“The knowledge gained from this report is important for our understanding of the current patterns of giving among Catholics,” said Archbishop Dennis Schnurr of Cincinnati, chairman of the U.S. bishops’ national collections committee.
“We now know that online giving to charitable institutions is rising each year. These results … will allow the Committee to assess our current systems for receiving donations. Moving forward, we will also be better equipped to implement any changes needed in order to reach Catholics, particularly young Catholics, who are giving online.”
The study by Georgetown University's Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate was commissioned by the bishops' collections committee, and examined how and why working-age donors participated in online giving. The data was delivered to the bishops Nov. 10 during the bishops' annual assembly in Baltimore, Md.
The study showed that 32 percent of Catholics have given online donations at some point, and found that Catholics between the ages of 16 and 34 were more likely to feel comfortable with and use online financial platforms than respondents between the ages of 34 and 65, with 73 percent responding that they were at least "somewhat" comfortable with making payments online.
The survey also found that among Catholics who attend Mass less regularly and are not very likely to donate to a second collection, one in four would prefer to give online.
“Because respondents under 35 are least likely to be aware of second collections and less likely to be attending Mass weekly, an option to give online would very likely provide significant additional fundraising if young adult Catholics were made aware of this opportunity," the report said.
The study showed that respondents gave online because of the medium's convenience, followed by being able to respond quickly to an urgent need, and “ease of tracking gifts online."
Those who gave via offline avenues, such as mailing checks or in-person donations, cited "not feeling comfortable providing financial information online, preferring to give in person, and a concern that a donation would not get to the right charity or be used for the right purpose were most often noted as being important to their decision to give by other methods," the study said.
Median donation size was not significantly different between online and offline gifts. Religious organizations were the most popular recipients of donations, according to the study, with 46 percent of all donors giving to a religious group at least once a year, and 80 percent of weekly Mass attendees.
Other groups earning high percentages of donations were "care or health research, veterans or first responders groups, children’s groups, and domestic food aid or disaster relief."
Catholics also stated their concerns for Catholic giving and need in their parishes, noting that helping "the poor and needy in their local community" is a top priority for over 70 percent of Catholics. Other major concerns reported by respondents were the needs of "local Catholic schools" and the needs of their diocese.
New research reveals that younger Catholics are more likely to give to charitable causes through online donation options and that overall, Catholics are concerned with the needs of the poor in their area.