The Catholic church is one of the greatest forces for good in the world. Its schools, healthcare systems, and sanctuaries have provided a spiritual, educational, and healing home for billions of people across the globe throughout the millenia. GP Catholic Services is committed to continuing to elevate philanthropy in the Catholic church. And, as a follow-up to President and CEO Elizabeth Zeigler’s presentation at the 2018 International Catholic Stewardship Council Annual Conference in Nashville, we’re out to bust the myths that can inhibit your goals.
Myth 1: Stewardship is a transaction
The reality: Volunteering for an hour or making a small donation online might be a good deed or charity, but it is not stewardship or philanthropy. A Catholic steward has gratitude, accountability, generosity, and a willingness to return God’s gifts with increase.
The path forward: Ask yourself the following questions: Is your version of stewardship a big picture concept – a movement, a commitment to the greater good, and an active effort to promote human welfare? Do your communications emphasize the four themes of stewardship: gratitude, accountability, generosity, and returning God’s gifts with increase? How effective are your efforts to teach stewardship as a form of spirituality?
Myth 2: Only the most devout Catholics give
The reality: Though giving is correlated with Mass attendance, don’t overlook those who attend irregularly. While 92% of frequent Mass attendees are part of a giving household, 20% of infrequent attendees are part of a giving household.
The path forward: Target appeals to households that attend Mass infrequently. Remember that for some people, attending Mass a few times a year represents an increase from previous years; celebrate the infrequent attendees when they make a gift.
Myth 3: The less overhead, the better
The reality: Praising development efforts for lean overhead numbers sends the wrong message to donors, Church leaders, and others: that running a lean effort is all that matters. It’s a cyclical process–a high rate of staff turnover means that overall impact declines, which compromises effectiveness, which makes talented leaders avoid the sector, which means less money is raised, which does not propel your mission forward.
The path forward: Institute a review with your boards and leaders to explore infrastructure and its consequences for organizational effectiveness; don’t focus on need and scarcity in your communications and instead frame your work as an invitation to others to live out the mission of the Church. Engage your financial manager, accounting firm, or auditor, who are in a unique position to advise boards and leaders and raise awareness of tools, concepts, and methods that could serve your work well.
Myth 4: Only frontline fundraisers are fundraisers
The reality: The more familiar a parishioner is with the solicitor, the greater likelihood they will make a gift. This means that the development officer shouldn’t always make the ask. This means that a family member or friend, asking in person, could be a successful solicitor of funds.
The path forward: Create a development committee composed of individuals from diverse backgrounds, recruiting parishioners to make asks alongside the fundraiser and pastor–but take care to provide joint development training for both parishioners and priests alike.
Myth 5: Giving should take a stepladder approach
The reality: Major gifts take time and investment, but also bold thinking and the courage to make a big ask early or outside of a campaign.
The path forward: Remember that a first ask can be a big ask, with proper cultivation. You can accomplish this by building a prospect list. Who are your top 25 prospects who could make a gift in the next six to twelve months? Remember to review and refresh this list every month and remember that your list should look different by the end of the year!
Myth 6: The majority of philanthropic decisions are made by men
The reality: 84% of philanthropic decisions are made or informed by women. In the United States, women control 51% of total personal wealth, and 45% of millionaires are women. Lastly, 40% of American households have a woman as the primary breadwinner.
The path forward: At a minimum, make sure you include the wife in all communications and visits. Don’t be afraid to learn giving preferences, including who prefers to give as a couple versus individually. Build community and highlight philanthropy from women.