Generous Hearts: #iGiveCatholic Campaign Transforms Parishes, Schools, Ministries Coast to Coast
The #iGiveCatholic campaign has turned ‘Giving Tuesday,’ Nov. 30, into a national day of giving for the U.S. Catholic Church’s parishes, ministries and schools.
Six years ago, the #iGiveCatholic campaign for Giving Tuesday took off as an initiative that crowdfunded over a million dollars in 24 hours for Catholic parishes, schools and ministries in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Today, the #iGiveCatholic campaign is making a national impact, with partnerships with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and the National Catholic Educational Association, and raising $13 million for Catholic entities in 2020.
This year, Giving Tuesday and the #iGiveCatholic “Day of Giving” fall on Nov. 30. In this Register interview, #iGiveCatholic president Cory Howat discusses the impact this year’s #iGiveCatholic campaign will have on the 40 participating dioceses and more than 2,000 schools, parishes and ministries and why the campaign has truly made Giving Tuesday the U.S. Catholic Church’s day of giving.
You have seen the #iGiveCatholic Giving Tuesday campaign grow to a national level: What’s the biggest development you’ve seen this year?
It has been nice: Specifically this year, we’ve had growth to include what we consider a pretty solid stakeholder in the Midwestern Catholic U.S., which is the Archdiocese of St. Louis. Having them come on is a real statement: “Hey, this isn’t just a trend, this isn’t something that’s going to come and go after a year or two, but it fits a real need within the ministry of the Church.” Other things that we’ve seen: The continued growth, in relationship with the USCCB, has allowed us to be able to gain more credibility with the bishops. I think in the past some have asked, “What’s this needed for? Are we just asking for money here? Is that all this is: another fancy way to ask for money?” And people are starting to realize that #iGiveCatholic is really driven as a pastoral approach, understanding the Catholic donors’ mindset.
In what way?
The Catholic donor wants to be engaged, one, in a digital way. But also, two, in a more impactful way: where you can share videos and testimonials of what you’re doing right on the site. [#iGiveCatholic] is not just a technological button to transfer my money to you. This isn’t just about an online giving option. It really is about having online giving engagement in a way to evangelize and tell your story.
What are some of the stories of #iGiveCatholic’s impact that you’re hearing?
It’s really neat stuff. I always use the element of breaking down the impact into parishes, schools and ministries. So those are the things that we look at and say, “Where is [#iGiveCatholic] impacting each of these in its own way?” It always kind of brings me in a humble way back, because it allows me to see its own impact and — how it can, if you will — that the day allows the organization to be able to make it what it is. I call our platform, #iGiveCatholic, the fundraising “Swiss Army knife.” And we’ve coined this in our trainings with parishes, schools and ministries, and that [reference] has allowed them to be able to see how to use the tool in its most appropriate way for that ministry — hence, the “Swiss Army knife.”
How does #iGiveCatholic make a difference to small ministries?
One woman told me, “I’m involved in a small ministry, and that is our lifeblood of support.” She’s also in the Diocese of Arlington. She said we found a little niche, and with their annual appeal, we only need a few thousand dollars a year. And this [#iGiveCatholic campaign] became a good little avenue to be able to achieve that.
You have a ton of little ministries, Catholic ministries, that don’t need a ton of money to fundraise, but also don’t want to just park a ‘donate’ button on their site. They fall into that little space of “I’m not big enough to go hire a development director, but at the same time. I need to not just give out a donate button.” They want a way to be able to tell their story, and this kind of gives them that.
What’s an example of a school where this worked out?
St. Mark Catholic Church and School in the Diocese of Boise: They had a goal of $30,000, and then they had to move to $50,000. They raised $77,000. They were able to do that, because one of the secrets to it [on the #iGiveCatholic platform] is it you’re allowed matches: to take other people’s generosity and match it. You then push that out to the community say, “Hey, somebody want to match $20,000?” You normally just can’t do that in an email. You have to have kind of an active platform to be able to do stuff like matches or peer-to-peer giving.
What’s a parish story that stands out to you?
The Diocese of Lexington. Rick Carrico at St. Leo Catholic Church and School had a goal of $50,000; he raised $107,000. He just basically said we want to do some push-out social media with healthy donative competition. It created a competitive environment — in a good way — of having the most positive values, like “let’s compete to see how generous we can be.” And it allowed some of their advance-day giving to be able to kind of come alive by taking matching gifts.
Really, a public campaign like that uncovers other generosity that otherwise may not have come forward. That’s what happened with them. A family came forward to him and said, “You’re doing so well with this. I’m going to increase my matching to 50K.” They would have never got a $50,000 gift if they didn’t have such an outward campaign. They did a great job because it was focused right on Catholic values, Catholic education teaching the whole person to the families that we serve. And it’s not like they watered down their message to get the $50,000. They only boldly proclaimed their mission.
What’s an example of the kind of impact the campaign can make on a diocese?
Maybe this hits a bit too close to home for me, but we had a really bad hurricane literally level out some of southern Louisiana. In fact, the hurricane kind of came up the diocesan boundary, so it affected a handful of our parishes in Houma-Thibodeaux Diocese. But where it made landfall, the hurricane literally flattened that part of Earth. That was in the Diocese of Houma-Thibodeaux. I talked to one of the priests down there. It was really sad.
They really saw this [campaign] as a way to reach beyond their borders, to tell their story to people who could help them. The pretty neat part is: This is what creates our universal Church. I always love that interactive map of the U.S. when you go to iGiveCatholic. You can kind of drill down into states and dioceses, so if you hear the story of hurricane relief, well, you can go there [to the map] to specifically help — with just a couple clicks, make an impact on a tiny parish devastated by Hurricane Ida.
What are challenges you have faced?
One of the biggest challenges is how to sustain it in mission dioceses. Our relationship with Catholic Extension has just been really strong, a really important part of being able to extend this to the broader Church, so that it’s not just this feature for “rich” dioceses to participate in. So Catholic Extension helps offset the cost of participation, but then also gives them some prize money, which is proven as a way to kind of spur or to jump-start giving in dioceses and get organizations moving forward. So Catholic Extension has helped us to do that.
Where do you see you have grown?
Where we’ve grown is the relationship with the USCCB and the NCEA. Our NCEA relationship continues to be fruitful because the question of Catholic school affordability is not going anywhere, as we know.
Most of [Catholic schools] don’t have a mechanism like a diocesan bishop’s appeal or an annual appeal to invite people into that ministry. And so where we have seen success across the country, and this is from schools, they’re saying, “This gives us a chance to be able to reach out to our people annually as an annual appeal without having to hire that other person that we just can’t afford.”
The schools see this as an invaluable tool to build a development shop around.
What’s the major takeaway you would like people to come away with from this year’s #iGiveCatholic campaign?
People are still generous. They’re innately generous, and they have hearts of gratitude, even when pushed against a hard spot. The values that have been taught by the nuns and priests in our parishes, and our ministries across the country, are still instilled in peoples’ hearts to be generous. That comes through, and it’s manifested in a very real way that we see when days like this continue to grow, even in hard times.
In a time when our faith has been more politicized than ever, that generosity really does connect us. When people are generous, it just starts to melt away the boundaries. And you say, “We’re here in this together.”
This interview is edited for length and clarity.