Reaching Next Gen Catholics

How do Foundations reach the next generation of Catholics? By helping the Catholic Church communicate through digital channels.

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How Do Catholic Foundations Reach the Next Generation of Catholics?

On May 4, 2023, Yellow Line Digital sent our president, Joe Szalkiewicz, and me to the Consortium of Catholic Foundations at their annual CEO Symposium in Orlando, Florida.

Our purpose was to present to the Foundations’ leadership the critical importance of helping the Catholic Church communicate through digital channels.

Catholics and Social Media

Our reasoning is straightforward. I don’t know anyone who argues that the vast majority of people, even Catholics, aren’t using social media, websites, and emails. Our time online has grown to tremendous levels in the last 25 years, and particularly during COVID.

We’ve learned through our work in the digital space that much of the Catholic Church has fallen behind in communicating the Gospel in the “town squares” of our time, namely, social platforms and search engines.

Often, the Church recuses itself from the space due to a lack of resources. Many dioceses, parishes, ministries, and nonprofits aligned with the mission of the Church don’t have the money, time, or expertise to effectively reach online users.

To combat that reality, we presented the idea to Foundations that funding communications is just as important as traditional support of schools, parishes, and local ministries.

Case Studies

To further back that theory up, we showcased three of our own clients:

  2. #iGiveCatholic
  3. The Catholic Foundation of Dubuque

CAPP-USA is a Vatican organization founded by St. John Paul II himself! Its goal is to spread the knowledge and practice of Catholic social teaching. To that end, a new website was launched just a few years back. In that time, CAPP has produced a wealth of interactive web pages, articles, social media posts, infographics, and videos aimed at authentic Church teaching in a consumable format.

Rather than dense encyclicals, CAPP distills the teaching into bite-sized content and speaks through the lens of question and answer, which is how most people think.

CAPP has driven over a quarter million users to its site in those short years, along with hundreds of thousands of video views and social engagements.

#iGiveCatholic is a unique online platform that empowers Catholics to easily choose something within their diocese they want to support and make the donation right then and there. The campaign is oriented around Giving Tuesday.

Since targeting Catholics on social media has become very difficult in recent years, Yellow Line Digital partnered with #iGiveCatholic to improve targeting, reporting on what works, and content that drives more donations at a lower cost during the short window of giving.

The Foundation in the Archdiocese of Dubuque is ahead of the curve in many ways since it decided to experiment with new content to reach older Catholics interested in planning legacy giving, as well as young Catholics who are unaware of what a Foundation is or does.

Through new video and graphic content and testing on channels such as Facebook and LinkedIn, the experiment resulted in over a million impressions in the last year, as well as thousands of web users, video views, and a deeper understanding of what content the audience best responds to.

The American Catholic Personas

But these examples of learning, growing, and improving aren’t enough. Foundations, like the entire Church, need to understand the different personas of American Catholics.

Briefly, we talked about those personas, which are covered more in detail in our Future of Catholic Communications slide deck:

  1. The socially active devout Catholic
  2. The socially passive devout Catholic
  3. The practicing but not devout Catholic
  4. The cultural/nominal or lapsed Catholic
  5. The empathetic but fallen away Catholic
  6. The apathetic and fallen away Catholic
  7. The baptized opposed Catholic

What Online Users Want from the Church

Lastly, we emphasized to Foundation leaders what online users want from influencers, brands, and definitely the Church:

  1. Honesty
  2. Transparency
  3. Influencers
  4. Stakes
  5. Human Relationship
  6. Humor
  7. Clarity of Purpose

The Consortium members were very responsive to this. We were told this subject was quite different from the mostly financial presentations. 

We left, instilling in their minds that Foundations have a unique place among Catholic institutions, transforming communications and marketing. 

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