Will You Say #iGiveCatholic This Giving Tuesday?

The Archdiocese of New Orleans is launching a first-of-its-kind crowdfunding effort to challenge Catholics to transform the lives of others with $500,000 for churches, schools and ministries in 24 hours.

(photo: Register Files)

NEW ORLEANS — Giving Tuesday is a global day to give generously to charity after the Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales events. But this Giving Tuesday the Archdiocese of New Orleans is launching a massive 24-hour crowdfunding effort for churches, ministries and schools, inviting Catholics to say #iGiveCatholic.

The #iGiveCatholic campaign is a 24-hour online crowdfunding effort at iGiveCatholic.org to raise a grand total of $500,000 — all tax-deductible — to support the work of more than 100 schools, ministries, parishes and other charitable organizations affiliated with the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Throughout Giving Tuesday, from midnight on Dec. 1 until the stroke of midnight on Dec. 2, Catholics can go to the iGiveCatholic.org home page and click on a specific ministry listed there to make a donation with their credit card. They can also choose the “multi-give” option if they wish to donate to multiple organizations.

The event is organized by the Catholic Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to managing the finances of the archdiocese and its affiliated organizations, and it is the first-ever online giving day by Catholics for the works of the Catholic Church in the history of the U.S.

“We’re very excited about it,” Charlie Heim, the Catholic Foundation’s executive director, told the Register. “The response from the various ministries participating in it has just been overwhelming.”

Heim explained the #iGiveCatholic campaign came out of discussions at the Catholic Foundation over the summer about making Giving Tuesday benefit the archdiocese’s ministries, parishes and schools. The staff put together the promotional packages and the different Catholic organizations in the archdiocese went to town spreading the word to members and supporters.

“The publicity these ministries have performed … to get their constituents excited about it has just blown me away. It is catching on like wildfire,” said Heim, adding that other dioceses have expressed interest in joining them next year.

The #iGiveCatholic campaign involves a spirit of friendly competition with serious cash incentives for Catholic organizations that do well in attracting the highest number of new donors who give a minimum of $25. More than $25,000 in bonus prize money for the top three ministries in each category — parishes, schools and nonprofits — is at stake.

The campaign wants to target people who have not given to Catholic institutions before and create relationships with them, especially with the younger generation.

“The statistics show that giving online is especially helpful in bringing in young donors,” Heim said.

The iGiveCatholic website also has a “leaderboard” that allows Catholics to see how their favorite Catholic parish, school or ministry is doing in raising the number of gifts and donations. Participating Catholic organizations can also check their “stats” throughout the day and reach out to their members to encourage them to donate and improve their position on the leaderboard.


Crowdfunding Enthusiasm

Local Catholic organizations have been finding different ways to get the word out, and the use of the #iGiveCatholic hashtag has been essential to spreading the word.

St. Paul’s School in Covington, La., has spread a series of "I Give Catholic because ..." videos  through its Twitter account.   

Tulane Catholic, the Catholic Center at Tulane University, has spread the word out through its Facebook page and on its website.

Mary, Queen of Peace parish in Mandeville, La., has been enthusiastic in its promotion of the #iGiveCatholicCampaign. The parish has a goal of raising enough money to beautify the grounds and place a new statue of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, in the front of the church, which will welcome parishioners and visitors.

“People seem pretty interested and excited,” Karen Baker, the parish’s pastoral associate, told the Register.

She said the parish has been doing short videos featuring parishioners giving their testimonies about why they “give Catholic” and has been getting the news out via Facebook, email, the bulletin and word of mouth. The whole event, she added, has also helped more people get engaged in the life of the parish.

When Dec. 1 rolls around, Baker plans to send out reminders to the parish via an email with a link to the iGiveCatholic.org webpage.

“I’ll probably send that out a couple times during the day, and I’ll be able to look at the results as they come in,” she said. “I’ll be able to see who has given, so I don’t keep bothering the same people.”


Crowdfunding Principles

Crowdfunding for projects using the tools of the internet is not “easy money,” particularly when it comes to building up the Church. For every restoration of the Pazzi Chapel Loggia at the Church of the Holy Cross in Florence, Italy — 859 backers raised more than $102,000 by December 2014 — there are scores of projects that failed to meet their goals.

Indiegogo, a major crowdfunding platform, states in a toolkit it provides charities that building donor engagement through email, social media and websites should take place well in advance of Giving Tuesday to maximize their donations.

In a previous interview with the Register, John Trigonis, a campaign specialist for IndieGogo, explained that the pillars of a successful campaign are what he calls the “three Ps: pitch, perks and promotion.”

The campaign needs to touch a person, so that he or she feels personally valued and invested in the project. More donations are encouraged by upping the level of personal engagement and incentives for each investor.

“But what makes a different and a really successful campaign is the level of personalization you do for each of those three Ps," he added.


Building for the Future

The Archdiocese of New Orleans is looking forward to the results of the first #iGiveCatholic campaign and learning from it for next year’s Giving Tuesday.

“It’s been a beautiful thing to watch,” said Cory Howat, the archdiocese’s director of stewardship and development.

Howat explained that while donations will increase the capacity of the Church’s ministries to do more, the archdiocese really wants to change the culture of Catholic giving.

According to the University of Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life, Catholics in the U.S. rank last behind Jews, Protestants and Mormons when it comes to giving to the Church and its ministries.

A study called “Unleashing Catholic Generosity: Explaining the Catholic Giving Gap in the United States” found that Mormons ranked the best: More than seven out of 10 tithe (give 10% of their income) to their church or charities, and more than six out of 10 gave specifically to religious causes. Among Catholics, however, only 15% reported tithing, and little more than one out of five give to the Church (or religious causes) at all.

The study, however, found that economics was not the likely culprit but American Catholics’ lack of “spiritual engagement with money.” The results showed parishes with a “pay-the-bills culture” or a failure to communicate the vision had far lower levels of religious giving and tithing, whereas parishes that invited people to be part of the planning and vision, discussed the need for money in that context and communicated the good things that their donations would accomplish saw “more generous giving.”

Howat said that Catholic leaders are starting to realize that the Church’s ministries need to tell their stories better, so people feel personally involved in the Church’s work and “transforming the lives of others.” The #iGiveCatholic campaign is an opportunity to show the Church’s members and donors “this is what you can accomplish for God’s kingdom.”

“If we can help our parishes, agencies and schools cast out this vision of what people’s generosity can accomplish, we can slowly get to that point where people are no longer giving to a need, but understand they have a need to give.”

Peter Jesserer Smith is a staff reporter for the National Catholic Register.