Annual Appeal Success Story from the Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls

Posted on June 21, 2016

by Carla Haiar, Database Administrator, Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls


Our annual appeal process has evolved and we proudly report a 99.76% mailing accuracy today – and we have ParishSOFT to thank for our success. Our annual appeal is mailed to over 36,000 households in eastern South Dakota. In the past, our diocesan appeal was met with resistance and trepidation by the parish staff. Generally, it was anticipated by our parishes as “what crazy mistakes will the diocese make this year?”

Past annual appeal mailings were generated by receiving and consolidating parish registration lists and updating a centralized development database. Next the lists were matched with past gifts processed in the diocesan office. The task was daunting and during crunch times, accuracy suffered. There were over 36,000 records to review by a few diocesan staff.

In the past, parish secretaries would receive duplicate pledge cards and reports of what was mailed to their parishioners for the annual appeal. These reports rarely matched the parish registration lists and one year the mail house generated our pledge cards and reports in no particular order – imagine sorting pledge cards for parishes as large as 1,500 families! Most disconcerting were the letters sent to families of deceased souls. It is a difficult call for parish staff to receive when a letter was mailed from the diocese to a deceased soul, “Shouldn’t my church, who buried my family member, know he is deceased?”

Thanks to ParishSOFT the accuracy has escalated as the review of the data is locally managed by parish secretaries – the true heroes in this success story! Parish secretaries protect and manage their parish registrations with fierce accuracy. Parish registration information is then synchronized to our central diocesan database called AIM. The decision was made to switch the annual appeal process from a diocesan development database to one driven by the synchronized AIM ParishSOFT database. Synchronization from the parish databases to the central database lends confidence in the information as it is managed at the parish level. And as everyone knows, the Parish secretaries know best! The accuracy in our mailing increased dramatically. The value in parishes to manage their families, change the demographics and update all information on a family and have it synchronize to the diocese is beyond measure. Parishes also created workgroups of families who did NOT want to be a part of the annual appeal. This list would then synchronize to the diocese and these families would be filtered out of the final mailing. Parishes now had full control over who would receive the annual appeal letter. This greatly improved the relationship between parishes and the diocese. It felt as if, with some ownership in the annual appeal at the parish level, there would be more overall success with the appeal.

Parishes utilize Pledge Processing in ParishSOFT to manage the annual appeal Pledges. In the past, the diocese would print reports of ALL registered families with formatting enabling a manual entry of the pledge and subsequent payment s received. Utilizing Pledge Processing, we save on printing costs, improve processing and give us a more accurate status of the appeal’s success.

Our 2011 annual appeal was mailed in February with a less than a quarter of a percent return. This amounts to 89 pieces of mail returned from the 36,637 sent. We have a total of 153 parishes in the Diocese of Sioux Falls with 88 parishes synchronizing their information to the diocese. These 88 parishes encompass approximately 85% of our registered families. The remaining parishes are managed directly in AIM by our Data Manager. With a 99.76% accuracy, we realized tangible savings in mailing costs, reduced man power and; hard to put a price on; increase in confidence across the diocese regarding our annual appeal.

Submitted by ParishSOFT User:

Carla J Haiar, Database Administrator
Catholic Diocese of Sioux Falls
523 N Duluth Ave
Sioux Falls, SD 57104-2714