Better use of technology key in this year’s effort
The weekends of Feb. 20-21 and 27-28, worshippers at Masses celebrated throughout the Diocese of Richmond will hear something rarely heard in churches: “Please take out your phones.”
Those are the weekends during which the fully digital in-pew process for giving to the Annual Diocesan Appeal will take place.
According to Alex Previtera, director of development and operations for the Catholic Community Foundation, as the 2020 appeal was concluding last fall, plans were already underway to focus on digital giving during the 2021 campaign.
“We did some capital campaigns with parishes and came up with digital in-pew processes for them,” he said. “Father would talk about the impact of the capital campaign and then have a person walk parishioners through the process in real time on how to make a gift through Faith Direct.”
Previtera noted that COVID has an impact upon how people give.
“In the past, all the people were in the pews. We’d pass out the cards, have people complete them and then collect them,” he said.
This year, after the priest has spoken about the appeal, he will transition to what Previtera termed “an intentional five minutes to make their contributions online.”
“This is something we do together. We want to capture that and maintain that,” he said, noting that digital giving also makes it convenient for parishioners watching Mass via livestreams.
For those “really opposed” to online giving, Previtera said each parish will have a “very, very small box of pledge cards.”
More people online
When celebration of public Masses was suspended last March, the Catholic Community Foundation, with help from Prenger Solutions Group (PSG), aided parishes in setting up systems that allowed for members to contribute online.
“This is no longer uncharted territory,” Previtera said. “Because of all this good work we’ve done with the parishes, many are doing much better than they were, becoming more successful in getting more people online. That’s a good precursor to what we’re doing here.”
Ashley Winans, vice president of client services at PSG, noted that over the last 11 months, more parishioners have gotten accustomed to online giving.
“More and more parishes have created their own online giving forms; it’s not going to be foreign for most parishioners,” she said. “We just want to build upon that because we had such success with that. Now we’ve taken it to the next level with the appeal.”
While some people might have security concerns about online giving, Previtera said it is a “safer, more secure” way to make a contribution.
“There’s no paperwork floating around, no checks floating around, no credit card numbers floating around,” he said.
Seeking more donors
While the announcement weekend for the appeal is Feb. 13-14, parishioners have already heard about it at Mass or read about it on their parish websites because of bulletin inserts, homily helpers, prayers of the faithful and material for social media that PSG has provided. One reason for the early communication is that while the average gift is increasing, the number of donors is decreasing — something is occurring in parishes and dioceses nationwide.
“The ultimate goal is to get people to participate in the appeal. We want more people to give,” Previtera said. “In-pew is a great way to do that.”
Winans added, “The number one way to bring in new donors is in-pew.”
At a webinar for priests, Nic Prenger, founder and CEO of PSG, emphasized the importance of in-pew giving.
“Rarely do people make a first gift through the mail,” he said. “In-pew? They do it all the time.”
Prenger noted that nationally, charitable giving is up 7.5%, and that online giving is up 12% “and growing.”
“If in-pew isn’t good, then the pool of donors gets smaller,” he said.
Pastors still the key
While emphasis will be placed on digital giving throughout the appeal and Previtera believes that the strategies they’ve developed for a successful appeal are important, pastors “are the key to the appeal’s success.”
“There’s nothing that compares to a pastor looking at you and saying, ‘We need your help on this year’s appeal,’ and explaining how the money is used locally and for the larger Church,” he said. “Father’s role is so critical. The appeal would not be the same without our priests.”
Appeal adapts to ‘new territory’
Includes funding in two new areas
When Bishop Barry C. Knestout spoke Thursday, Aug. 27, to the Pastors’ Advisory Committee (PAC) — the group that advises him in developing the case statement for the Annual Diocesan Appeal — he said, “This is new territory.”
They were familiar with that territory — parishes and a diocese impacted pastorally and financially by COVID-19. With that in mind, they listened as the first group of diocesan office directors spoke about the programs they oversee, the services they offer and the funds needed to provide them. A second group addressed the PAC on Tuesday, Sept. 22.
The $3,749,911 goal for the appeal is only slightly higher than the 2020 goal. This, according to Alex Previtera, director of development and operations for the Catholic Community Foundation, was possible because of the stewardship practiced by the office directors, as well as a $63,000 decrease in the campaign’s administrative costs.
The largest amount in the case statement — $1,275,000 under “Providing for Those in Need” — funds home mission grants, Saint Francis Home, retired priests, pastoral support and the Fuel and Hunger Fund.
When Deacon Bob Griffin, who oversees the Fuel and Hunger Fund, spoke on Aug. 27, he said that he had seen an increase in requests and had already allocated more than $385,000 to 86 parishes and agencies.
Several members of the PAC noted that they anticipated needs would increase as the pandemic continued and advised that the Fuel and Hunger Fund receive $475,000 from the appeal.
Previtera said the increase of funding from $400,000 last year was understandable.
“With everything being what it is, the Food and Hunger Fund needed a significant increase,” he said. “COVID has resulted in more people needing help, and, in turn, has placed a greater responsibility on parish food banks and other Catholic organizations to address these needs. As the priests said, there’s going to be more need.”
The appeal, with a theme of “Building Our Family of Faith,” includes funding for two new projects.
Within the $1,197,911 budgeted for “Building Catholic Communities,” $50,000 will be allocated for patrimony restoration. This will assist parishes in restoring items significant to their history and culture, e.g., vestments, statues, sacred vessels, etc.
Money in “Building Catholic Communities” also supports parish sharing, international priests, clergy formation, developing lay leadership and liturgy and worship.
A commitment of $796,000 to “Empowering the Next Generation” includes $100,000 for “Reengagement with the Eucharist” — an initiative based upon the New Evangelization – is a follow-up to the diocese’s bicentennial and builds upon the 2014 diocesan pastoral plan, “Encounter the Joy of the Gospel: Set the World Ablaze.”
“Empowering the Next Generation” also includes funding for seminarian education, campus ministries, the Segura Educational Initiative for Children and the distance learning network.
At the PAC meeting on Friday, Nov. 13, during which the case statement was finalized, Bishop Knestout announced that for 2021 only, the diocesan/parish split of the targets for non-mission parishes would be 75/25 instead of 80/20. Money raised over the target is divided 50/50 between the parish and diocese.
Editor’s note: Details about the Annual Diocesan Appeal, including an opportunity to donate, can be found at https://richmondcatholicfoundation. org/appeal/, or call 804-359-5661.