Over the past year, many Catholic churches have transitioned to engaging their parishioners virtually. What’s next now that social distancing requirements are being lifted? In this article, Gaby Nuñez and Jessica Grimmett provide perspectives on why parishes should continue to invest time and attention to promote online giving.

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, many charitable organizations have seen a significant increase in online giving – and Catholic parishes and organizations are no exception. In 2020, religious organizations recorded a 27% increase in gifts made digitally. Online giving now represents 18% of total giving to religious causes.

Many may be asking themselves, “Why is this shift important to note?” For parishes specifically, this shift towards online giving, and more broadly online engagement, is important to recognize as a cultural shift within the Catholic church. In 2020, across the world, parishioners’ primary form of engagement with the church was through virtual worship and fellowship. According to an August 2020 Pew Research study, since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, 28% of American Catholics who regularly attended Mass reported giving less to their parish as they shifted to virtual worship. This is 10 percentage points higher than all other denominations detailed within the study.

Why Invest in Online Giving?

As we continue to navigate the uncertain waters brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, many parishes will continue to balance virtual and in-person engagement. With this in mind, it is all the more imperative to consider how to best encourage parishioners to remember their weekly offertory without the physical reminder of the passing of the plate or basket. Maybe your parish has yet to introduce online giving channels to your parishioners, or maybe you know more can be done to increase online giving at your parish. Regardless, there are a number of reasons parishes should invest time and attention to promoting online giving – and they’re not just financial.

  1. Stewardship involves every aspect of our lives – our time, talent, and financial treasure. Online giving channels enable parishes to meet parishioners where they are in their lifestyle and engagement habits. We spend a significant amount of our time and our resources online today. Online giving is another way that parishes can invite parishioners to share in parish life, in a simple and efficient way.
  2. Younger generations give online, and they want to give to their places of worship. A 2018 Blackbaud study found that millennials prioritize charitable giving to their place of worship above all other causes. Millennials also primarily make contributions through an organization’s website or their social media channels. Promoting your online giving platforms – and ensuring they are efficient and up to date – is an important way to engage with younger generations of parishioners.
  3. Online giving offers stability and consistency to parishes. Online gifts – especially automated recurring weekly or monthly contributions – provide more predictability and stability for parishes. They are also easier to record and more secure to process. Staff and volunteer time saved from traditional offertory collections can be redirected to other stewardship and ministry activities as a result.

How to Elevate Online Giving in Your Parish

Ready to enhance and increase your online giving? It may be easier than you think. Consider activities across three key areas to engage your parishioners: Sunday Mass, printed communications, and your website and digital media.

  1. Sunday Mass:
  1. Print Communications:
  1. Digital Media:

Fostering Fellowship Through a Giving Day

Regular online giving encourages longer-term stewardship and engagement with your parish. Another way to encourage digital engagement is through giving days – digitally-driven events dedicated to sharing stories of stewardship and generosity.

CCS is proud to be a sponsor of the giving day #iGiveCatholic because of the difference it makes in advancing the church virtually. #iGiveCatholic is a giving day that brings together the Catholic community to give thanks and give back on #GivingTuesday each year. For the dioceses, parishes, schools, and ministries that set up a giving page with #iGiveCatholic, the experience is about so much more than raising funds for important projects. It is also an experience in feeling connected to the universal church beyond the physical bounds of their community.

For example, participating in #iGiveCatholic was no doubt a financial success for St. Mark Catholic Church and School in the Diocese of Boise. The parish and school raised $77,225 from 172 donors during #iGiveCatholic in December 2020, surpassing their original goal of $30,000 and their subsequent challenge goals of $50,000 and $70,000. It was simultaneously a special experience for members of the St. Mark community to come together in this way. Logan Kimball, St. Mark’s Director of Development and Finance, wrote to #iGiveCatholic: “Participating in #iGiveCatholic helped us build community, engage with one another, and raise funds to build up our parish and school – both of which aid in bringing the Good News of our Lord out into the world. So, basically, we helped change the world and all of human history by the ripple effects created through our generosity!”

For many who participate in #iGiveCatholic, participating in the giving day is an opportunity to connect to a larger Catholic community. As Sr. Draru Mary Cecilia, Executive Director, and Sr. Nancy Kamau, Director of Development at the African Sisters Education Collaborative (ASEC) wrote to #iGiveCatholic: “Giving Tuesday is a competitive day and can feel lonely, but with #iGiveCatholic we are participating on a platform with people who have the shared values of our faith.”

Taking steps to elevate online giving at your parish can be a way to expand your parishioners’ experience of stewardship, strengthen the stability of your operations, and find connection with the wider church. For more resources and tips on fundraising for Catholic causes, visit CCS’s Insights page.