Text-to-donate, click-to-tithe platforms increase online giving for Catholic Community Foundation

Using mobile and online technology is proving to be successful for the Catholic Community Foundation of the Diocese of Cleveland. During the first half of 2019, online giving to Catholic Charities doubled at catholiccommunity.org.

A longstanding practice and significantly visual part of Mass is to drop a check, a few dollars or the traditional parish envelope into the collection basket. With 1.5 billion smartphones sold last year and millennials not accustomed to carrying checkbooks or cash, the act of communal giving and weekly tithing are trending digital.

“Integrating the use of digital giving to support the mission of the Church has quickly become a vital platform for us and who we serve,” said Patrick Grace, executive director, Catholic Community Foundation.

In 2018, online giving grew 12 percent nationally with the religion sector growing at an impressive rate of 18.1 percent. This new reality embraced by the Catholic Community Foundation supports donor intentions and preferences by aligning with e-commerce trends and attracting greater financial support from younger parishioners. It supports the way Catholics today manage personal finances and allocate resources, reserving a portion to share with others and give back to God.

“The approach is multi-faceted,” Grace said. “It must be compatible with multiple channels including email marketing, social media and in-person interactions in order to reach anyone who wants to give and support organizations and missions of the diocese.”

Click-to-donate online was communicated prominently in recent months, appearing in all of the 2019 Catholic Charities Annual Appeal materials. The text-to-donate platform was used for a special follow-up appeal in May that supported improving the camp experience for people with disabilities who attend Camp Christopher. Three parishes acted as pilot parishes during the special campaign: St. Francis of Assisi (Gates Mills), Our Lady Queen of Peace (Grafton) and SS. Robert and William (Euclid).

At each location, parishioners were asked to donate to the appeal by texting “CAMP” to a designated five digit number. The donor received an immediate confirmation of their gift and a more formal thank-you letter by mail. The average time for the donation was 2½ minutes.

While close to 80% of mobile donors are under the age of 34, donors age 54 and older have upped their mobile game, thus contributing to the boost. “Overall, parishes have embraced e-giving. For ease of use, parishes may incorporate a variety of methods and vendors,” said Terri Preskar, director of Stewardship for the Catholic Community Foundation.

Four years ago 60 parishes utilized online giving methods which resulted in 10,000 families participating and $12 million of offertory revenue. Currently, 82 parishes utilize five different vendors that now generate $14 million in offertory revenue from 12,000 families throughout the diocese.

“We are seeing growth in the number of households utilizing this service year to year,” said Preskar. “Some parishes have up to 65% of parishioners who already contributed to the parish now using digital methods versus regular offertory envelopes.”

For the parishioner, there are many benefits such as aligning financial giving to a parish with the family income schedule, real-time donation history available online or by mobile app, email reminders of scheduled donations and personal flexibility to adjust contribution amounts.

Research suggests parishioners who are already contributing to the parish will increase their donation by as much as 25-38 percent, simply due to the automated element of giving and the addition of advance prayerful reflection.

For the parish, funds generated using digital platforms create a consistent, stabilized collection that allows for more accurate forecasting, budgeting and savings on printed collection envelopes and reduced parish workload of data entry.

The Catholic Community Foundation continues to invite and encourage online giving as an easy, safe and eco-friendly way of supporting Catholic Charities, Catholic education and Catholic worship and formation. To make a donation or to learn more about how to support initiatives throughout the diocese click here.