“Giving is healing. But God gave us a brain – He expects us to use it.”
– Betty (i.e., Grandma), Archdiocese of Detroit parishioner
Reports from 2016 still emerging, 2015 saw an increase of nearly 4% among individual givers who donated more than $119.3 billion to religious organizations last year. A promising trend for organizations whose mission lies not simply in keeping the proverbial lights on, but flooding the light of Christ from church apse and parish office to the great expanses of this world.
Charity Wins Souls, Why We Give
Grounded in the wisdom of my parents, I vividly remember clutching my pint-sized plastic container labeled, “Church Tithes” en route to mass each Sunday. Each Sharpied letter emblazoned in my memory as I studied it, weighing the merits of depositing my treasured coins (a requisite percentage of my allowance) in the collection basket, or keeping them for a more private venture – such as a trip to the candy store. Truth be told, I can’t remember if my nobler intentions always won out. Without realizing it, however, I internalized a more essential lesson in giving in gratitude and entrusting my treasures to God.
My little pittance multiplied, as did my understanding of giving. Registering at my first parish, I quickly found the convenience, ease and flexibility cited by other Millennials surveyed for this article made giving online the ideal solution. Won over by the benefits of donating online, the motivation for giving remains the same. As Saint Angela Merici said, “We must give alms. Charity wins souls and draws them to virtue.”
I recently caught my Grandma in the act of making a memorial donation, “Giving is healing. But God gave us a brain – He expects us to use it.” The nearly 90-year-old community activist, iPhone toting, faithful parishioner, shocked me by reporting incidents of mailbox thefts in her tight-knit Midwestern neighborhood. Conscientious and generous, she echoed the concerns of givers everywhere, who want their donations to arrive safely, process securely, and be received with organizational transparency.
Givers Move Online
Ask parishioners of any age demographic how they prefer to make their donations, and you’ll likely get a variety of responses. People like Therese, a 65-year-old Diocese of Lansing parishioner, represent the few hold-outs, who refuse to use any self-serve online payment system, no matter how secure. But U.S. Department of Commerce stats show that more people than ever are paying for goods and services and making charitable contributions securely online from their computers and mobile devices.
Retail sales from e-commerce, which accounted for 7.4% of total sales in the third quarter of 2015, grew to 7.7% of total sales in the third quarter of 2016. Donor behavior has kept pace with growing e-commerce trends throughout the 20 years since online giving made its debut. USDOC reports that online donations comprised 7.1% of all fundraising in 2015, but here’s where parishes need to pay attention: fundraising from online giving, which has been steadily rising year-over-year, grew 9.2% in 2015 compared to 2014. These donors are in your parish today. Some of them have never held a checkbook in their hands. Do you have an online giving option for them?
As my Grandma said, “Giving is healing. But God gave us a brain – He expects us to use it.” Candid wisdom from a modern southern belle, who believes God’s people should never stop learning and using the tools he’s put before us to be better disciples . . . better stewards. Parishioners and visitors alike desire to spread the light of charity; may we enable them to give in confidence.
Have a story of quiet generosity, or tips on how your parish supports the gift of giving? Share your comments below!
 Annual Report on Philanthropy, The Giving Institute, 2015.
 Charitable Giving Report, Blackbaud, February 2016.