Best Practices for Enrolling Parishioners in Electronic Giving

By Mike Walsh

As electronic giving continues to grow as a means for the Catholic faithful to live out their commitment to stewardship of treasure, one of the biggest challenges for parishes is the enrollment process. In order to successfully convert parishioners from envelope/cash donations to electronic donations, two areas of consideration are critical: parish communication and the enrollment process.

All ministries at the parish level require concise communication to parishioners regarding the importance of that ministry and how it will serve the Church. Electronic giving is no different.

Initially, there must be a justification for parish families as to why the parish is offering electronic giving. This can be made by drawing a parallel to the significance electronic payments have in the consumer world, and by speaking to the efficiency with which electronic gifts are received and recorded compared to cash and checks.  Next, a message is needed that speaks to parishioners about the safety and convenience of automating gift contributions to the parish in the same manner that electronic payments facilitate other aspects of their daily lives.  Finally, and most especially, there must be an inward focus on the Church with a call to stewardship: electronic giving is the ideal means for a commitment to stewardship of treasure in a planned, consistent manner.

As Catholics attend Mass at their home parish with different times and frequencies, the “branding” about electronic giving must be consistent in message and regularity through the following media:

  • Direct mail: personalized letter to select parishioners from the pastor
  • “In pew” forms: self-mailer enrollment forms
  • Pulpit/end of Mass announcements: from pastor and/or lay witness
  • Bulletin: weekly presence
  • Parish website: link to online enrollment, individual account access

Regardless of how a parishioner has learned about electronic giving at their parish, there must be two means to enroll and begin the contribution process: paper and online enrollment. The option of filling out a form and either mailing it in or hitting “send” is critical to meeting the comfort level of all potential electronic donors.

As this natural evolution in offertory giving within the Church continues, parishes that incorporate a consistent communication process with flexible enrollment options will achieve significant participation levels from their parish families.

Mike Walsh is Vice President at Faith Direct, a leading provider of electronic giving services to Catholic parishes.  For more information, please visit www.FaithDirect.net.

This article originally appeared in a special “Parish Stewardship & Fundraising” section of The Pilot on September 18, 2009

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