WASHINGTON, D.C. – It’s Sunday morning and families are running out the door to Mass. They grab the contribution envelope, but forget the check book. The parish doesn’t get the family’s donation for that week.
This is the typical scenario that came to mind when Brian Walsh founded Faith Direct, an e-giving service for parishes, allowing for parishioners to contribute to their church through offertory gifts online.
Faith Direct made its first transaction in 2004, when Walsh recognized a potential problem with checks, predicting a major decline in the number of checks written by parishioners and how that would impact church contributions.
Now Faith Direct has spread throughout 90 dioceses, working with more than 700 parishes.
“We’re the leading voice within the church to help millions of parishioners focus on that major change, getting people away from giving through envelopes and writing checks, but giving electronically, like they’re doing everything else,” Walsh said in an interview with Catholic News Service.
Walsh further predicts that by 2023, almost 80 percent of transactions will be made electronically, contributing to a “monumental shift” in church funding.
“When you have only 18 percent of all diocesan Catholic parish-related donations being done electronically, I think we have a serious problem on our hands as the wider church,” Walsh said. “You can’t change individual’s habits overnight.”
Walsh believes that it is the participation that really speaks to the success of Faith Direct’s programs.
“I think the benefit to electronic giving is the recurring nature, and therefore the consistency that a parish receives,” Walsh said. “And it’s a game changer in terms of increased offertory. I would argue that it’s much better stewardship because it’s not a Sunday morning decision.”
Father Walter Lewis agrees.
St. John Neumann Catholic Church in Powhatan, Virginia, where Lewis is pastor, has used Faith Direct for the past three years.
Lewis said the experience has been extremely positive, with no difficulties.
The parish saw an increase in donations with its use of the program, mostly because of a greater consistency in donations. About 25 percent of the parish participates in the Faith Direct e-giving program.
“We encourage people constantly to try using Faith Direct and to take advantage of the ease with which it facilitates giving,” Lewis told CNS.
Peter de Karatry is the executive director of stewardship and development for the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. In a trial program, his department offered parishes one year of funding for the use of an online giving program.
“My intention is to get our parishes to wake up to the reality of the 21st century,” de Karatry said in an interview with CNS.
Nineteen parishes in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City began using Faith Direct through the archdiocese’s funding program.
“We already have 14 parishes well past their first-year goals, and we’ve only been at it for five months,” de Karatry said. “So it is working.”
This past June, Faith Direct celebrated the transaction of a total of $1 billion in donations processed for parishes since the company’s founding.
“To me, it’s such a win-win for the parish and the parishioner once they enroll in the program because it’s meeting parishioners where they are today,” Walsh said. “But it also really helps the parish out a great deal.”