Electronic Offertory and Online Giving Programs

The Archdiocese of St. Louis recommends that parishes wanting to set up online giving programs for the convenience of their parishioners should consider one of the following vendors.

Faith Direct
Contact: Mr. Vern Sebby
Phone: 866.507.8757
Email: vern@faithdirect.net
Web: www.faithdirect.net

Liturgical Publications, Inc.
Contact: Mr. Brian Davidson
Phone: 314.387.7678
Email: bdavidson@4lpi.com
Web: www.4lpi.com

Our Sunday Visitor
Contact: Ms. Joanie Lewis
Phone: 800.348.2886 x2137
Email: joanielewis@osv.com
Web: osvoffertory.com

Stewardship Technology
Contact: Mr. Dave Gambino
Phone: 800.980.0906 x105
Email: dave@smbcreativegroup.com
Web: www.egsnetwork.com

Please contact David Baranowski at 314.792.7215 or davidbaranowski@archstl.org if you have any questions. Below is some addtional information you may find useful in evaluating the benefits of Electronic Offertory.

Is Electronic Offertory Giving Right for Your Parish?

Each parish must decide for itself whether or not to introduce Electronic Offertory Giving. Here are some issues to consider.

  • In 2004 electronic payments surpassed check writing in our country. Some experts are predicting that in the near future check writing will become totally obsolete. Will your parish be prepared for that day? If there were no checks, how would your parishioners make their Offertory gift to you? Cash? Gift cards? Credit card? Or electronic transfer?
  • Parishes around the country that are beginning to use Electronic Offertory Giving say one of the real benefits is that it provides them with a predictable stream of income every month. Through bad winter weather or summer vacation time the Offertory gifts that were pledged electronically continue to come in right on schedule.
  • Parishioners using an automated giving system increase their giving substantially – range of individual increase is from 30%-70%. As anyone knows who calculates “average weekly Offertory gift” in a parish, the weekly amount a person pledges on their stewardship card and their true average weekly Offertory amount can be very different. A parishioner who pledges $50 a week, may give $50 every time he comes to church, but if he only attend Mass at your parish 40 weeks (which is about average for many Catholics) his total contribution is $2,000 or $38.46 a week. If that same person gives $50 electronically every week, his total contribution is $2,600. Thus, when considering whether an Electronic Offertory Giving program could be beneficial for your parish it might be helpful to review giving history and see how regularly parishioners are using their envelopes now.
  • Many parishioners consider an Electronic Offertory Giving program to be a real service and they are grateful to their parishes for offering them this convenience, especially if they prefer to do all their other banking and bill paying online or electronically.

Selecting the Right Vendor for Parish Electronic Offertory Programs

Before selecting a vendor for Electronic Offertory, parishes are encouraged to contact the Stewardship Education Office for current information on the vendors which the Archdiocese of St. Louis suggests that parishes use. You may contact David Baranowski at 314.792.7215 or davidbaranowski@archstl.org. When making their decisions, parishes are encouraged to look at the following issues:  

  • Security. This should be a #1 concern. When you start dealing with the banking information or credit card numbers of your parishioners you are dealing with extremely sensitive information. This information should not be handled lightly in the parish office. Also, make sure your vendor offers the highest security controls.
  • Marketing. Electronic Offertory Giving programs will only be successful if they are well marketed to the parishioners. If you want a high conversion rate, you should either select a vendor who can handle marketing for you or factor your own marketing plans and costs into your decision process.
  • Ease of Use for Donors. The easier a program is to use, the more parishioners of all ages and technological abilities will use it.
  • Ease of Use for the Parish. If administering the Electronic Offertory Giving program is going to be so time-consuming that you need another staff person, you may cancel out the increases you have gained. Review how much work the program will be for office staff. One aspect to consider is how easily donor information and records will transfer into your existing contributions tracking system. Ultimately Electronic Offertory Giving records should be transferred into your parish Servant Keeper or other database program and the parish should retain responsibility for sending out one tax substantiation statement at the end of the year that includes Offertory and other giving.
  • Fees and Costs. There is a great deal of difference in the way different vendors charge for these programs. Review the fee and costs structure carefully. Do not pay for services you do not need. However, do be willing to pay for the benefits that are most needed by your parish and your parishioners. Also, consider long range costs. The goal of a good Electronic Offertory program is to convert 10% or more of your donors to this form of giving. Anticipate what your cost would be if 10% of your donors were using the program.

Quick Tips for Making the Best Decision

It is important to take the time to select an Electronic Offertory program carefully. If a parish is constantly asking parishioners to switch from one method to another, the donors will eventually find it easier to just give in the old-fashioned envelope way and they will only give when they come to church instead of consistently through an electronic payment program.

When considering an Electronic Offertory program for your parish, look for a program that offers the following benefits:

  • Allows parishioners to give in a way that is most efficient for them.
  • Allows credit card giving – which many families prefer for security, ease of bill paying and rewards programs. (50%-65% of EOG givers use credit cards.)
  • Matches the way most people today are paid and thus give – monthly or bi-monthly.
  • Allows parishioners to manage all of their giving – regular Offertory, special collections and special parish funds or events – at one time.
  • Guarantees that parishioners’ gifts are given consistently – meeting both their intention and the parish’s needs.
  • Supports important stewardship lessons – such as giving to God first, giving a planned and consistent amount and seeing the Offertory as a financial obligation.

Other factors to consider in your decision include:

  • Is the parish doing this to meet the needs of the parishioner only or to also increase giving in the parish?
  • If the goal is to increase giving, extensive marketing will be necessary to reach a desired conversion rate. The parish should have a plan for marketing or select a vendor that will provide this.
  • Evaluate cost of services based on long-range projections of usage.
  • Do not lose the significance of the Offertory. Encourage parishioners to use envelopes or cards that state, “I give electronically.” Also be sure to report EOG giving as a separate line in all published reports on Offertory.

Look for a service that provides:

  • Secure, easy and confidential sign up and changing for parishioner.
  • Good customer support for donors, because your donors will see this as an extension of your parish.
  • The opportunity for parishioners to also designate gifts for special collections, Holy Days, and any other parish events or collections.
  • Easy reporting to the parish staff.
  • Total security.

Making Electronic Offertory A Part of Your Stewardship Effort

There are several reasons why Electronic Offertory and Stewardship efforts should be combined.

  1. When parishioners sign up for most Electronic Offertory Giving programs they make a long-term commitment regarding the amount of the Offertory gift that will be regularly transferred electronically to the parish. It is important that they make that commitment while also reflecting on the stewardship messages that are shared during the annual stewardship program.
  2. To ask parishioners to consider the size of their Offertory gift twice every year – once during the stewardship program and once when they renew their Electronic Giving pledge – would be to confuse and possibly anger them.
  3. Many Electronic Offertory Giving programs do not include a regular renewal process. Thus, once a donor sets the amount of his or her gift it never changes. For this reason, it is important that part of your annual stewardship efforts would be to remind those who give electronically to re-evaluate and update their giving amounts.
  4. If Electronic Offertory Giving is handled separately each year there is a great risk that those who use this option will think that they have already made their stewardship pledge and thus ignore the annual stewardship effort and thereby not consider how they might also share gifts of time and talent with the parish.

To combine Electronic Offertory Giving with your stewardship effort, consider the following:

  • Make sure that the pastor talks about this option in his stewardship homilies, columns and letters. Parishioners will respond more positively if they know this option is endorsed and encouraged by the pastor.
  • Have your stewardship lay witness speakers talk about the Electronic Offertory Giving option as part of their overall pulpit talk. Or, set aside an extra week in your stewardship program to have a member of the Stewardship or Finance Committee talk about the benefits of Electronic Offertory Giving and how parishioners can sign up for it.
  • Plan to distribute Stewardship Intention Cards and Electronic Offertory Giving information together. These can either be mailed to the home or distributed in church. Obviously, mailing to the home is the best option.
    NOTE: If you are working with an Electronic Offertory Giving vendor such as Faith Direct that offers to mail the forms for you, be sure that you work with the vendor to include the stewardship messages and theme that you want in the letter.
  • Just as you make Stewardship Intention Cards available to parishioners throughout the year in Welcoming Packets, at the back of church, etc., make sure that Electronic Offertory Giving information is always available to all parishioners.
  • Regularly remind parishioners about the Electronic Offertory Giving option as part of your ongoing stewardship communication in the bulletin, parish newsletter and other parish communications. Report on how many parishioners are using this option, share the thoughts of some parishioners who have already signed up, and remind those who did not sign up during the stewardship renewal program how they can do it at any time.

Archidiocesan Statement on Electronic Giving

 As the trend toward electronic giving increased throughout our country, many pastors and parish leaders began to ask the Archdiocese about Electronic Offertory Giving. In November 2005 the Stewardship Education Council carefully reviewed this issue and drafted recommendations regarding “Electronic Giving of Offertory Gifts.” In January 2006 these recommendations were reviewed and approved by Archbishop Raymond Burke, Bishop Robert Hermann and Msgr. Vernon Gardin. The full statement of the Council follows.


Electronic Giving of Offertory Gifts
Recommendations from the Archdiocese of St. Louis
Stewardship Education Council*
November 2005
Background

Three years ago, the Archdiocesan Stewardship Education Council was asked by a private company to consider introducing the option of automatic withdrawal methods of offertory giving. The Council had the following reservations about this practice:

 

  1. Offertory giving is not about the money only, but is part a total decision of stewardship.
  2. The act of giving an envelope or offering in the collection at the liturgy is a ritual act of stewardship, valuable to the giver and to the community, including the formation of children, in forming a spirit of stewardship, and it must be preserved.

Since that time, electronic giving has become a greater part of many peoples’ lives, and some parishes have incorporated forms of electronic giving and found ways to be sensitive to the above concerns. From their experience, we recognize that electronic giving can be part of a parish’s Offertory. This option may be realistic to the way many people, especially younger parishioners, make their payments in general, and can in fact assist them to be faithful stewards. We have considered the following information.

Growing Preference for Electronic Giving

  • For the last two years online giving in this country has increased more than 50% each year.
  • Currently 12% of all charitable gifts are made online.
  • It is estimated that by 2010 one-third of all charitable donations will be made online. (This estimate was before relief giving for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita victims introduced millions of new donors to the ease of online giving. Experts now are suggesting this prediction might be too low.)
  • Generally those who prefer to do online banking tend to also prefer to make their charitable gifts electronically. 25% of Americans now bank online and this number is continually growing.
  • Those between 28-39 years of age tend to be the ones who most prefer conducting all their financial business – including charitable giving – electronically.

The Intention of Catholics to Be Generous

  • For many Catholics of today the intention to give may be present, yet the busyness and mobility of life might prevent an individual from remembering an envelope or being physically present at the Mass. Electronic giving would allow that “intention to be generous” to be realized.
  • Electronic giving would allow parishioners to truly follow the stewardship call to “give off the top” or “give first” since the donation could be automatically deducted before any other spending might diminish that intended gift.
  • Electronic giving is a more reliable way to give, reflecting the mobility of our society and allowing parishioners to still participate in their parish Offertory even when they may be traveling.
  • Electronic giving reflects the needs and preferences of today’s Catholics.
  • Electronic giving has been proven to increase giving. Those who used electronic giving in the Archdiocese of Chicago gave 52% more than they had previously given to their parishes.

Role of the Offertory Envelope As A Giving Tool

  • It is important to recognize that over the centuries the Offertory envelope has become a “tool for giving.” Now modern technology is providing us with a new tool.
  • Even if the envelope is not used as the vehicle for giving, it should still be valued as a witness of our giving. It is critical that parishes not lose this witness. Parishioners who use electronic giving should still be encouraged to “Come to the Eucharistic Table with their gift in hand.” Ways that this is being accomplished in some parishes include:
    • Redesigning parish envelopes so that there is a place for parishioners to check that they have given electronically.
    • Encouraging parishioners to use the envelope for other means, for example to place a note about stewardship of time and talent over the last week or add a note of thanksgiving to God for prayers answered. One parish has redesigned their envelopes so that parishioners can fill out the following information:
      I am thankful for__________________________________________
      I need prayers for_________________________________________
      I am volunteering for______________________________________
    • Recommending that electronic givers place the Offertory envelope on the dinner table all week, so that family members may reflect upon it and possibly add any other stewardship gifts of time, talent or treasure to it.

Electronic Giving Options Electronic Giving includes the following options.

  • Parishioners may set up electronic giving on their own, through their own bank, designating that specific funds be transferred to the parish on a regular basis. Catholics in some of our parishes have already been making these kinds of arrangements on their own.
  • Parishes may negotiate with their own bank or online automatic payment organization to handle the electronic giving process for the parishioners. However, the Archdiocese of St. Louis would have to approve the security of such sites and the parish itself would be responsible for all maintenance fees. (Check with David Fairchild in the Finance Office at 314-792-7129 or Dave Baranowski in the Stewardship Office at 314-792-7215 or davidbaranowski@archstl.org for a list of suggested providers and guidelines for selecting the best option for your parish.)
  • Parishes may use the online giving services, which are currently provided by USBank for the Archdiocese of St. Louis, to allow parishioners to make credit card or ACH fund transfer gifts. This program provides a secure site for donations, is hassle-free and easy for parishes and parishioners to use. (NOTE: This program only allows one-time gifts so each week a parishioner must go online and make his or her gift.)

Stewardship Council Recommendations

In light of the above considerations, we encourage parishes to explore and introduce the electronic giving options that might be best for their own situation. We suggest that parishes using any electronic giving options promote the spirit of stewardship with the following methods:

  • Continued formation in total stewardship, including time and talent, so the promotion of electronic giving methods doesn’t suggest that money amounts are the “real goal” of stewardship.
  • Maintaining the use of an envelope or other concrete symbol of giving. Design Offertory envelopes which include a checkbox for “I give electronically,” which enable the giver to still take part in the Offertory collection. The advantages of this include:1) The envelope can still be used as an indication of Mass attendance, which remains the primary indispensable ritual act of stewardship.2) The envelope can be used at home in prayer and dedication to stewardship. This enables the giver(s) to reflect on the act of giving in a concrete way and is seen by some parishes as an important way for children (and adults) to be formed in the importance of giving - both the concrete gift and how we show it externally.