Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Online Giving and Envelopes: Synergy for your Parish

As I meet with parishes and dioceses I find that people think of their electronic giving application and their offering envelopes separately. Recently we were visiting a parish where these were two different staff members who managed the different offerings! When we asked them if they were working together on how to get the most out of both, they said no. By the end of our meeting they recognized the need to plan together to coordinate the two.

Even more concerning are parishes who place electronic giving and envelopes at odds with each other. "How do we decide which to use? Can we eliminate envelopes?" This approach completely misses the idea that we are providing options to parishioners so everyone can give from a sense of abundance and gratitude. we don't want to exclude anyone.

In our desire to compartmentalize functions and organize ourselves, sometimes we miss the opportunity to create an environment to foster cross-communications. Both web sites and electronic giving are technology based; however, their use is for communications and for contributions. While the skill set to understand the administration of electronic giving is different from the skill set to manage offering envelopes, the purpose of both of them is the same. So periodically it makes sense to step back and talk about these tools together as a parish staff. This includes how we represent them to parishioners.

As we all have gained experience with electronic giving it has become clear that we have to think about electronic giving and offering envelopes together as options for parishioners to use for contributions. Use them to reinforce each other by including your electronic giving URL on your envelopes and by reminding Online Giving users they can use envelopes at Mass and select "gave electronically". Remind envelope users if they forgot to give to a special collection they can use Online Giving and give to that collection as a One Time Gift.

This is a wonderful opportunity to remind parishioners about prayerful giving. As we talk about the introduction of electronic giving to our parish, we can use that opportunity to thank people for using envelopes. Our parishes can provide us options that are convenient for us as parishioners, and we can even use both as the need arises! What a great time to update your envelope designs and to express gratitude to people for their contributions. As a result we can raise overall awareness, remind people of the tools available to them, and get more engagement and contributions from both our electronic giving and our envelopes.

Use the introduction of new tools like Online Giving to create synergy for your parish! The same goes for web sites and Online Giving, but that's good for another time!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Make your website work for your parish!

We recently had the pleasure of joining members from the Catholic Media Secretariat in the Archdiocese of Boston for a forum on "Creating Excellent Parish Websites". Pilot New Media had completed the survey of parish websites across the archdiocese and the forum was to present results to parishes and make recommendations for web site best practices. The entire presentation may be viewed at: http://www.pilotnewmedia.com/parishwebsites/.

Website reviews covered three broad categories: Appearance (such things as Inviting and well-organized), Content (including parish address, mass times, directions, faith formation materials), and Functionality (such as calendar, interactive map, electronic offertory). The team also referenced the study conducted by the Villanova University Center for the Study of Church Management: "What Do Parishioners Value in Parish Websites?"

The next presentation focused on what makes a great web site for a parish. Dom Bettinelli, Creative Director for Pilot New Media provided valuable information starting with how to select a clear and memorable domain name. I liked the general recommendation to use www.parishsainttown.org or .com. For long saints names, abbreviate, but include the town or city you are located in. This helps people differentiate between your St Marys parish and the one across the country! Make sure your parish name and the address of the parish are prominently displayed on the site. The Archdiocese of Boston recommends a line under the parish name that states: A Parish of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston to help create an overall sense of community and identity. Include a photo image of the church, plus a map with directions.

Those are the most straightforward recommendations. But Boston went further: Include news feeds, links to Online Giving, information for new members and for returning to the church, and importantly, information about the faith, what we believe, the sacraments. Provide parishioners information they need to know and an easy way to find it. Make the website a useful educational tool and not simply a listing of location and mass times.

Scot Landry, Secretary for Catholic Media, says in Chapter 7 of 'The Church and New Media':

"Every one of the churches media vehicles is a 'virtual front door' to the church and we want it to be welcoming, well cared for and worthy of someone's visit..."

Let's make it worthwhile for everyone to visit our parish websites, including parishioners and those searching for a home! For an example of a website that adheres to the best practices outlined by the Archdiocese of Boston, please visit: sampleparish.org