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

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