The United Church of Canada logo

Online PAR: large monthly giving system

The United Church of Canada

3250 Bloor St. West, Suite 300
M8X 2Y4 Toronto , ON
Ontario CA

The United Church is Canada's largest Protestant denomination, with close to 3 million Canadians members. It was formed in 1925 through the union of Canadian Methodists, Congregationalists, and 70% of Canadian Presbyterians. As of December 31, 2009, the United Church is organized into

  • 13 regional Conferences
  • 85 district presbyteries
  • 2,240 local pastoral charges
  • 3,255 individual congregations

This project involved customizing CiviCRM so that it could replace an existing PAR (Pre-Authorized Remittance) system that the United Church provides to its member congregations and to six other Protestant denominations in Canada. It integrates monthly giving to several funds for each local pastoral charge or congregration using direct debits and credit cards. Donations are processed centrally at low cost with monies credited back to local bank accounts after service charges are deducted. The first phase allows local administrators to begin looking after their own donors instead of faxing the national office to make changes.

Future phases will involve self-serve options to donors and newsletter subscribers, and the integration of other donor and church structure systems.

  • Contact Management icon
  • Contributions icon
  • Local Admin Dashboard
  • Anticipated Donations
  • Contact Profile


Monthly recurring donations is the core of the system. 

CiviCRM's profile system was leveraged to develop a number of searches, result lists, and forms.

CiviCRM relationships are used to define the organization chart of the United Church, and to represent participating bodies in other denominations. This allows administrators to be defined for each organizational part, who are given appropriate permissions to view and edit contact information using a customization of CiviCRM's ACLs (access control lists).

When errors occur in direct debit and direct credit transactions, activities are used to notify appropriate personnel about needed followup.

Reports and reportlets round out the Phase I functionality.


The initial promise of this project was to move from a client-server system used by a small number of national office staff to having local administrators look after their own donors. This would reduce the demands on the old system and central staff while improving local autonomy and responsiveness. Improving the level of service provided will hopefully lead to more pastoral charges choosing to use the system. Once supporter facing pages are made available in future phases, it is hoped that total donations will increase.


The biggest challenge was to simplify the user interface so that local administrators who might be elderly and not very comfortable or knowledgeable about computers could use it.

A second major challenge was to develop a two-way synchronization between the existing legacy system and CiviCRM so that they could run in parallel during the deployment period until the auditors and users are satisfied that the new system is working as intended. This allows contact and transactional information to be updated on either system yet stay synchronized.

The third major challenge was to extend CiviCRM to support a new kind of donation, monthly direct debit batches.

Fourth, new CiviCRM functionality was required to support direct credit transactions from the national organization back to the local level.


Developed by

The core project team was:

  • Joe Murray, President of JMA Consulting
  • Richard Cocksedge, Manager of IT at the United Church
  • JMA Developers

Also involved on the United Church side were:

  • Accounts Manager
  • Web Services Manager
  • Finance Director
  • IT personnel maintaining the existing system and building their data synchronization software
  • Users of the existing system
  • Prospective users of the new system

Some consultation was required with Account Management and Technical Support personnel at the Royal Bank of Canada regarding their Direct Debit and Direct Credit interfaces.

Similarly, enhancements to CiviCRM's Moneris plugin for credit card transactions required liaising with their technical personnel.

Finally, the core CiviCRM provided occasional advice on technical matters regarding enhancements to CiviCRM.

Why did this project use CiviCRM?

CiviCRM was chosen because it provides a great deal of functionality that can be turned on in future phases, and integrates well with Drupal.