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Archdiocese announces new phase of 90 Days Now initiative

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BRAINTREE -- During a June 3 webinar for parish leaders on "Parish Fundraising in the Time of the Pandemic -- And Beyond," the archdiocese revealed the progress of the 90 Days Now -- For Your Parish campaign and announced a new phase of the program.

The two key presenters for the webinar were Patricia Bartram, Interim Secretary for Institutional Advancement, and John Corcoran, Founder and President of Trinity Partners and chair of the board of iCatholic Media.

One of Bartram's key points was that philanthropy is "about relationships, not transactions."

"Strong relationships lead to conversations with people that care about what you're doing and want to support you," she said.

She commended the parishes and central ministries that have found ways to continue their work despite not being able to meet in person during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We have been so impressed by the energy, creativity, flexibility, hard work, and focus that's been exhibited by our pastors and parishes," Bartram said.

She said that they have "learned a lot" during the pandemic, and that despite its constraints, evangelization is "actually thriving."

"This activity has been successful because you're communicating more often, regularly, using a variety of platforms, and you're meeting people where they are and building relationships," Bartram said.

She said such success "illustrates that this proactive approach, combining communication and building relationships, needs to continue to further engage current, lapsed, and future Catholics, which in turn will lead to strong fundraising."

While virtual engagement has enabled evangelization to flourish, parish finances are suffering due to the lack of weekly collections at weekend Masses. Public Masses were suspended from March 14 until May 23, and some churches have yet to resume scheduled Masses.

According to Bartram's presentation, parish offertory is down by about 35 percent overall in the archdiocese, and two-thirds of parishes are experiencing financial hardship. Though about 90 percent of parishes offer online giving, it only accounts for 30 percent of the total offertory collections. The archdiocese's findings indicate that parishes receive more in the offertory when they make their financial need known in the community, such as by announcing it when livestreaming Mass, and that parishes benefit by promoting the 90 Days Now -- For Your Parish initiative.

Corcoran talked about how he conceived the idea for 90 Days Now, which launched on April 1. He said the intention was to have many people donate small amounts of money on a daily or weekly basis.

He emphasized the importance of frequent and multi-layered messaging. When looking at various communication platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, and parish websites, he said there is no particular one that will ensure success.

"You do all of them, or as many of them as you have available to yourself," Corcoran said.

He spoke of the "rule of seven," the marketing concept that a message must be heard seven times in order to be effective. However, Corcoran said that this rule has changed in recent years due to the emergence of so many communication platforms.

"Now, because of the wide distribution of content that goes through a variety of platforms, there's very few of us who use all of these platforms. Seven has now turned into 16. You have to communicate to as many places (as possible), understanding that some people have a preference for email, some people have a preference for Facebook, and so forth," Corcoran said.

In their presentation, Bartram and Corcoran also discussed the results of the 90 Days Now initiative in the 10 parishes it benefited the most. All but one of them had promoted 90 Days Now on their website.

Bartram reported that 90 Days Now has raised a total of $450,000 since April 30. She said they want to raise another $450,000 in the coming six weeks.

She also announced that an anonymous donor has promised to match one dollar for every two dollars raised past $700,000, up to an additional $100,000. This means if the initiative reaches its second goal of raising $900,000, the donor's matching gift would bring the total up to $1 million.

Contributions can be made through 90 Days Now to any parish and parishes do not need to register to use 90 Days Now in order to benefit from it. However, all parishes are encouraged to promote it.

Bartram suggested that if a parish's finances are good, its pastor can encourage its members to donate to another parish in greater need.

"We can only be successful if you help," Bartram said.

90 Days Now -- For Your Parish can be accessed at bcatholic.sites.bostoncatholic.org/90DaysYourParish.

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