Promoting stewardship of treasure: Offertory enhancement program proposed

By Barb Arland-Fye

Clergy and lay leaders from parishes in the Davenport Diocese listen to Bishop Martin Amos during the Annual Parish Corporate Board meeting held Sept. 23 at diocesan headquarters in Davenport. A number of individuals participated in the meeting from five other locations via the Internet. The meeting was repeated Sept. 25 to accommodate those who couldn’t attend Sept. 23.

DAVENPORT — Diocesan-wide parish statistics show a slight increase in contributions to parishes’ offertory collection, but the percentage of increased giving per household has dropped over the past five years. A proposed offertory enhancement program could reverse the trend, diocesan leaders say.
Sister Laura Goedken, OP, the Davenport Diocese’s development director, shared that information during the Annual Parish Corporate Board meetings held Sept. 23 and 25.  Each of the meetings was conducted simultaneously at six different diocesan sites via Internet connection, a first-time effort to save time and travel expense for clergy and lay leaders from 80 parishes spread across 22 counties in southeast Iowa.
“We are losing about 1,000 parishioners each year in our diocese and have 2,342 fewer households than six years ago,” Sr. Goedken said. Average increased giving per household declined from 7.7 percent in 2007 to .5 percent in 2011, according to statistics provided by the parishes. In 2007, for example, the diocese had 101,848 individuals living in 37,163 households which contributed a total of $19,182,361 to the offertory collection, or $516 per household. By 2011, the diocese had 95,727 individuals living in 36,119 households contributing a total of $19,983,488 to the offertory, for a total of $553 per household. “The average per household goes up every year, but not much in recent years,” Sr. Goedken said during her presentation at diocesan headquarters in Davenport.
An increase of one-half percent in 2011 “doesn’t even cover inflation. If we had 7 percent increased giving every year you wouldn’t be worrying about cash flow in your parishes,” she said.  The miniscule increase in the offertory collection “is not typical of our diocese only; it’s typical of dioceses in our whole country. We’re going to make an effort here to turn that around.”
Sr. Goedken proposes that parishes undertake an offertory enhancement program, something that Our Lady of Victory Parish in Davenport is doing with success. The diocese is interviewing several firms, one of which may be chosen to work with each parish on this effort. It would be a parish-driven, not a diocesan-driven effort.
Sr. Goedken identified six goals of an offertory enhancement program:
• Introduce or strengthen stewardship of treasure, promoting stewardship as a way of life.
• Ask Catholic families to reflect on what they presently give and encourage them to achieve a higher level of support.
• Introduce or enhance the culture of financial participation among parishioners.
• Increase the use of envelopes among present non-envelope users.
• Introduce or enhance an electronic giving option to each parish.
• Raise each parish’s weekly offering by an average of 20 to 25 percent.
Parish benefits include laying a foundation for a stewardship of time, talent and treasure initiative; increasing parish ordinary income by an average of 20 to 25 percent; increasing the number of regular supporters and their level of regular support; decreasing dependence on funding from outside sources to meet daily operating budgets, and proactively promoting the benefits of electronic giving to all parishioners.
Benefits for the diocese include receiving a comprehensive series of reports outlining the performance of each parish during the appeal; receiving a full updated mailing list from each parish, and increased revenue for the diocesan appeal.
Kyle Rick, a lay trustee for Our Lady of Victory, shared her parish’s success with an enhanced offertory program. The parish began its program in 2011 to pay off mortgage debt on a building expansion project. Expenses for the program totaled about $17,250, which went to the firm overseeing it. The effort raised around $130,000. She said the parish learned two lessons from that process: one, focusing on weekly envelope giving is a long-term solution and, two, focusing on an annual renewals is also important.
The parish conducted the second campaign on its own at a cost of about $1,300. She said 37 percent of the households participated and the parish income grew by $51,000.
Other parishes have undertaken offertory enhancement campaigns, including Ss. John & Paul in Burlington. “It’s about stewardship, sacrificial giving,” said Father Tony Herold, who previously served as pastor of the Burlington parish and now serves as pastor of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Davenport.
“We have to give it a stewardship focus, with an emphasis on how God has been so good to us,” Sr. Goedken said.

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