WASHINGTON (CNS) — While any increase in church attendance prompted by the pope’s appeal isn’t quite yet measurable, a new survey shows Pope Francis has made an impact on Catholic giving in the year since his papacy began.
Results of the survey, released March 13 by Foundations and Donors Interested in Catholic Activities, found that of the 1,003 Catholics polled, one in four have increased their giving from last year.
Of those who did, 77 percent said Pope Francis inspired their giving to some degree. Forty-two percent said his influence on their decision was “significant.”
“It is clear that Pope Francis and his message of mercy and joy, and a special concern for the poor, are inspiring U.S. Catholics in their giving,” Alexia Kelley, president of FADICA, said in a March 13 press release.
FADICA is a nonprofit network of nearly 50 private philanthropists supporting Catholic-sponsored programs. The network commissioned Zogby Analytics to do the survey, which was conducted online from March 7 to March 10. The margin of error was plus or minus 3.2 percentage points.
The survey also showed a growing motivation among Hispanic Catholics specifically. Hispanics, it said, are the group most likely to have increased their giving in the past year.
Eighty-five percent of Hispanics — more than four in five — credited the pope for significantly influencing their giving. Almost half said the pope inspired them to give more to other Catholic organizations.
“(The pope’s) style and manner of speaking from the heart … is accessible and resonates with everyone,” Kelley told Catholic News Service.
Over the last year many have speculated the “Pope Francis effect” has led to an increase in Mass attendance, but earlier in March a study by the Pew Research Center found no evidence of a higher rate of churchgoing in response to the pope’s popularity.
The poll found no increase in the number of Americans identifying themselves as Catholic and no change in the rates of weekly Mass attendance.
But the FADICA survey results do show how the “Pope Francis effect” has made an impact within the Catholic Church, Kelley said.
“There are some really interesting data points here that clearly point to a connection between Pope Francis and the Catholic (view) of giving,” she said.
In the press release, she said the “Pope Francis effect” on Catholic giving “will continue to grow, thus bringing the church’s critical ministries and mercy to those who need it most.”
The survey also that showed 28 percent of Catholics do not donate to any type of parish or Catholic organization.
Kelley said, “There’s always room for growth.”
The Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate, or CARA, tracks Catholics’ financial giving to their parishes, noting that significant event might sway the numbers, such as the clergy sex abuse scandal.
Since 2002, the percentage of Catholics who reported giving “has been quite stable.” The most recent statistic available on giving is from 2012: 51 percent of U.S. Catholic adults said they or their household had given to their weekly parish collection within the previous 12 months.
FADICA’s survey reported more than 60 percent of Catholics donated to their parish “in some way.”
Kelley said the network of philanthropists hopes to look further into the subject of Catholic giving.
“This (survey) is the first of its kind,” she said. “We look forward to charting trends … and following these data points into the future.”
Other findings of the FADICA survey include:
— About 43 percent of those who increased their giving did so because of a better financial position. Twenty-six percent said they had upped their donations because they felt a better connection to their parish.
— Six percent said the pope’s messages were the primary reason for an increase in their giving.
— Fifty 50 percent of Catholics said the pope’s messages about compassion to the poor inspired them “to do more to help others.”
— Forty-four percent said Pope Francis’ message will motivate them to give more to Catholic efforts and organizations in the future.