Why Catholics Don’t Give… And What Can Be Done About It

Ever wonder why Catholics don’t give to you? There’s a book that answers this question. Why Catholics Don’t Give… And What Can Be Done About it by Charles Zech is a must read for any Catholic fundraiser. Published by Our Sunday Visitor, the book was commissioned specifically to understand the giving landscape of the Catholic Church in the United States.

A religious nun recommended that I read this book, and I am so happy that she did. The chapters are a gold mine for understanding what works and what doesn’t.

Charles Zech offers an analysis of every situation, including planned giving, capital campaigns, religious order giving, and even generational differences. From the data he collected, he offers practical steps for how to successfully fundraising in a Catholic context.

As a result, you have a fact-based foundation for achieving your fundraising goals.

Alms Book Fundraising

Things that you thought were important (average parishioner income and parish size) are not, and things you thought were not important (prayer groups and community) are vital to the success of a fundraising campaign.

You will also be amazed at how simple the recommendations are which are also backed up by research. I recommend you purchase a copy today and read it cover to cover.

10 lessons from Why Catholics Don’t Give… And What Can Be Done About it

Here is my list my top-ten lessons from the book.

Focus on community. People don’t give when there is a decline of community and confusion about purpose. Therefore, concentrate on building community and clarifying your purpose. Donations always follow.

Build your community. Whatever approach you take to raising funds, you should be aware that community building must begin. It’s a continuous undertaking that never ends.

Allow for feedback. Give people opportunities to be consulted and have direct input into the decision-making process. They want open discussions, transparency, and accountability in decisions.

Go beyond the money. Stewardship (and fundraising) must go beyond raising funds. You must maintain the highest standards of integrity and honesty in all matters, allowing people to see that you steward everything (not just money) around you.

Minimize the use of volunteers. If you want to develop the time and talent portions of giving, it is important to impress on people that the time and talent that they do contribute should be viewed as ministry, not merely as volunteer activity

Institute pledging. Those who make a financial commitment through pledges contribute more. Pledging works and people who pledge are better givers. Online giving is a great form of pledging.

Meet the needs of your supporters. Catholics have failed to learn the joy of giving because most Catholic institutions fail to assist them in the conversion of their minds and hearts. When you respond to the needs of your supporters and followers, giving goes up.

Offer Estate Planning as an option. Remind donors that contributing through estate planning is good stewardship. Remind your donors occasionally the possibility of doing this.

Fundraising is what we do; stewardship is who we are. Fundraising is one-dimensional, often focused on the checkbook, while stewardship invites us to change our hearts. Fundraising typically occurs annually, while stewardship is an ongoing commitment.

Start a prayer or study group. Of all the parish programs and activities you can offer, the sponsorship of prayer or study groups at church significantly affected contributions.

Discussion question: Do you see any of these lessons active in your fundraising? What could you do to address them? [Please do share your thoughts below.]



Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • TheAlmoner

    I liked this book for the data driven insights that it offers. One point that I think it misses, though, is that Catholics don’t tend to talk about tithing and the theological foundations for giving to the Church. Protestants tend to do a much better job talking about tithing, and as a result they frequently have much better giving and more resources.

    • And thank goodness we have the Almoner to share insights about the theological foundations for giving to the Church. 🙂 Delighted to know you are moving forward with your work and blogging your ideas.

  • Pueblo Southwest

    I have been in a number of parishes during my working career as a result of my job which required frequent transfers. It has been my experience, that when the need is properly explained, parish members will step up and meet the need. Unfortunately, in a number of instances, this is not well communicated to parishioners. It sounds like this book should be available to every parish finance committee.

    • Yes, I completely agree. When the need is properly explained, parishioners do respond. So simple… yet so often overlooked. Communications is the key.

      And yes! This book should be available to every parish finance committee.

  • Frank W. Russell

    May I offer another factor. Is there any degree of “political correctness” in the way that the Liturgy is celebrated. How “orthodox” are the clergy and the local Bishop? Is there the proper sacredness and reverence? All of this affects the level of trust the parishioners will have.

    • Frank. Thank you for your comment. Yes, this too affects the level of trust the parishioners will have.