The recent study from Villanova and ACST regarding the impact of Covid -19 on giving has some encouraging news. The dollar volume of giving to Catholic parishes is up 9% from pre-pandemic levels.
One of our hypotheses was that larger parishes may have fared better based on our assumption that those parishes may have more staff and resources, including some digital giving. That hypothesis proved false. The data indicate an even distribution of increases (and decreases) in giving across all parish sizes.
I looked more into the data specifically on digital giving during the same time period. In the graphic below you can see that the percentage of Catholic donors using electronic giving increased dramatically from 2019 to 2020 to 34% of donors and held through 2022. Also, good news, the % of dollars given electronically increased 7% from 2019 to 2020, another 5% in 2021, and 3% in 2022. The same number of Parishioner donors increased the amount of their giving in 2021 and 2022.
There is likely much more to this. In my conversations with church leaders I hear a range of results. Based on anecdotal information, I think that a subset of parishes did significantly increase the number of digital donors and dollar volume, while others decreased significantly in all types of giving. If we look at the distribution of parishes from our study sample that showed an increase or decrease in giving, it indicates that there were as many showing a decrease as those showing an increase. See the graph below:
Why might this be? The difference is in the leadership response to the pandemic. Those pastors and leaders who set forth a direction and goals and maintained a focus on their relationship with their parishioners were able to strengthen their community and set forth Mission priorities and actions as the pandemic eased. Those who did not make an effort to be in touch with their people whether or not they came to Mass, and did not implement ways to allow people to celebrate as a parish, experienced a decline in participation and giving.
All of us can still respond to amplify the vibrancy of our parishes. Here are a few ideas:
- A vision for the parish and a clear set of priorities helps to unify parishioners and provide clear direction for staff and leaders. Ensure you have clarity on your parish focus for the next year to 18 months. ACST can help through our consulting offerings.
- Also, prioritize welcome and hospitality. This is a great role for volunteers to become ministers of hospitality who welcome everyone while looking for newcomers to invite to the welcome desk. Get contact information so you can do a personal follow-up.
- Contact your parishioners who have not returned to Mass. Let them know you care. Offer to pray for them and their family. And keep the dialog and the door open so the Holy Spirit can enter!
- Provide the option for digital giving. QR codes have become easy to use and post in materials and on the back of pews. Remind people they can give online and ensure this is all connected to a generous expression of faith.
The strength of giving to Catholic parishes since Covid-19 is based on strong leadership and in part on a shift to digital giving. Our ability to use the technology while also prioritizing our relationship with each other will enable us to build on this positive trend.
COVID-19 Impact on Parish Collections
Download this valuable study for important post-COVID giving trends and analysis. See why giving levels offers some rays of hope for churches.
The financial impact on churches responding to COVID-19 was immediate and significant when the world shut down in March 2020. Religions that relied heavily on member giving during the Sunday liturgy were hit especially hard, including the Catholic Church.
This study takes a deeper look at giving trends.
Terry is a multi-disciplined executive passionate about serving the Church by supporting his leaders and organizations. His experience includes coaching and training Catholic leaders, and facilitating priority planning with dioceses and parishes. As well as, consulting with parish leaders to engage parishioners. And using technology to foster stewardship. Terry serves as chairman of the finance council for his home parish in Hartsville, SC. And as cantor for his parish in Myrtle Beach.