Byline: John Adams
People who are building their family trees often turn to FamilySearch a one of the world's largest genealogical sites a to locate records on ancestors and family histories. The non profit organization, which is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints but says it relies on donations, is also serving as a blueprint for an emerging way to quickly receive payments from patrons.
U.S. Bank implemented and began testing a NACHA-run online payment system called Secure Vault Payments with FamilySearch in late 2010. The service, which appears as a button on FamilySearch's website, lets patrons make a donation using an online bank account at U.S. Bank or any Secure Vault enabled financial institution.
"It has the potential to become a major form of payment that can be used by a lot of these organizations, which are looking for a way to streamline collections," says Eric Lim, a senior product manager at the $330 billion-asset U.S. Bank.
FamilySearch patrons who use Secure Vault are redirected to their own participating institution's online banking platform to confirm their balance and select the account they wish to use for payment, then back to the FamilySearch's website to receive confirmation of the payment.
The Salt Lake City-based based FamilySearch has existed for more than one hundred years and offers online access to genealogical records in more 4,600 family history centers in more than 100 countries, drawing data from census figures, war records, libraries, birth data and other repositories.
B. Edgel Blackham, merchant services program manager for the global card services group, finance and records department for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, says the online donation program officially started only a couple of weeks ago, and it's too soon to have specific numbers on donations or an increase in donors. But he did report a notable anecdotal increase in donor interest since the "giveback" link went live on the group's website. FamilySearch's other donation options include credit card and PayPal options. "We survive on donations," Blackham said. "We don't sell products, our services are all voluntary."
FamilySearch began testing Secure Vault this spring and made some IT adjustments before the formal launch a couple of weeks ago. Blackham says more changes may be made, including putting the giveback link in a more prominent place on the website (it's current location is at the bottom of each page), which Blackham says will be weighed against group's wish to avoid coming across as pushing too hard for donations.
When processing donations via Secure Vault, financial institutions authenticate the payer and provide FamilySearch with fast authorization. …