Catholic churches are changing. Their fundraising should change too.
Mass attendance is lower than ever, and church giving has dropped by more than half. Attendees who remain do not want to hear another plea for their donation by the priest. They are there for faith and spiritual guidance, not a sales pitch. Very few people have cash with them most of the time anyway.
In this post, we discuss the various fundraising channels and opportunities that Catholic churches today, need to cover. We have included several fundraising ideas for Catholic churches in this article as well.
It is time for Catholic churches to change and upgrade how they appeal to their members and learn from other churches’ and nonprofits’ successes.
So, let’s get started!
Ways of Fundraising for Catholic Churches
Ask any nonprofit how they get donors to give, and you will hear about donor stewardship. The best way to fundraise for your Catholic church is by appealing to each donors’ unique interests and needs. There are some key aspects when it comes to effective donor stewardship.
And, you need to have the right set of tools, channels, and communication strategies. You need to meet your donors where they are and apply your fundraising ways strategically.
1. Secure your Donor Database
You cannot properly engage your donors and church members without a quality donor database. This is an area most churches ignore.
Historically, churches have their own way of keeping track of their parishioners, but if you are going to raise funds like a nonprofit, you need the same tools.
Do your church attendees respond better to social media appeals, emails, or mailed letters? How many will only give to mission projects or are open to funding building improvements? An online database gives you the option to segment donors by interests, how they like to be asked, and past gifts.
Understanding your donor’s financial abilities allows you to send targeted solicitations that have a better chance of being answered.
There are several options for affordable online donor databases with these features and more. With Donorbox’s, you can record communications and notes about specific donors within their donor profiles. You can also sort donors by name, donation date, and donation amount. Our donor profiles also include the option to add notes on each donor.
Do more with donor appeals
If your fundraising depends on passing the offering tray, you are not alone. A problem you may have noticed is people do not have as much cash on hand. Catholic churches that ignore this fact are in danger of extinction.
In the last year, online giving has grown by over 12%. The Covid pandemic is one explanation for this growth, but online giving has continued to grow over the last decade. Soliciting donations is never easy. Church members either ignore or become frustrated by the constant appeals during mass. Adding the option to donate online can go a long way in appealing to your parishioners. If your church does not have a website and quality online donation software, you are missing out on gifts from your parishioners and your community. Giving your church members the option to donate online makes it easier for them to give.
2. Send engaging emails
Email is an easy way to start fundraising online. Encourage members to give their emails by offering a regularly scheduled newsletter. Include a request for attendees’ emails in your program or send a request in your next mailing. When sending solicitation emails, include a compelling story to touch their hearts and encourage donations. Email marketing could turn out to be the most effective way for you to engage with your donors.
3. Use Text to Give extensively
Text to Give campaigns have grown in popularity as more people have cell phones instead of landlines. If donors click on the text you send, they will be sent to your online campaign page. The first time they donate, they will have to fill out the form online. Every donation after that can be made quickly without needing to re-enter their information. The convenience of this type of campaign appeals to both the donor and the church.
Text giving is ideal for your catholic church Sunday service, church conferences, and all other events.
All your donors need to do is text your unique campaign ID to a given number. Here’s an example of what text-to-give looks like on Donorbox.
4. Think of peer to peer campaigns
Personal stories bring in more donations than anything else. Peer to Peer campaigns gives church members the opportunity to share their own stories or how the church makes a difference in their community.
Your donors can create their own fundraising page and use personal social media pages to reach family and friends. This form of online campaigning has been successful because it relies on personal relationships. Your church members can express their passion for the church and raise funds to help it grow.
5. Start crowdfunding for specific projects
While crowdfunding is like peer-to-peer fundraising; the main difference is which projects these campaigns fund. Crowdfunding has found the most success for smaller projects and campaigns. If your church wants to raise funds for a mission trip or support a family going through hard times, Crowdfunding can be an excellent way to do it. Other church projects like construction projects or a new church building can also raise funds through crowdfunding campaigns.
The below image shows how a successful crowdfunding campaign raised funds for their Christmas concert on Donorbox.
6. Leverage Giving Tuesday
The Christmas season is one of giving and generosity. Church members spend this season celebrating the birth of Christ and honoring his glory by giving to those in need. Your church can build upon this sentiment and start a Giving Tuesday campaign for church members who need your congregations’ help.
7. Encourage recurring donations
Thanks to your database, you now know who your donors are and how often they give. With this knowledge, you can begin segmenting donors and specifically target those who regularly give. These donors may not give large amounts all at once, but if you add up what they give in a year, it can be substantial.
Add a recurring donation option on your website, and let your congregation know about your recurring donor system whenever possible. These donors should not be ignored. Appealing to these donors can be as simple as a personal thank you letter from the priest or an acknowledgment of their gift on your online donor wall or during Sunday Mass.
This example shows you how Dwelling Place Church in Seattle is leveraging the recurring donation form to encourage their donors to give regularly.
8. Have a powerful online donation form
A quality donation form can have more of an impact than you think. How often have you left a website because you found it unappealing or frustrating? Donors are no different.
Before sending out any appeals, you need to make sure your online donation form is easy to understand. The threat of turning off your donors with a confusing donor page is real. Other tips to increase the effectiveness of your donation form include:
- Make the donation button easy to find
- List multiple donation amounts
- Add recurring donation intervals
- Include descriptions of where their donation goes
- Add a goal meter
Atlanta Cancer Care Foundation Inc. makes for a good example of an effective and powerful donation form.
A few things we loved about this donation form –
- The form and the chosen color are perfectly synced to the nonprofit’s website.
- The donation tier is supported with concise information about the possible impact.
- The most popular recurring donation interval is highlighted for donors with a heart icon.
- Donating in honor or in memory makes donors feel more invested in the cause, personally and emotionally.
- ‘Write us a comment’ on the donation form may not be a must-have feature but this gives donors the feeling that the nonprofit is open to their feedback and suggestions. It improves donor engagement and the organization’s transparency.
“Catholics give because it is a fundamental act of our being. We are created in the image and likeness of God, and Jesus Christ demonstrated that we give because that is how God created us.”
Your Catholic church fundraising plan cannot ignore Planned Giving. Members will give when targeted in the right way. Some members may want to give more but do not know-how. Your church should speak with these people about planned giving options. There are several ways to give with planned giving. Here are a few options:
Bequests are cash, property, stocks, bonds left behind in a will. Legacy fundraising can be a great source of donations for Catholic churches, these donations come over a long period of time, with extensive donor and catholic church relationship. A long-term source of funds, you need to work with your donors to truly raise funds through bequests. Find insights on how your church can find a great source of funding through bequests, here.
10. Charitable Gift Annuity
An annuity is a contract between the donor and the church. It will likely include a fixed amount given to the organization each year. This type of gift has the added benefit of giving the donor a lifetime stream of annual income from the organization.
11. Charitable Remainder Trust
Charitable Remainder Trusts scatters funds to the donor’s beneficiaries. The remainder goes to your church.
12. Charitable Lead Trust
A Charitable Lead Trust supports your church throughout the donor’s life. At their death, the remainder of the trust will go to their beneficiaries.
Community Partnerships for Catholic Churches
Your church members are not the only option for funding. Your church is an integral part of your community. Businesses and community groups are interested in keeping you around and may be willing to provide financial support or promote your good works to the community.
Building community partnerships with local foundations, businesses, and community groups can open new avenues of funding for your church. These partnerships can start anywhere, so be sure to keep your eyes open for connections through church members.
There are also grant foundations that specialize in funding church mission projects. Above and Beyond is a foundation that provides awards for short-term mission trips. Other grant foundations may be open to funding your church if your application includes other nonprofit organizations and projects that impact the community at large.
Fundraising Ideas for Catholic Churches
You may already hold an annual gala to fundraise for your Catholic church. The cost of this type of event can limit its effectiveness. There are numerous events that can appeal to various audiences that cost a fraction of the amount it costs to run a gala. Here are a few fundraising event ideas for your Catholic church:
1. Buy One Give One
Frugality has become popular once more, and people love the idea of getting more than what they pay for. Companies like Bombas have jumped on this bandwagon. Your church can join in on the fun as well. Offer church members the chance to buy a meal for themselves and someone in need at the next church dinner.
2. Silent Auctions
There is a reason silent auctions are so common. They work! You can ask members of your congregation and local businesses to donate items. Auction these items in your church’s main hall, other events, or online.
3. Parents Night Out
How many families do you have in your congregation? Parents of young children are desperate for a night on their own. You can give them that chance with this fundraising idea.
Find volunteers to watch the children in the nursery or Sunday school classrooms. Include dinner at the church for parents to enjoy or a raffle to a local restaurant. This fundraising idea also gives your church the chance to speak with the parents and children about God’s good works.
4. Talent Show or Benefit Concert
Mathew’s Parable of the Talents advises us to share our gifts with the world. Your church has numerous individuals who can sing, dance, and play an instrument. Why not hold a talent show and give them a chance to honor God in their own way? Invite the congregation and community to revel in this joyous celebration and sell tickets to raise funds.
Your church choir can be one of the best parts of your weekly mass. Instead of a talent show, a benefit concert may appeal to your congregation. Ask your church choir leader to prepare a concert for the community and sell tickets. Include a call to action at the concert and invite attendees to donate to a few special projects for your church.
5. Custom T-shirts
Are church members about to go on a mission trip? You can create a specially designed t-shirt and sell them to church attendees and the community to fund the trip. Companies like Bonfire help churches like yours to design and sell custom shirts.
6. Bail Out
Catholic fundraisers that include the whole family can be fun and profitable. At a “Bail Out,” your church ties up one or more church leaders and refuses to untie them until their “bail” is met by the congregation. This type of fundraiser will appeal to a younger audience and other members of your church who like to think outside the box. To encourage more donations, you can include a donation thermometer to show how close they are to the needed amount.
7. Worm charming
Worm races may conjure images of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer, but they can also be a unique way to raise funds for your church. At your next outside festival or Vacation Bible School event, pay church members to play with a pile of dirt worms. Whoever charms the most worms to the top in 20 minutes wins a prize.
8. All-night dance party
Teenagers need healthy and safe places to spend time with their peers. As a church, you offer a location that is safe enough for parents. With an all-night dance party, you can appeal to teenagers as well. Find a group of adults and kids to plan the event. Choose a theme, entertainment, and decorations. Sell tickets to kids throughout the town and raise funds for a church project that benefits local kids.
9. Charity Sale
Your church can hold a charity sale to raise funds for a particular charitable cause. Ask parishioners or even members of your local community to donate items that they no longer use. Items can range from pre-loved books, watches, baby prams, an old bicycle, oven, or even branded clothes that no longer fit. Members can also donate artwork to be auctioned off. Invite members of the local community to be part of the sale and all proceeds go to raise funds for the church or for a charitable cause.
Pro tip: You can combine this with a bake sale or even a performance night to increase revenue.
10. Mass Intentions
Another unique way through which catholic churches, in particular, can raise funds is through mass intentions. The practice of offering Mass for particular intentions is an ancient one, dating back to the early Church. When a priest celebrates Mass each day, he offers each celebration of the Eucharist for a particular person or intention. By doing so he applies special graces from God upon that person or intention. Mass intentions could be for a particular need of a sick family member, or for departed souls, or for any other good intention. Usually, a nominal fee is collected for each mass intention. This is also a means whereby Catholics may contribute to the upkeep of the clergy and the Church in general.
Pro tip: Many catholic churches are accepting mass intentions online for those who cannot physically be present at the mass.
Fundraising ideas for Catholic churches can range from unique events to online fundraising campaigns and Planned Giving. Your appeal to donors and church members should target their specific interests and financial abilities. We hope the ideas mentioned here can help your church ease away from relying on the offering plate.