Introducing Online Giving at St. Mary's
Those who read my weekly letters in the bulletin know I write about a large variety of topics. Some are more theological or liturgical, others address more practical matters of Catholic life or even specific matters related to our own parish. Today’s “special edition” ultra-extended letter is one of these latter cases.
As of this weekend (April 10, 2016), we at St. Mary’s parish are officially launching online giving. What is online giving? It is providing the opportunity for our parishioners to financially support the parish electronically by making donations, either one-time or on a recurring (weekly, monthly, etc.) basis via bank account transfer or credit card. Think of it as a 21st century way of doing the offertory collection. With the remainder of this letter I want to do my best to explain more of what this is, how it works, and why we are providing this option.
Why do we need online giving? Can’t people just put their money in the collection basket like they always have?
Certainly that will still be an option. The quiet ritual of teams of ushers solemnly walking up the aisle, genuflecting when they reach the front of the church, turning around, and extending the collection baskets into the pews as people put in their envelopes or cash is not going to disappear from our parish anytime soon. Those who wish to give via envelopes will still be able to do so as always, and those who prefer to put cash in the basket can continue as well. Online giving does not replace these other methods of giving—it provides an alternative for those who wish to take advantage of the convenience it offers.
What’s in it for St. Mary’s? Why is this important to you, Fr. John Paul?
There are a number of benefits to the parish that factored very strongly into my decision to institute this option for the parish, three big ones in particular. The first is the sense of stability that online giving provides. If people are signed up for a recurring, regular weekly (or monthly) donation, we know for planning purposes that we can count on that money coming in, in a way we can’t “count on” the Sunday collection. The reality is that Mass attendance can fluctuate based on a variety of factors (weather, periods of vacation or holiday, etc.) and as Mass attendance goes, so goes the collection. If the weather is bad, attendance and the collection are usually down. If the weather is REALLY bad, like having a major snowstorm hit, our collection can drop by as much as 50% for that week. That hurts. Online giving helps to insulate us against these sorts of massive fluctuations in our offertory collection, and allows us to financially plan in a more responsible manner.
The second advantage is this: in a world where more and more is happening online, where more and more adults are engaged online and comfortable with shopping online and banking online, it just makes sense for us as a parish to be in that online world. Just in my few months here I have met people who have been attending St. Mary’s regularly for years, yet have never registered in the parish and thus are not receiving envelopes. And as for simply placing cash in the basket, an increasing number of people—especially among the younger generation—no longer carry cash on their person at all! So for someone who isn’t getting envelopes and who doesn’t regularly carry cash, as things stand now they have no easy way to contribute to the parish. I would like to provide an alternative where people can contribute to the good of the parish in a way that is convenient for them as possible.
Finally, I am instituting this because of the simplicity. Did you ever think about what happens after the collection is taken up on a Sunday? Well, I’ll share with you the highlights. It gets locked away until our team of volunteer counters (all parishioners) arrives at the parish offices to begin the counting. Four, five, even six people will be working for HOURS in order to fully count the collection. Envelopes must be separated from loose cash, opened, compared against the dollar amount written on the outside, and recorded. Checks must be recorded and stamped. Bills must be separated by denomination, counted and re-counted. Coins must be separated out and counted. Every count needs to be double- and triple-checked. If it is a weekend with a second collection, the same process needs to be repeated for that—all the while being sure to keep the regular offertory collection and the second collection completely separated. It is a tiring, sometimes almost grueling, process, a very hidden and mostly thankless task. The more parishioners we have who switch over to online giving, the more we can help to ease the workload on our team of volunteer counters…one way in which all of us could show a great mercy to these dedicated, hard-working souls.
How did you arrange for St. Mary’s to adopt online giving?
After exploring a number of options, we contracted with the services of Liturgical Publications International (LPI), who have created a system of online giving for Catholic parishes nationwide called WeShare. LPI is a very trusted name in the Church (which was extremely important to me), and is the same company that publishes our parish bulletin every week. So we at St. Mary’s have a history with LPI and of all of the options we explored, they provided the most impressive combination of simplicity, security, and flexibility.
What are my options for setting up my online giving?
As I said earlier, you can choose to make a one-time donation or to set up a recurring gift. You always choose the amount and, if recurring, the frequency of the gift. You are always in complete control, and can modify the amount or the frequency of your gift, or terminate your online giving completely, at any time you choose.
Gifts can be made either via transfer from a bank account (checking or savings) or through any major credit card.
Is my financial information secure?
Absolutely. WeShare is certified as Level 1 PCI Compliant, the highest standard in the industry. Furthermore, no member of St. Mary’s parish staff, at any time, under any circumstances, will ever have access to your bank account number or credit card information. All financial data is encrypted and the only person with access to your financial data is you.
Does it matter whether I give via bank transfer or credit card?
Yes…a little. We are thankful for any online gift, given using any of the options available. However, the reality is that on top of the (very tiny) processing fee LPI takes out of each gift, the credit card companies are always going to take their “cut” in any credit card transaction, and that cut is roughly 3% of the total. So for a $100 gift given via bank transfer, St. Mary’s will receive over $99.50 of that money. For that same $100 gift given via credit card, St. Mary’s will get somewhere between $96 and $97.
If the ushers come by with their baskets and I am not putting anything in, are the people sitting around me going to start judging me?
No! Or at least, they’d better not! No one should be “judging” anyone else even now based on whether someone puts something in the collection basket or not. None of us knows the financial circumstances anyone else in the parish is facing, and none of us knows whether someone might already be making donations to the parish in other ways. HOWEVER, for those who like to have something to put in the basket; or, for those families with children who attend the 10:00 AM Mass and want to have something for their children to put into the basket at the children’s collection, those who sign up for online giving are given an easy option on the WeShare donation page to print out “coupons” that say something along the lines of, “I made my offertory donation this week via WeShare online giving.” These can be printed, cut out, and placed in the regular or children’s collection basket. Problem solved—even if you are sitting in a pew next to some nosy, judgmental individual!
Wait...is this just some secret ploy to get us all to give the parish more money?
No, not at all. (You are feeling very sleepy…) If everyone who is already giving on a weekly basis to the parish simply switched over the very same amount to our online giving, I would be thrilled. (…feeling…so…sleepy) This isn’t about increasing giving so much as securing the dependability of what people are already giving. (…you have a deep desire to double your weekly giving…) Knowing what we are receiving to help us better plan is very important. (…you wish to triple your weekly gift…) It’s about convenience and prudent planning. (…just start adding zeroes before the decimal point already…) I hope this removes any fears that this is some secret, manipulative ploy. A truly ridiculous idea!
In all seriousness, though, the answer is…no. In my first year as your pastor, my concern is focused on what I am giving you. I do not feel I have earned the right (if any such right even exists) to ask anyone who is a regular donor to the parish to give more to the parish than they already are giving. I haven’t given myself to you enough yet to ask you to give any more. The day may come when I will approach you, my parishioners, and present to you a comprehensive picture of the parish finances, our expenditures, our income, my hopes for as-yet-unrealized future endeavors and what those endeavors are likely to cost, and ask if there are those who believe strongly enough in those endeavors that they are willing to sacrifice even more financially to see them realized…but it is not this day. If the advent of online giving causes some of you, who are already contributing to the parish, to reconsider your current giving and adjust it, that is fine. But that is not the purpose nor the goal of instituting online giving. Its first goal is to secure the stability and dependability of the gifts of those who are already giving, and its secondary goal is to provide a convenient (and more regular) means of giving for those who, currently, give only occasionally or never at all.
Will online giving be used for anything other than the regular, weekly Sunday offering?
Absolutely. As I mentioned earlier, one of the reasons I chose LPI for our online giving is the great flexibility they offer. At first, we are launching online giving only for the weekly Sunday offertory. But once we have the system up and running, there are LOTS of ways we will be able to expand the system. We will be able to add “limited time” giving opportunities, such as for Christmas or Easter flowers. We will be able to add a way of using the online system to register for events or for programs like CCD/Atrium, where people can input all of their registration information AND pay the registration fee all at the same time, online. So the system is extremely flexible, and during the months ahead we plan to gradually phase in all of these additional options. We will even have the option to add (again, limited-time) options for giving that match up with the second collections at Masses. So stay tuned for future developments as we gradually roll them out over the year ahead.
Okay, I’m convinced enough to consider signing up. What do I do?
You can access our parish online giving page via the link prominently displayed on the parish web page, or if you prefer, you can navigate directly to the online giving page for our parish at: http://stmarysnewhaven.weshareonline.org
The WeShare online giving page for our parish will walk you through all of the necessary steps to set up your donation and manage your account. If anyone has any difficulties, feel free to contact our the parish by calling our main parish phone number and asking for our parish Business Manager, Mr. Richard Clement, at extension 136.
A final word
I want to thank all of you who are contributing to the life of our parish, financially and in so many other ways. St. Mary’s is a truly special place and the Lord is doing some wonderful things through our parish community. I look forward to continuing to walk this journey of faith with all of us, as we together seek to discern the path Our Lord is calling us to walk and to follow after Him with all our heart. ~ God bless, Fr. John Paul
Back to Home