Faithtech play Pushpay hits collect on surge in virtual congregations

Digital donations platform rises on megachurches, becomes a $1.2bn affair.

There used to be a sign behind the counter of many small shops that said “In God we trust, all others pay cash” – but the way people of faith pay and give to their preferred church is changing, and it’s changing fast.

With church doors bolted shut and congregations banned from physically gathering around the globe, the opportunity to pass around the plate has rapidly migrated to glass – and may yet stay there, with one Australian company poised to rake-in the good will.

If ever there was an enterprise fortuitously positioned in the right place at the right time, dual Australian and New Zealand listed Pushpay (PPH), a software company that specialises in digitising church donations and congregation management may well be it.

On Wednesday, Pushpay bowled up its annual numbers, posting a 32 percent jolt in revenue from US$98.4 million to US$129.8 million, complemented by the buyout of US software play Church Community Builder, saying there’s more upside to come.

It might sound like small coin, but in the US where so-called megachurches can attract flocks the size of shopping malls, there is serious money and transaction volumes in getting religious eCommerce right for those wanting to give.

It's also propelled Pushpay's ASX market cap to $1.2 billion, hardly an accident as investors hunt for opportunity in disruption.  

“While Pushpay delivered strong organic growth over the year, we also strengthened our value proposition through the strategic acquisition of the leading church management system (ChMS), Church Community Builder, based in Colorado Springs, Colorado, US,” Pushpay’s chief executive Bruce Gordon said.

(A quite different Bruce Gordon to the Australian television and media owner it should be noted.)

“Over the year, we made significant progress toward our strategic goal of becoming the preferred provider of mission-critical software to the US faith sector.”

You read that right.

In the land that spawned IBM, Oracle and Salesforce, an antipodean upstart is fast scoping out and could well become the best-of-breed transactional provider and essentially a religious ERP for the world’s most cashed-up (and now locked-down) population of believers and givers.

“We expect to see continued revenue growth as the business executes on its strategy, achieves increased efficiencies and gains further market share in the US faith sector,” Pushpay’s results said.

The business model isn’t hard to understand: clipping the ticket on transactions and an industry specific SaaS play that integrates neatly.

According to Pushpay’s numbers, it churned over US$5.0 billion in FY20, up a rapturous 39 percent over the previous year’s US$3.6 billion. And that’s before COVID-19 shut Church doors and sent the flock to Zoom.

Pushpay’s timeline in its results tells investors it started a ‘pivot’ to digital services in March this year, having put a spring product launch on the runway a year ago that included some distinctly CRM-like features.

“New solutions, including Donor Development, build on our existing industry-leading platform and add value by making it easier for Customers to view, report on and track generosity so they can engage with donors in more meaningful ways,” Pushpay said.

“Pushpay also expanded its solutions with features and enhancements to drive engagement and generosity, including Donor Pledge Entry enhancements to the App Audio Player and an integration with a missions payment platform.”

According to Pushpay’s numbers it serves around 7900 churches across the wide variety of Christian congregations but notably including Baptists and Catholics. The platform lives in AWS and sources processing from First Data International.

“Asking your members to give can be awkward. It doesn’t have to be. Our seamless experience makes it easier, faster, and more convenient to share generosity,” Pushpay tells prospective customers, before cutting to the ‘how to’.

“Whether it’s an easy-to-use first time giving experience or suggesting a recurring gift amount based off of someone’s previous giving experience, Pushpay has the tools to help you move people from their first interaction with your church to their next level of participation,” Pushpay’s website marketing says.

“And thanks to donor engagement tools, you can keep track of where on that journey everyone is—and even get suggestions for how to move them along to the next stage.”

With churches still empty and large gatherings off limits for some time yet, there’s a financially existential element to the product too.

“Recurring giving is the backbone of a healthy, predictable church budget. That’s why Pushpay is designed to help move people forward in their giving journey with your church—in fact, most churches see a 76 percent growth in recurring givers in their first 6 months.”

For those leading flock, Pushpay’s rising fortunes on the back of the COVID pandemic may yet be good news.

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