With the chequebook gradually becoming obsolete and more people shopping online, the Catholic Church and its related charities are learning about spending habits. – Mr Michael Murphy of the Washington-based International Catholic Stewardship Council

WASHINGTON – Within a decade, church collection baskets may be collecting more dust than cash as more Catholics switch to electronic giving.

With the chequebook gradually becoming obsolete and more people shopping online, the Catholic Church and its related charities are learning about spending habits, says Mr Michael Murphy, executive director of the Washington-based International Catholic Stewardship Council.

“I think it is an exciting new way for people to give to the Church,” he says.

His council provides educational resources, networks and information to promote Catholic philanthropy and advance the ministry of stewardship in parishes and dioceses.

Online giving has increased donations for many non-profit organisations in the US. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, a study of 600 charities that used such a system showed that 79 percent of them raised more in 2010 than they did in 2009, while 21 percent raised less.

“I believe we are on the verge of this growing tremendously in the next decade,” Mr Murphy told Catholic News Service.

Faith Direct, a US company that describes itself as a “leading eGiving provider” for Catholic churches and non-profit organisations across the country, recently celebrated a milestone. It processed 1 million transactions for Catholic parishes across the US in 2010.

The programme works directly with the client’s bank making all transactions electronically.

Faith Direct also provides “offertory cards” for parishioners to place in the Sunday collection basket as a visible sign of their electronic donation. Currently, the programme is in 45 dioceses across the country and continues to grow.

“It has been my belief since Day One, up to 80 percent of the offerings will be processed electronically by 2015,” said Mr Brian Walsh, founder and president of the online giving programme since 2003.

Offertory Solutions, a division of Our Sunday Visitor (OSV), an Indiana-based publisher, produces more than 800 million offertory envelopes a year, offers stewardship services and recently launched its own online giving programme.

At Holy Spirit Church in Lee’s Summit, Missouri, Mr David Bremer, the parish’s office and communications manager, said parishioners have embraced online giving.

Mr Walsh said he remembers being told electronic giving would never work, but he noted people’s habits and reliance on technology have changed drastically.

Those between the ages of 20 and 30 have little knowledge of how to use a chequebook, he said, and added that with retirees receiving Social Security benefits through direct deposit to their bank accounts, they, too, are using cheques less and less.

He noted that one-third of clients using Faith Direct’s electronic programme are between 50 and 55 years old. - CNS

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