Offertory Envelope Best Practices

By Scot Landry

Offertory envelopes remain the primary way parishioners deliver their support to their parish.  Choices that parishes make on the type of envelopes and the gift options listed can significantly impact the contributions they receive. 

Companies that supply envelopes to the 19,000 Catholic parishes in the United States have learned from their experience.  A few leading providers offered the best practices below in recent conversations with me. 

I encourage you to review your offertory envelope practices in light of these suggested best practices. 

  1. Increase the gift levels on your offertory envelopes.  Envelope providers suggest at least a $100 option on the high end (equates to $5,000/year) and suggest the elimination of all gift options less than $10 per week.  A standard list of gift boxes would $100, $75, $50, $25, $20, $15, $10. If you include an open box for the parishioner to fill in, include at the high end of the options near the $100 box. 
  2. Choose to mail your envelopes monthly to your parishioners.  Data shows clearly that the more frequently parishioners receive envelopes, the more they give.  So providers suggest the monthly mailing of envelopes.  The next highest contributions come from envelopes mailed every other month, then quarterly, then annual boxes, then stock sets. The costs are slightly higher with more frequent mailings, but the return on investment is well worth it. 
  3. Add a box “I give electronically” to the envelope.  This promotes electronic giving, which is a much more stable/consistent and usually generous form of support.  This checkbox allows families that give electronically to have something to place in the offertory basket. 
  4. Encourage parishioners to mail in envelopes even when they are not able to attend Mass at your parish.  Add a line to the envelope “Your consistent support of our parish is critical.  Please mail your offertory envelope to the rectory if you are away.” Adding “mail back envelopes” in your offertory envelope packets make this easier and can serve as a reminder to parishioners to forward their envelopes to you.  This will increase the parish’s envelope costs, but the service providers say that most parishes believe that the extra cost is justified because of additional contributions they receive. 
  5. Place “pew envelopes” in each pew or in the back of church.  This allows parishioners who have forgotten their envelope to still have their gift counted and it affords visitors a chance to give in a recognized way.  On these pew envelopes, you can also let parishioners sign up for envelopes or electronic offertory.  Pew envelopes can also reinforce the parish’s welcoming environment. 
  6. Insert stewardship pamphlets and parish announcements in your mailing envelopes. Since you are already paying for the postage to mail envelopes to your parishioners, adding pamphlets that help and reinforce stewardship principles and key parish messages are a great idea.  All the leading offertory envelope providers are happy to provide this service. 
  7. Make children’s stewardship envelopes available in your parish.  These children’s envelopes provide a vehicle for children to offer their good deeds and part of their allowance to the Church. It forms good stewardship habits in children and reinforces good stewardship practices of adults in the parish. 

Scot Landry is Secretary for Institutional Advancement at the Archdiocese of Boston. 

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

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