Special to The Dialog
Parishioners gave nearly $4.9 million to the Appeal, more than $500,000 over the previous year’s
Catholics gave almost $4.9 million out of more than $5 million pledged to 2016 Annual Catholic Appeal with both collections and pledges setting records and increasing by more than $500,000 from the previous year.
Officials cited several enhancements added to the campaign last year as part of the reason the record levels were reached. They included credit card and PayPal payment options; online giving; a pastor’s mailing prior to Commitment Weekend, and a successful effort to increase the number of Circle of Honor donors, who give $500 or more.
Bishop Malooly recognized the importance of those changes but gave the credit to Catholics in the pew.
“I am in awe of the continuing and phenomenal generosity of our people,” Bishop Malooly said. “While the improvements to the Appeal helped, the willingness of our people to show their love for the church and mercy for those in need, whether spiritual or temporal, is what made this Annual Catholic Appeal so successful.”
Final figures show 16,454 people made pledges last year, with an average gift of $306; the previous year, 15,450 people gave an average of $293. There were 1,490 first-time donors who pledged $280,481. Fifty-three diocesan clergy pledged $59,700, up $4,855 from 2015 with an average gift of $1,126.
The 97.5 percent collection rate also was a record. Forty-six of the diocese’s 57 parishes surpassed their Appeal targets, up from 33 the year before, and 51 parishes received pledges surpassing their targets, up from 39. Rebates totaling $419,084 will go to parishes surpassing their goals. Those that support schools receive 100 percent of dollars collected over goal, and other parishes 50 percent.
Funds from the Annual Catholic Appeal help more than 35 offices and ministries put the corporal and spiritual works of mercy into action in the diocese. They go toward offices and ministries that support parishes in their spiritual ministry, such as training of lectors and Eucharistic ministers for Mass, Catholic schools and parish-based religious education programs, and initial and continuing spiritual formation of deacons, as well as programs that provide food and clothing to the needy, counseling, or emergency relief to people in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.
The theme of the 2016 appeal was “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” The appeal is one of two major funding sources for the diocesan offices; the other is parish assessments.
The final figures show the impact of the enhancements integrated into the campaign.
Circle of Honor gifts of $500 or more rose to 2,981, an increase of 405 donors over the 2015 Appeal. That includes 173 people, out of 485, invited by the diocese to increase giving to Circle of Honor levels. Those selected for invitation had given between $350 and $499 to previous campaigns.
Overall, Circle of Honor gifts totaled more than $3.2-million, or 64.4 percent of the total pledged; its donors accounted for 18.1 percent of total participants.
Seventy-three donors used PayPal; 1,335 paid by credit card, and 824 used electronic billing, which reduces cost by eliminating postage and related expenses. One-hundred-eleven people made pledges online.
“Anytime you can make it easier for people to give, the more they give,” said Min Zamberlan, in-pew coordinator for the Appeal at Our Lady of Lourdes in Seaford. That, combined with the presentation of the Appeal, helped account for its success, she believes.
Circle of Honor donor John Shaposky Jr., who attends St. Joseph on the Brandywine in Greenville, said the use of credit cards appeals to some donors.
“People didn’t have to give immediate cash, which is psychologically easier for some people,” he said. “For some, the credit card payment allowed them to earn frequent flyer miles or other rewards. This is little stuff but it helps nudge people along.”
He thinks the Appeal’s success may also have been affected by another factor: The three-year payout on pledges to the Sustaining Hope campaign ended for many people. “Perhaps some people felt they had room in their budget to give [more] to the Appeal.”
When Shaposky first considered giving $500 or more – the level needed to join the Circle of Honor – “it gave me a goal to stretch myself to get it. Then, each year it was easier to do again, and some years I increase the amount. Now it’s just automatic.”
His family gives to the Appeal to help provide the diocese “tools and resources that allow for opportunities to share our faith, but even more importantly, to follow God’s call to love with no strings attached.”