Friday, December 21, 2012

3 Things to Do at Christmas

Merry Christmas!  As we are contemplating the coming of our Savior and the celebration of His birth, we also want to be part of the communal celebration.  So many folks who may not be regular attendees choose this time of year to go to Mass and to reconnect with their parish.  What a wonderful time to welcome people to the parish community.

Here are 3 simple ideas for "last minute tactics" to help welcome everyone to church and provide them an opportunity to make a contribution:

1.   Update Electronic Communications : Welcome everyone with a message of Hope and Love
                 Make sure you have updated the parish website and calendars with Mass times. Use your headline feature in your Faith in Action website to add the notification to all pages on the site.  Send an e-newsletter encouraging parishioners to bring friends and family to Mass.   More importantly, make sure you also are updating content to welcome everyone whether or not they have been to Mass recently.  Also make Online Giving available from every page.

2.  Remind people about the option to give online: 
                  Update Online Giving with special collections and even consider a special cause for the community as a separate collection.   This is also a time to remind people in bulletins and also through announcements at Mass that they can give online.  It's a convenient option for everyone.

3.  Add special collection envelopes to pews or at church entrances:
                  Make it convenient for anyone to pick up an envelope and make a donation to the church.  You can also invite people to make prayer requests or special intentions by writing them on the envelope or placing a note in the envelope rather than money.  Be creative.  Give people a chance to participate.

Wishing everyone a blessed holiday.  Merry Christmas

Friday, November 30, 2012

Jump the Fiscal Cliff - Increase Collections - Get Online Giving in Place Now!

Recent data from Barna and from Pew Research show that we continue to donate regardless of the economic "terrain".  Make it easy for parishioners and visitors to support your parish efforts for the holidays and beyond.

Our calendar helps us to step back and be grateful for the abundant blessings we have.  As we wind down the year, many of us step up our gifts and contributions to worthy causes.  If your parish has Online Giving in place,  this is a time to remind people to update their gift amounts or to add that special gift for flowers or a special remembrance.

If you do not have Online Giving in place then now is the time.  You can have everything set up in a few hours, and parishioners and visitors can give online.  Make sure you spend some time at Mass and through other announcements and newsletters to remind people to give both online and through envelope contributions.  Your parish may have a special outreach program or gift program for Christmas.  Provide people the option to give a financial gift online to support the purchase of goods for families. 

See the stories about parish experiences at our web site .  Online Giving has proven to streamline and stabilize cash flow,  support income through weather incidents, and increase gift amounts from parishioners. 

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Go Irish! Great Football and a Successful Foundation

I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Irish return to their (in my humble opinion) deserved position in college football rankings.  As a "double - Domer" I guess I'm twice as happy!  The good news for Notre Dame is that I consider the football entertainment as a sideline to the true value of the university and its programs. And successful operations.  Notre Dame has created a strong base of contributions and donations that have helped to build new and exciting programs that advance education and also outreach.
This reminds me of some of the points made in a book by J. Clif Christopher titled, "Not Your Parent's Offering Plate". In the book Christopher challenges church leaders to assess what they are doing in their church and the evidence of the results. He asks why people give to universities like Harvard. The answer:  because they believe in the leadership of the organization and they support the "product" the organization delivers. There are lives changed by the experience at Harvard (or of course I would say Notre Dame), and lives should be changed through our church experience.

Our pastors and staff do so many good works that go unheralded. Its important that we relate some of the information about how we serve parishioners and the impact our parishioners, pastors and staff have on the community. Because these acts of service and kindness are meaningful evidence of our stewardship and our Christianity.

So you ask what does this have to do with Online Giving? In the past months of blog history there are a number of examples confirming the increase in contributions that parishes have seen from Online Giving. But if your parish has responded to the need that we all have to give, and informs you about the use of funds and talents and associated results of the use of funds, then you likely see a far greater sustained increase.

Use Online Giving to provide a convenient tool for parishioners and visitors to contribute financially to the parish. Your focus on the direction of the parish, the good deeds of the parish, and the use of the finances help to inform and support the purpose of those financial contributions.

So, I'm watching the Irish play football. But I'm contributing to programs that form young men and women. And I'm contributing to my parish as we provide services to students and to those in need in our town in South Carolina.

What is your experience?  Have you tried Online Giving?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Change In Season is Ideal Time to Introduce Parishioners to New Methods of Giving

by: Zak Bernath
Across the country leaves are falling, colors are changing, temperatures are dropping, and parish life is entering a vibrant season of reflection. For many parishes, it is a time for spiritual and stewardship renewal. Our Sunday Visitor is fortunate to share this season with thousands of parishes by offering services to help foster this atmosphere of spiritual vibrancy. As an offertory solutions provider, Our Sunday Visitor recognizes the parish need for communication and engagement services.

As a printer and mail house, we offer numerous products and services aimed at communicating biblical principles of stewardship. These services range from stewardship envelope programs, to newsletters, to state of the parish reports, and more. As a company that is helping usher parishes into the 21st century, we also offer web-based services such as Online Giving and content-managed websites. But did you know that printing services and web-based services are not mutually exclusive? When it comes to engaging parishioners, they are very significantly fused together.

Let’s explore this idea by using Online Giving as an example. Online Giving is a way for parishioners to establish recurring gifts to the parish through a secure website.

There is no more raw an act of first fruits giving than having ones gift come automatically from a bank or credit card account. And the benefit to the parish finances is quite obvious: the parish no longer relies on mass attendance to sustain the offertory. This is especially important given the fact that only 31% of self-identified Catholics attend mass on any given Sunday.1 But the question many parishes face is, “How do we educate parishioners and communicate the idea of technology replacing traditional methods of giving?” Ironically, the answer is through printed communications.

According to a 2011 study done by Dunham+Company, a strategic fundraising consulting organization, more than three times as many individuals made online donations based on direct mail letters than email appeals.2 This seems ironic, but we know that people still respond by having something directly placed in front of them, something they can hang on to and don’t immediately send to the “recycle bin”. Direct mail not only takes on significance physically, but psychologically. Taking the effort to mail a letter shows parishioners that the parish is prioritizing its message. And that message is far too important to confuse with spam.

In addition to the above findings, another 2011 survey by Dunham+Company reveals even more to shatter some of our assumptions about Online Giving. 51% of donors over the age of 60 reported making an online donation at some point in time.3 This tells us that while Online Giving may initially be attractive to engage the younger population, middle age and elderly are not only the core of your offertory giving but also more than willing to go online to give. Now we just need to educate them about this great service!
As the fall renewal season enters full swing, be considering how you can continue to engage your parish community through both new technology and traditional methods. Let’s create an atmosphere of gratitude for the gifts we all have been given.

1 Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate
2 Business Mailer Review – September 17, 2012
3 Business Mailer Review – September 17, 2012

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Survey Says: Gifts Increase when Parishioners use Online Giving

We created Online Giving to be a simple solution that provides stability and an increase in contributions for collections. Our Sunday Visitor recently polled 144 donors from a single parish who switched from using envelopes to Online Giving for their offertory. The results were promising and illustrate the clear benefits to using this electronic service.

Within this six-month span, the average giver increased their gift by 49%.

Over half of the donors at the parish chose a credit card, and their donations increased by 62% over their envelope gifts. The credit card option is often the most enticing to donors and the parish as it allows for more flexibility in giving and there are no additional costs. Cards also allow the donor to accrue card benefits like miles, points, or other rewards. 

Data shows that credit card users consistently give more than those who use their bank accounts to give electronically.

45% of parish donors used ACH and their donations increased by 32% over their envelope gifts. Considering both credit card and ACH contributions combined, this amounted to an overall increase of around $60,000. That’s an average increase of $415 per donor.

How has Online Giving impacted your parish?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

3 Ways to Increase Giving for Your Parish - Fantastic Results

This week we had the opportunity to talk with parish representatives from across the country while we were at the International Catholic Stewardship Conference.  In addition to increasing our depth of understanding on our journey of Faith,  we wanted to make sure we understood the experience our customers have with our products and services.

We heard some useful techniques to maintain parishioner engagement and increase contributions for parishes who are using Online Giving from OSV:

1.  Send an email to announce special collections

Each month you have a new special collection planned,  pull your email list from Online Giving and send parishioners information about the purpose of the collection.  As part of the note let them know they can log in and select the gift as an option.

2.  Send a mid-year and year-end reminder

A couple times each year send a gentle reminder email to your Online Giving contributors.  Thank them for their contributions and remind them to review their gift commitments to the parish.  This gentle nudge encourages people to take the time to log in to review their commitments.

3.  Make Online Giving a Standard Part of Your Stewardship of Treasure program

If you do a more formal annual or periodic process to review and pray about financial commitments to the parish,  you can make it easy for parishioners by including the link to Online Giving in all your materials.  This is also a great way to sustain the the commitment through automatic recurring contributions.

Parishes who are offering Online Giving reported fantastic results:

One parish in Indiana credits Online Giving with "stabilizing their cash flow".  They had a tremendous reduction in monthly offertory during summer months when parishioners left for vacations at lake cottages.  By offering a simple way for parishioners to set up recurring contributions,  this parish eliminated a 30% loss of revenue for 3 to 4 summer months.  In addition the parish has seen an overall increase in contributions of 23% or more.

Two parishes we talked with compared contributions for the group of parishioners using Online Giving.  They looked at the 12 months before the group started using the application and compared it to the 12 months after they started using the application.  One parish in the northeast has seen an astounding 62% increase from credit card gifts,  and a 49% increase overall.   Another parish measured 42% increase.

In general we are observing at least 30% increase for individual parishioners who move to Online Giving.  This is due to a combination of the regularly scheduled gift and conscious decision on the part of the parishioner.  We also have found that coordinating Online Giving as part of a broader plan which keeps parishioners informed and engaged in the direction of the parish generates a more sustained increase over time.

Keep track of what we are doing through our news and events page:

And let us know your experience at your parish!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Will You Vote in this Election? 3 points to Motivate Giving Online

I was reading an article yesterday that featured people who were not planning to vote in the presidential election this year.  There were a variety of reasons ranging from "don't like either candidate" to "not going to bother".  I was fascinated that a number of people had an opinion about who they would like to have serve as our President but were not planning to vote.

At the other extreme we have volunteers in both parties who are fiercely focused on their cause and are fully engaged in the campaign of their preferred person.

This sounds to me like a cross section of any given parish and the attitudes of the parishioner base.  We have a group of parishioners who are committed to the parish and the cause and are involved deeply in the community of the parish.  And we have many who are not engaged and don't plan to bother. 

I think the difference is in how the parish appeals to the gifts, priorities and needs of parishioners.  When people have a cause they care about,  they become active and engaged.  When there is conflict or emergency or perceived urgency,  we find ways to respond.  Kind of like election times.

I have seen a couple interesting reports in the past few weeks that provide pertinent information.  The first, from CARA,  indicates the distribution of ages of who attends Mass:

When we are appealing to parishioners in the pews,  we must consider their experience base.  The age groups represented have been accepting Online Giving but also are comfortable with offering envelopes.  The 9% millenial group has a very different view.

The second report indicated trends in tools used for contributions:

So we see strong acceptance of Online Giving types of applications, approaching the use of envelopes.  Has this been the experience at your parish? 

Our OSV data indicate that 10% is a pretty good expectation for the number of parishioners who use Online Giving as their preferred method.  So taking a lesson from the behavior of people for this years election,  maybe we need to find the motivation for people to use Online Giving.

Here are 3 points that you can use to motivate parishioners:

1.  It is simple for them.  Once they set it up it is easy to change at any time.  Contributions recur automatically

2.  It helps the parish.  Overall giving increases because of consistently scheduled gifts and a more thoughtful contribution from the parishioner.  Staff time and money handling is reduced.

3.  Access is convenient.  Parishioners can contribute from any location with internet access at any time.

Its time to vote in the election.  While we are at it lets show our vote for our parishes and give online.

Friday, August 3, 2012

A lesson from the Olympics; Key points for engaging parishioners

As I have grabbed a few minutes here and there to watch the Olympics competition,  I found myself emotionally involved with some of the races and the results even when I knew the final outcome. As it turns out, this was generated in part by the "human interest" backgrounds provided about some of the competitors.  I am not a fan of reality shows and, frankly, have stopped watching some of my past favorites because they had introduced so much content about the people in place of the action.

Yet here I am, taking in the information and getting involved in the story.

It occurs to me that the technique and my reaction are consistent with recommendations from the Bishops pastoral letter on Stewardship, research by Chuck Zech and Villanova University, and our own past recommendations about getting parishioners to use Online Giving!  I'm sure you wonder how I arrived at this connection...

Here are a couple points to consider:

1. Use Lay Witness talks.  People respond to other people much more deeply than to a concept. The purpose of the lay witness talk is for a person to tell their story.  Those who share perspective and life experience with the lay witness will respond and react.  This was the reaction I was having to some of the Olympic competitors.  So use people in the parish to talk about their experience with Online Giving (and of course other spiritual topics).  If your parishioners share their experience it becomes more real and accessible for others.

2. Appeal to peoples need to give.  We have a deep need to respond through our actions, prayer and financial contributions.  Yet the triggers for our response are different for each of us, rooted in our formation and life experience, and our interests and priorities.  As part of the stewardship process and also to gain acceptance for your Online Giving application, your parish must appeal to this need to give by making the connection to parishioner priorities, interests and experience.  Back to point number 1.  The lay witness talk or "human interest" story is a great way to make this connection.

So as you embark on your journey with Online Giving, consider the Olympics.  Online Giving provides convenience and security for parishioners, and consistent cash flow for the parish. Yet even those of us with good intentions may not take the step to do the simple registration.  We need the extra reminder and push to make that effort.  The parish can help by providing Olympic moments - stories from parishioners about their experience that help the rest of us realize that using Online Giving would be a pleasure rather than a burden.

And ultimately the great works we can do as a parish with the gifts we all share!

Have you had any Olympic moments?  Please share.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Does Gift Frequency Matter for Online Giving?

Greater frequency generates higher levels of giving:

I was just reviewing some data for the most recent quarter regarding the relationship of annual dollar volume to the frequency of giving.  Several months ago I wrote about this topic, noting that the largest annualized gifts were from bi-weekly givers.  This trend has continued.  Our most recent update to our data, which has been compiled since 2009, indicates that those who donate bi-weekly give $2012 on an annualized basis.  This is closely followed by weekly givers donate $1819.   The numbers drop significantly for monthly ($1278) and quarterly ($737).

So even though there are more donations to reconcile for the parish,  the numbers suggest that greater gift frequencies provide more income for the parish.  While the amount per individual gift is smaller for the greater frequencies ( average weekly gift is around $34 while the average monthly gift is $106), the annual gift to your parish is larger.

Is your parish experiencing this?

Both ACH (direct withdrawal) and Credit Card work:

We also continue to see a fairly even distribution of contributors who elect to use credit card or ACH methods of payment.  About 60% are using credit cards and 40% use ACH transactions.  Gifts from credit card donors are about 7% greater than for ACH.  See our indicator.  The effects of frequency are consistent regardless of the choice of donation.

Which method do you prefer to use?

Online Giving exceeds $100 million

We have exceeded $100 million in processing for Online Giving and parishioner use continues to increase.  You may want to join the growing group of parishes who have over 30% of parishioners using Online Giving.

 We are grateful that you have chosen to use Online Giving.  It's a great way to improve service to parishioners.  We remain committed to serving the church through all of our offerings and materials.  please contact us with your thoughts and ideas.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Get more parishioners signed up and using Online Giving

This account comes to us from Bruce Richman, the Customer Sales Retention Supervisor for OSV Offertory Solutions.

Recently I was visiting a parish when the question of how to get more people to use Online Giving came up. This particular parish had over 3,300 families with only 5% of the parishioners signed-up. In contrast, another parish in the area with about 1,000 families had 17% of parishioners using Online Giving.

When visiting with the smaller parish I was asked to find out what they were doing differently to be more successful. I knew as soon as I walked in the door -- the differences were apparent. The first thing I saw was an Online Giving poster mounted near the main entrance. Every person that came through those doors saw the poster the moment they entered the church. That action reinforced the parish’s support and need for Online Giving.

Also, when talking with some of the parish staff, I came to understand they had two additional efforts to help them entice more parishioners. First, they talked about Online Giving at the pulpit on several occasions. These weren't long lectures but short statements and testimonials about how easy Online Giving is to use and how it benefits the parish and the parishioner. Second, they used OSV’s Online Giving marketing package. This package helped the staff to announce and acquaint the parish to the convenience of the service. Included in the package were the posters, an announcement letter, an FAQ pamphlet, and the Online Giving mailing card for inserting into the offering envelope packet.

Promoting and communicating the Online Giving message at the pulpit, on boards, and through various mailings has helped to increase contributions for that parish and others, and can foster the growth of your parish’s Online Giving program, too. 

Share your story about how you get parishioners to use Online Giving!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

4 points about increasing parish contributions through electronic giving

One of the great expectations we have from our parish electronic giving is that we will see an increase in contributions for the parish. And it is true that parishes see an increase in contributions.  But this number varies dramatically. Here are 4 points to consider:

1.  Some individual gifts do increase dramatically.  A gift online is a conscious choice which requires some level of thought and commitment.  If your parish was not engaging in pledge renewals in the past, then using a tool like Online Giving can provide that motivation to give more.  This increase has been demonstrated to be as much as 30%.
2.  A few drops of rain don't raise the level of the water in the ocean.  While you should expect individuals to give more,  if you only have a small percentage of parishioners using your Online Giving,  then the overall impact to contributions may be imperceptable. Don't expect a huge increase for the parish without encouraging people to use the system and helping them to get set up properly.
3.  Memory is unreliable.  Most of us have good intentions about our contributions to our parish.  However,  when we do miss Mass we don't always make up that contribution the way we think we do.  Online Giving can help correct this through scheduled automatic deductions based on the preference of the parishioner.
4.  If its not easy, people won't use it.   If you are making parishioners search for your website URL, or where to find it on the website, or you don't have your Online Giving on your Facebook page...  then you are missing opportunities for parishioners and even other community members to give.  Be easy to find.  Put the URL on your envelopes.  Tweet about Online Giving and put the link on Facebook and keep it up at the top of the page.  You want to attract your regular Mass attendees and also those who aren't as disciplined about their attendance.  Remember students away at school, or people who travel a great deal.

With a little attention,  your parish should see financial benefits to Online Giving.  And you may hear about how much people like the convenience of the tool!  Let us know your experience...

Monday, June 25, 2012

New study results: Online plus direct contributions are best

I was very interested to read the 2011 donorCentrics Internet and Multichannel Giving Benchmarking Report that was released recently from Target Analytics.   While this research is focused on fundraising of all types,  I think it applies to parish contributions.

Several points in the summary of findings are what we would expect:
  • Online-acquired donors are significantly younger and tend to have higher household incomes that mail-acquired donors.
  • Online-acquired donors tend to give much larger gifts than mail-acquired donors.
But here was one of the big points to note:
  • Robust direct mail programs drive up the retention and long-term value of new donors acquired online. Without the ability to become multi-channel givers by renewing their support via direct mail, this group of donors would be worth far less. Other than monthly recurring giving programs, established direct mail programs area the best method for gaining repeat gifts from online-acquired donors.
 This next chart shows that while there is a significant percentage of online donations there is still a far greater percentage of donations from mail:

  So why do I think this is pertinent to parishes?  
          1.  Online giving attracts a younger and likely more affluent group of people.  While our data indicate that every age group uses Online Giving,  this is still our best way to engage younger people to contribute financially to our parishes.
          2.   We should continue to emphasize envelopes.  Think of them as ongoing direct mail.  Parishioners may want to use both Online Giving and Envelopes for various reasons. And if the parish has other projects then mail is a very effective medium. 

This is all kind of analytical -  in the end we must engage our parishioner base in our parish by focusing on our formation and by accomplishing our mission as Church.  At a more superficial level,  we do need to make the best use of the tools available to us.  This is also good stewardship!

Tell me how your parish makes use of electronic services, envelopes and direct mail...

Friday, June 1, 2012

Increase the Effectiveness of Online Giving; Advantages of Merchant Accounts

It's exciting to hear how parishes are using Online Giving!  Many are incorporating Online Giving with their new Faith In Action websites from Our Sunday Visitor for maximum impact.  We held a customer advisory panel meeting recently and heard an idea to get parishioners to give to special collections.  The parish sends out an email at the beginning of each month explaining which special or one-time collections are available that month for contributions.  This gives them an opportunity to encourage parishioners to give to those collections while also reminding them to sign in to make their donation.  Works great!.  That particular parish has seen steady growth and acceptance of Online Giving.

Also remember to thank your parishioners for using Online Giving.  Oh,  and while you are at it thank them for using envelopes!  This is an opportunity to explain why the parish encourages the use of these tools,  and how they help the parish.  Explain what's printed on the envelope and why.   Note the special box to check indicating "gave electronically"  so parishioners can participate in the liturgy.  Its possible to add other types of gifts to the envelope,  such as prayer or shared time that parishioners would like to note in addition to giving electronically.

Merchant Accounts

If you are evaluating your Merchant Account setup,  then remember to look at the cash flow and the timing of processing for your account.  With Online Giving you are assured that parishioner contributions are processed immediately and funds are not stored in escrow.  You also are assured that your parish risk is minimized.  In an environment where your provider is serving as the parish merchant of record, a problem at any parish is a problem for ALL parishes.  Its compounded if funds are stored in escrow.

As the merchant you also can incorporate other services to support your bookstore or possibly credit card scanners and be confident that you are both compliant and secure.

How are things working at your parish?  let us know!

look here to see some recent events

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Some surprises about trends in check usage; Online Giving grows in SC

Trends in Check Usage

Most of the data we have seen over the past decade indicates the tremendous move toward electronic banking and non-cash payments.  Check usage moved from the primary payment method to less than one quarter of all transactions between 2001 and 2009.  The Federal Reserve Payments Study from 2010 indicates that ACH and Debit Card transactions increased through 2009:

Another report published by Nilson indicates that checks may stay around for a while!  Consider the following:  Consumers prefer checks 4 to 1 over debit cards.  72% of consumers believe that their check use will increase or stay the same over the next year.  88% of the population has a checking account while about 50% have a credit card or debit card account.

So what does this mean for parishes? It means we have to plan for some parishioners to use electronic contributions and some to use checks with offering envelopes.  The significant movement toward electronic banking has already happened and will continue to be true.  Parishes should offer an electronic option. Systems such as Online Giving from OSV make ACH withdrawal (also known as electronic check) very simple and flexible.   If your parish tries to move exclusively to electronic contributions it is possible you would disenfranchise some of your parishioners who would prefer to place a check in their offering envelope.  So offer both and make it easy for everyone!

Online Giving in SC

We were able to talk with representatives from parishes across the Atlanta province at the regional stewardship conference in Charleston, SC.  The event was a wonderful opportunity to refresh our focus on our journey to discipleship.  It was also an opportunity to hear challenges and successes from pastors and parish staff.  There were a number of parishes who are seeing strong growth in their implementation of Online Giving.   Representatives from St. Benedict in Mount Pleasant said they implemented Online Giving about 18 months ago and they now have 35% of parishioners using the system.  St. Benedict and several others made it a point to have the link to Online Giving prominently displayed on their website,  announced that it was available,  and the growth and use happened on its own after that.  We also hear that the new revisions to the Online Giving communications materials has resulted in increased use of the system.

Let us know what is happening at your parish!

Friday, April 13, 2012

"Oh that's right! I heard our parish is offering Online Giving..."

When I talk with members of my parish about Online Giving I often get a response such as..." Oh yes I did notice the letter and thought about it but we haven't done anything yet!" As in all communication programs, the information has to be repeated many times and in many different ways. We often do a good job announcing the introduction of Online Giving, but our efforts trail off and so do the new users for Online Giving.

In his book "Best Practices in Parish Stewardship", Chuck Zech summarizes the tactics that result in vibrant parish communities and the associated positive financial support from parishioners. He supports the idea of electronic contributions systems because they involve a conscious decision on the part of the donor and therefore can be considered a pledge. He also recommends lay witness talks.

Why not ask some of your Online Giving users to do a short talk at Mass to explain how they use the system and why they like it. This kind of talk would help form personal connections to the experience of the presenter and also would provide the opportunity for conversations after Mass.

We recently compared results for Online Giving customers who have used our introductory communications packages versus those who have not. The parishes that used the communications have on average 43% more users on their system than those who have not used the package. We'd like to trumpet this as a big success; however, it does not factor in parish size as a component, so we will say it indicates that communication about the system helps.

We do need to continue to invite people to use both envelopes and Online Giving. And the combination of a witness talk plus personal contact such as the example in the last blog have more direct results than a notice in the bulletin.

What has been your experience at your parish? how are you moving past "Oh that's right! I heard our parish is offering Online Giving!' to "Yes I am using Online Giving and it is convenient and easy to use!".

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Online Giving Milestone; Part of Offertory Planning

During the month of March Online Giving exceeded 1 million transactions! This significant milestone and the continued growth in users demonstrates that electronic contribution systems have become accepted as a tool for parishes and dioceses.

At the same time parishes continue to focus on the importance of offertory as part of liturgy and as an example for children in a family. So parishes are introducing Online Giving as a tool while also emphasizing liturgy and the use of offering envelopes as a means to participate in liturgy.

During March we also saw that the average percentage of parishioners using Online Giving increased to over 14%. There are a number of parishes with 30% or more of their parishioners using the Online Giving application. See our indicator at:

We recently heard a great example about how to introduce parishioners to Online Giving from a parish near Los Angeles. The business manager sets up a table monthly with her PC and invites parishioners to sign up after Mass. She has mugs with the parish logo and the Online Giving logo on the mugs as giveaways for people who sign up. This makes it easy for the parishioner to get started and its a fun way to introduce Online Giving!

How is your parish using Online Giving as part of your offertory plan?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Security and risk management: PCI Compliance cannot be outsourced

As we have increased our use of Online Giving and other electronic giving systems at our dioceses and parishes, we have become more conscious of the controls and the risks associated with payment processing. In some cases there is a great deal of anxiety around this subject. This is a good thing because we have become aware of the risks; however, we have a large number of activities that require our attention for both PCI compliance and risk management.

Does your parish or diocese hold a conference? How about an auction or a parish dinner? Do you have a parish gift store? If you are like many parishes, you have these events and activities and you may allow people to pay by credit card or even direct deposit. Do you use any type of commitment card or envelope that provides the option for a parishioner to include a credit card or bank account number on the form? Your parish may very well need to be fully PCI Compliant.

There also has been some discussion of "Merchant of Record" associated with electronic giving applications for parishes and dioceses. This concept has been raised as if it is the critical factor when implementing an electronic giving solution. The credit card associations base the requirement for PCI compliance on the ACTIVITY performed at the parish. This is regardless of formal or informal agreements defining the organization as a merchant. The parish and diocese cannot outsource the risk or the compliance to another organization.

The two most important factors parishes and dioceses should consider when they are assessing the risk associated with electronic contributions are:

  1. The flow of the donation dollars. Make sure that the parishioner contribution moves from the parishioner account to the parish or diocese bank account directly. Avoid deposits into holding accounts or escrow.

    Organizations that serve as a merchant on behalf of other organizations are considered aggregators by the credit card associations and are also considered to be higher risk because they hold accounts with donor funds in the accounts.

  2. No parish access to account information. The application should prevent the parish staff from any access to donor credit card or bank account information. Make sure any function that allows the parish access to account information is turned off. 

Beyond that consider the integrity and financial strength of the organization providing the solution.

Our parish leadership and diocesan staff must consider all activities related to donations and finances and we must educate ourselves on the latest requirements for compliance and risk management. We have a good start on the new systems, but don't forget some of the many activities we have done for years!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tips from Parish Visits

This past week we talked with several parishes who are using Online Giving. One in particular just started in January 2012 and has 84 parishioners using Online Giving as of the third week of February. I heard a great idea from the business manager at this parish.

This parish had people participating in a jog-a-thon for the parish and added a donation category to support the jog-a-thon. They had sponsorship from both parishioners and other community members. The result was a tremendous success for the event and also greater awareness about the parish for the community as people visited the web site to donate. People can participate using the "QuickGive" feature in Online Giving.

At another parish nearby, the staff have included Online Giving information in their communications, in their bulletin and in their increased offertory and stewardship renewal materials. As a result of making giving online a standard option they have over 10% of their parishioners using the system.

We noticed at another parish that Online Giving was prominently displayed in one of the parish bulletins. The space allocated was as large as most of the significant advertisements so it was easy to spot. They made the invitation to Online Giving a bold announcement.

These techniques served these parishes well. They are excited about the acceptance of Online Giving and they are experiencing the improvements to cash flow as a result.

What is your parish doing to make it easy to give online?

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Online Giving acceptance growing rapidly

We just updated the OLG indicator on our web site: Over the past month the average percentage of parishioners who are using Online Giving at their parishes has increased to over 13%. The range is fairly wide, from single digit percentages up to almost 50% of parishioners, depending on the size and demographics of the parish. Over the past two years we have seen the average move from 6-7% to the current 13%.

Parishes that have developed a communication plan and engaged lay personnel as champions for Online Giving have had greater acceptance from parishioners. But usage has generally grown across all parishes that have implemented Online Giving. Parishioners have found that Online Giving is a convenient way to make contributions to the parish, so they can concentrate on their participation at Mass.

Its also interesting to note the frequency of gifts. OSV Online Giving provides flexibility for gift frequencies and the system processes the gift on the day specified. Since 2009 almost 30% of the total dollar volume has been processed as WEEKLY donations. Those who give bi-weekly are contributing the largest annual totals, followed by weekly donors annual totals. Monthly gifts are about 40% of total dollar volume. On an annualized basis, monthly givers are contributing about 29% less than weekly and 50% less than bi-weekly givers. To summarize, there is good reason to offer parishioners options for when to contribute to the parish!

Make Online Giving part of your annual plan for Offertory. It is also important to provide offering envelopes so that everyone can present their gifts during Mass. These are tools for our use and we can create excitement about them at our parishes by using them effectively and reporting results.

Is your parish part of the Online Giving wave?

Monday, January 16, 2012

Who will you reach in 2012?

We just finished visiting a series of parishes and diocesan organizations in the south and east. I always am enriched by these visits; I'm enriched by the amazing people we have working in parish and diocesan organizations, by visits to beautiful chapels and sanctuaries, and by learning about the steps we are taking to advance our Faith.

As part of our conversations we talked about setting an annual plan for offertory and communications. Part of the discussion inevitably turns to online giving and also to web sites. These are two areas that deserve continued focus to increase our impact to our communities and ultimately the world.

Now is the time to set your plan for your offering envelopes and Online Giving. Make them work together to support your key themes for 2012. (As an aside, we learned recently that terminology is important. One of the dioceses we visited stated that they were emphasizing "direct deposit". It was not clear that OSVs Online Giving capability does include function for direct deposit and makes it easy for both the parishioner and the parish to manage.) You should definitely offer online giving. And keep the envelopes so people can use them at Mass. This is simple, cost effective and keeps change to a minimum.

Another staff person asked how we get younger people to participate. The first place our teens and young adults will look is on the web. They will look for information about the church, and about the faith including answers to questions about the faith. Is your website ready? Take a look at for a great example of a parish website. This site follows the best practices based on research from Villanova University and from the Archdiocese of Boston.

So in 2012, plan to make it easy for parishioners to give to your parish. While you are at it, make it easy for parishioners and others to find you. And step up your efforts to be where people are searching.

What are your plans? Let us know!