Digital in-pew process bolstered contributions
There was nothing “automatic” this year about reaching the $3.749 million goal for the Annual Diocesan Appeal — the highest ever, according to Alex Previtera, director of development and operations for the Catholic Community Foundation (CCF).
To date, the appeal has raised $4,509,799 — 120% over goal.
“Pastors were key. From the Pastors’ Advisory Committee (PAC), which advises Bishop Knestout on the formation of the case statement, and their general advocacy for the people in the pews throughout the year,” he said. “We can write all the solicitation letters in the world, but if the pastors don’t go for it, then it doesn’t happen.”
Previtera termed the response “amazing.”
“We had 13,034 donors — the highest we’ve ever had. That’s exciting,” he said, noting that includes 1,290 Bishop’s Circle donors who contribute $1,000 or more. “People are reaching a little further in order to help support the appeal, which is really great.”
As it did with the way people did most things, COVID-19 changed the how the in-pew solicitation was conducted.
“This year, the in-pew was so important,” Previtera said. “People were still at home when we did the in-pew, so we designed a virtual digital in-pew process. People gave online during Mass.”
Pastors spoke about the appeal and invited those attending in person and virtually to take out their phones.
“We asked pastors and business managers to put papers on the back of pews with QR codes,” Previtera explained. “When Mass-goers scanned the code, it took them to the Faith Direct website where they could make their contribution.”
The impetus for going fully digital, he said, came, in large part, to what the CCF did in 2020 when it helped parishes establish online giving when in-person Mass attendance was not allowed and contributions to the parishes fell.
“This built upon what we did last year with offertory,” Previtera said, noting pastors had already embraced livestreaming of Masses and getting people to make their parish contributions online. “This was an extension of that process, and it worked out very well.”
This year’s in-pew response, which he attributed to going digital, was the highest ever for the appeal.
“Online was really the key this year. If we hadn’t done all the things we did last year with the online offertory, it would not have gone as well,” Previtera said. “A lot of people of various ages and backgrounds were able to go on it last year and make secure contributions. When it came to this year’s appeal, there was more of a willingness to do that.”
Whether people responded digitally or by filling out the donor card, Previtera said the appeal is a communal effort.
“The pastors talk to people and emphasize the local impact of the appeal, as well as the diocesan impact it has,” he said. “The appeal is meant to fund ministries that are larger than any one parish. One parish can’t fund seminarians or retired priests or the Fuel and Hunger Fund. People are willing to support them.”
Planning is underway for the 2022 appeal. Buoyed by this year’s success, e.g., average gift of $346 — highest ever in the appeal – and 100 parishes surpassing their targets, Previtera said they will build upon what is working.
“We provide a solid case statement, and we’re transparent in showing how the money is used,” he said. “Combine that with the ongoing advocacy by the pastors and the generosity of parishioners, and next year’s appeal will be successful, too.”
Editor’s note: All figures are as of Wednesday, Nov. 10, 2021.