Thursday, January 31, 2013

3 Key Points to Increase Offertory - Online Giving Essential

We are seeing optimism among parishes and dioceses that we visit across the United States. Catholic parishes are providing meaningful services to the community and strong educational programs to their students.  Many of you are on the path to engaging parishioners in both the current activities of the parish and also the direction you want to head for the future.  The Pastors we have talked to have been doing some very creative and wonderful work ranging from working with the children in the parish to develop videos of guinea pigs riding in Lego automobiles to expansive programs to serve the needy in the community.

The results from the work we have done to Increase Offertory at parishes have been very positive.  A parish in the Diocese of San Diego experienced an increase in commitments of over 53% and $330,000.  One in the Diocese of Providence saw an increase of over $120,000 which amounted to 79% .  Another one in California had 140 new families start to participate in the parish.  One in upstate New York was able to define a new identity and bring people together for a new purpose in the midst of a 5 parish merger.

Needless to say, the Pastor and parish leadership are integral to the success of any program.  While every parish has different dynamics, there are some consistent points we are seeing the teams implement to increase their chances of a successful and sustained program.  Here are 3 of them:

1. Focus on the good works of the parish.  In addition to our formation and our personal Faith journeys, we care about organizations that are doing positive things. We want to donate our time and money to successful programs that deliver products or programs or services that we care about.  Our parishes do this all the time but sometimes we don't highlight this work.  Those parishes who experience a wealth of financial contributions are able to demonstrate how they are changing lives for the better and how they are improving lives for the people in the parish and the surrounding areas.

2. Use Online Giving to make it easy to give.  Remove any impediments to accepting a gift. Find ways to make it easy for anyone to give to the parish.  They don't have to be current members.  In fact as you are communicating about the wonderful things the parish does you should expect to attract new people to the parish. Online Giving is an integral part of regular contributions and of any increased offertory program. Allow people to give from the convenience of the web at a time that is convenient for them!

3. Keep Parishioners Informed.  The successful parishes use all their channels of communication to let parishioners know what is happening during and after the Increased Offertory program.  They incorporate points about the direction of the parish and the intent of the program across their website, offering envelopes, newsletters, announcements and bulletins.  It's very important to let all parishioners know about the results of the program and what the parish plans to do next.  Parishes can sustain their results by updating parishioners regarding how funds were used, what new positive programs were implemented, and the results of those new programs.

Do you have experience with increasing offertory?  Let us know!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Websites and Online Giving Tips for a Great Combination - Like Peanut Butter and Chocolate

This is an updated version of an earlier blog topic
 As we continue to learn from our work with the Archdiocese of Boston, and across the country, your website is your "virtual front door" to your parish. One of the key components of a great parish website is easy access to Online Giving. This past week we talked with several parishes who are very interested in pursuing Online Giving. The website is a significant impediment to their progress rather than a useful tool to enable access to web-based giving.  OSV "Faith In Action" websites are designed to make this easy for you.

Set a Communication Plan

As you prepare to offer web-based giving, you should create the initial communication plan and get the system set up so parishioners can immediately access the application. So one of the steps is to update your website to include information about Online Giving, plus a link that connects to Online Giving. Once you announce that the service is available, you want parishioners to be able to get to Online Giving easily so they can get started right away.
 Incorporate Website Best Practices

Your website must be organized well and easy to navigate. A great parish website can help you improve the acceptance of Online Giving by making it obvious how to get started, easy to access, and by providing useful information about the importance of Online Giving. If your website provides other compelling information about the Faith, then as parishioners access the site for Online Giving, they may also be able to spend time learning more about being a good Catholic!
 Here are a few tips:
  • Display your parish name, city and address and contact information prominently
  • Feature a map to your parish
  • Add information about the Faith
  • Add a section to welcome newcomers
  • Add dynamic information
  • Offer people the opportunity to give a gift! 
 Make Sure Your Website and Online Giving Are Easy to Manage
The parishes I referenced earlier were embarrassed and frustrated by their web sites. The web sites were not compelling and not up to date. The person who is setting up Online Giving did not have the ability to do updates. In a couple cases, the person who updated the website worked part time and was the only person who had access to update the site.

The parish website is the best place to access your online giving application. And we should all be implementing Online Giving at our parishes so that our parishioners have this additional convenient option to contribute to the parish. So we need both. Parish Website and Online Giving. When the website is good and you have your Online Giving link prominently displayed, they work together. That's why the web site and Online Giving are like peanut butter and chocolate, which is one of my personal favorite combinations!

How about your experience with your parish website and Online Giving?

By the way thousands of new parishioners per month are signing up to use OSV's Online Giving at parishes across the country. The average parishioner use for parish is now at 13 to 14% of parishioners, up to a high of more than 50%.