Amid the challenges brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, the Archdiocese of Baltimore is launching an ambitious virtual campaign Feb. 23 to bolster its Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries.
Giving Tuesday will put the spotlight on digital donations, which have become even more critical as church attendance has been limited by the pandemic.
The Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries is a yearlong effort to support a wide variety of local charities and causes, including Our Daily Bread Hot Meal Program, Hispanic ministries, evangelization and tuition assistance. Unlike the weekly offertory donations, which mostly benefit the individual parishes, the Annual Appeal has a wider scope and mission.
Terry Brashears, senior director of development for stewardship and administration for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, said the limits on church attendance have presented the archdiocese with a huge challenge. In-person giving was a big driver for fundraising in years past.
“We knew it was going to be difficult this year. So we’re thinking outside the box about how we’re handling a lot of things since COVID,” Brashears said of the Giving Tuesday campaign, which will be prominently featured on the archdiocese’s social media platforms this week. “The pandemic has presented us with different opportunities where we can try new things.”
Parishioners and friends of the archdiocese are encouraged to share posts about Giving Tuesday with their social media networks, Brashears said.
Heeding the guidance of public health officials, the archdiocese has limited Mass attendance to one-third of the church’s normal capacity, in most cases. Meanwhile, some parishioners have chosen to attend Mass through internet livestreams and television broadcasts.
“In-person giving accounts for up to one-third of all the gifts and pledges that we receive annually here for the appeal,” Brashears said. “Last year we raised $9 million overall. Right before we had to stop because of COVID, we had raised up to $2.5 million from that process at the parishes.”
Brashears said this year’s goal is $8.5 million, a more practical benchmark given the conditions. While Brashears said the ability to give digitally predated COVID, raising awareness that parishioners can support the appeal just by using their mobile phones is more important than ever.
“We feel people want to give. And the more they understand how this money is used and where it goes, the more successful we’ll be,” she said. “So it’s up to us to continually share what these ministries are, what they do and what they mean to the archdiocese and to the parishes.”
While many parishioners associate the appeal with nonprofit organizations such as Catholic Charities of Baltimore, 40 percent of the funds raised will benefit individual parishes. Last spring, when churches were closed for months, funds from the appeal helped to keep some parishes afloat.
“Many parishes were able to use funds from the appeal as a safety net,” Brashears said.
Meanwhile, the pandemic and its economic fallout have actually increased demand for services supported by the appeal, Brashears said.
The archdiocesan Office of Hispanic Ministry has rallied in support of Baltimore’s Hispanic community, which has been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
The department created news services like Spanish-language hotlines to answer questions about how to curb infections and where to receive free testing.
“Those appeal funds made a difference during COVID. And we expect the same thing to continue next year,” Brashears said.
For more information about how the funds from Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries are used, click here.
You can donate to the Annual Appeal for Catholic Ministries by clicking here. To make a gift by mail, please make your check payable to Annual Appeal and send to Archdiocese of Baltimore, 320 Cathedral Street, 4th Floor, Baltimore, MD 21201
Email Tim Swift at tswift@CatholicReview.com
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