In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many charitable organizations have seen a significant increase in online giving – and Catholic parishes and organizations are no exception. In 2020, religious organizations recorded a 27% increase in gifts made digitally. Online giving now represents 18% of total giving to religious causes.

Many may be asking themselves, “Why is this shift important to note?” For parishes specifically, this shift towards online giving, and more broadly online engagement, is important to recognize as a cultural shift within the Catholic church. In 2020, across the world, parishioners’ primary form of engagement with the church was through virtual worship and fellowship. According to an August 2020 Pew Research study, since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, 28% of American Catholics who regularly attended Mass reported giving less to their parish as they shifted to virtual worship. This is 10 percentage points higher than all other denominations detailed within the study.

Why Invest in Online Giving?

As we continue to navigate the uncertain waters brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many parishes will continue to balance virtual and in-person engagement. With this in mind, it is all the more imperative to consider how to best encourage parishioners to remember their weekly offertory without the physical reminder of the passing of the plate or basket. Maybe your parish has yet to introduce online giving channels to your parishioners, or maybe you know more can be done to increase online giving at your parish. Regardless, there are a number of reasons parishes should invest time and attention to promoting online giving – and they’re not just financial.

  1. Stewardship involves every aspect of our lives – our time, talent, and financial treasure. Online giving channels enable parishes to meet parishioners where they are in their lifestyle and engagement habits. We spend a significant amount of our time and our resources online today. Online giving is another way that parishes can invite parishioners to share in parish life, in a simple and efficient way.
  2. Younger generations give online, and they want to give to their places of worship. A 2018 Blackbaud study found that millennials prioritize charitable giving to their place of worship above all other causes. Millennials also primarily make contributions through an organization’s website or their social media channels. Promoting your online giving platforms – and ensuring they are efficient and up to date – is an important way to engage with younger generations of parishioners.
  3. Online giving offers stability and consistency to parishes. Online gifts – especially automated recurring weekly or monthly contributions – provide more predictability and stability for parishes. They are also easier to record and more secure to process. Staff and volunteer time saved from traditional offertory collections can be redirected to other stewardship and ministry activities as a result.

How to Elevate Online Giving in Your Parish

Ready to enhance and increase your online giving? It may be easier than you think. Consider activities across three key areas to engage your parishioners: Sunday Mass, printed communications, and your website and digital media.

  1. Sunday Mass:
  • Include reminders about stewardship and giving in the announcements and, where appropriate, preach on stewardship in the homily and pray about stewardship as a parish.
  • Ask a parishioner who gives online to share their experience during the announcements or during the offertory collection.
  • If Mass is live-streamed, include a scrolling banner that shows the link to your online giving platform.
  • Host an opportunity following Mass for volunteers or staff available with laptops to help parishioners set up online contributions and walk them through the process.
  1. Print Communications:
  • Promote online giving in your bulletin. Include instructions on how to set up online recurring donations.
  • Consider sending a mailing to your parishioners inviting them to set up online offertory contributions. If they already give online, ask them to set up recurring donations if they haven’t done so already.
  • Put up posters or flyers in your gathering spaces with instructions on how to make donations online.
  1. Digital Media:
  • Review your website and make sure the donation page or link is easy to find. Consider including a banner or “donate” button in a prominent place on your homepage.
  • Create an email campaign to encourage online giving and provide tips or support. This can accompany a hard mailing as well.
  • Promote your online giving platform and donor testimonials on your Facebook page and other social media.

Fostering Fellowship Through a Giving Day

Regular online giving encourages longer-term stewardship and engagement with your parish. Another way to encourage digital engagement is through giving days – digitally-driven events dedicated to sharing stories of stewardship and generosity.

CCS is proud to be a sponsor of the giving day #iGiveCatholic because of the difference it makes in advancing the church virtually. #iGiveCatholic is a giving day that brings together the Catholic community to give thanks and give back on #GivingTuesday each year. For the dioceses, parishes, schools, and ministries that set up a giving page with #iGiveCatholic, the experience is about so much more than raising funds for important projects. It is also an experience in feeling connected to the universal church beyond the physical bounds of their community.

For example, participating in #iGiveCatholic was no doubt a financial success for St. Mark Catholic Church and School in the Diocese of Boise. The parish and school raised $77,225 from 172 donors during #iGiveCatholic in December 2020, surpassing their original goal of $30,000 and their subsequent challenge goals of $50,000 and $70,000. It was simultaneously a special experience for members of the St. Mark community to come together in this way. Logan Kimball, St. Mark’s Director of Development and Finance, wrote to #iGiveCatholic: “Participating in #iGiveCatholic helped us build community, engage with one another, and raise funds to build up our parish and school – both of which aid in bringing the Good News of our Lord out into the world. So, basically, we helped change the world and all of human history by the ripple effects created through our generosity!”

For many who participate in #iGiveCatholic, participating in the giving day is an opportunity to connect to a larger Catholic community. As Sr. Draru Mary Cecilia, Executive Director, and Sr. Nancy Kamau, Director of Development at the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) wrote to #iGiveCatholic: “Giving Tuesday is a competitive day and can feel lonely, but with #iGiveCatholic we are participating on a platform with people who have the shared values of our faith.”

Taking steps to elevate online giving at your parish can be a way to expand your parishioners’ experience of stewardship, strengthen the stability of your operations, and find connection with the wider church. For more resources and tips on fundraising for Catholic causes, visit CCS’s Insights page.

About the Authors

Gabriela (Gaby) Nuñez is a Vice President at CCS Fundraising, a leading strategic consulting and fundraising management firm to nonprofit organizations worldwide. Gaby has extensive experience in major gift fundraising, volunteer training and management, campaign management, and feasibility studies for Catholic organizations as well as human and social services clients. She loves collaborating with her client partners to accelerate their fundraising success and help them transform their missions and service to their unique communities. Her clients include the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Diocese of Austin, the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the Midwest Augustinians, the Lions Clubs International Foundation, and Goodwill Industries International. Gaby is a proud product of Catholic schools and a graduate of the University of Notre Dame.

Jessica Grimmett is an Associate Director at CCS Fundraising. Jessica has cultivated experience in the areas of project planning, campaign management, volunteer engagement, and document design. Within this past year, Jessica has worked with over 100 churches throughout the Diocese of Columbus, Diocese of Tulsa, Archdiocese of Denver, and Diocese of Toledo to help them navigate the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic by providing training and resources on how to best retain their offertory. Jessica believes in the truly transformative power of building relationships and remains dedicated to aiding her client partners in driving social impact. Prior to joining CCS, Jessica received her Master’s in Social Work from the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis.