More than 20 years ago, Jeanne Rose, then chief financial officer of an insurance agency, started to wonder why small businesses weren’t adapting Automated Clearing House (ACH) technology that big outfits used for transactions with banks.
Her agency had such a system, and she thought her daughter’s orthodontist should have one, too, rather than requiring families to write out a check every month.
So she started a company called Vanco Services in Bloomington that helped small businesses adapt. Fairly quickly, the firm started to develop a niche helping churches and nonprofit organizations.
“That orthodontist was the first account we added,” said Rose, who is now 67 and retired after selling Vanco Services several years ago.
“We piloted with Lutheran Brotherhood [now Thrivent Financial] on electronic giving through Lutheran churches. It took off,” she recalled. “Lutheran Brotherhood was doing the marketing and we were the tech people. They said if you want to run with it for other denominations, please do it. We ran with it.”
The coronavirus pandemic has produced another growth spurt for the company, its biggest yet, as many more churches turn to electronic transactions to collect donations.
“The offering plate is in the past in COVID-19 times,” Rose said.
Now called Vanco Payment Solutions, with more than 300 employees and $100 million-plus in revenue, the company is the electronic-payment processor for 26,000 churches and their donors.
CEO Shawn Boom said the organization’s donation-processing volume has increased from $14 billion last year to a “run rate” indicating $18 billion for 2020.
“This $4 billion [increase] represents resources that are being brought to bear to support community organizations and community needs,” Boom said. ‘‘There are signs of great positivity and people coming together, even during these challenging times.’’
These are donor funds going to churches and charities and schools that are helping with everything from free meals to day care and technology supplies for families that lack those resources.
“We’re kind of a ‘fintech’ that serves the social good,” Boom said, using business jargon for financial-technology firms.
The company also works with public school systems.
“We’re proud of the diversity of our customer base ... 26,000 churches, charities and 8,000 public K-12 school districts. That’s almost 50% of public schools in the U.S. We’re helping to drive community impact at a time when people can feel so isolated,” Boom said.
The Vanco team developed a new app this year in response to the COVID crisis called Vanco Mobile.
“When people couldn’t gather to pass the basket … we worked 24/7 for weeks and weeks just to help them keep the doors open. We helped with [new] mobile tech. We put it out there for free,” Boom said.
Vanco derives its revenue from “a few cents on each transaction,” Boom said.
“We give the software away at very low cost to let our customers scale like a business,” he said. “The majority of our software doesn’t carry an annual fee or it’s very small.’’
Vanco charges congregations $10 per month for churches that raise less than $20,000 a month, $49 a month for churches that raise $20,000 to $49,000 and a negotiated charge for monthly amounts over that.
Customers also pay typical transaction fees for debit and credit card uses and ACH transactions of up to 45 cents per transaction.
Boom, 42, was hired in 2018 and previously worked for online-firm Blackboard.
“There’s an opportunity and need for us to being the right kind of tech that brings people together,” Boom said. ‘‘One of the pillars is faith-based institutions. And education. I’m motivated to help industries that really haven’t yet fully realized the value of new technologies and to drive strong social outcomes.
“The trend we’ve seen nationwide and locally is there’s a disparity between those with resources and those without. We see access and equity as a key component [to righting the disparity]. I’m trying to build a career around making a dent around that. To match people with needs with those who have resources.”