‘No cheques’ a threat to charities

WelCom April 2021 Michael Fitzsimons Catholic charities are likely to be significantly affected by the phasing out of cheques, which is to happen between now and the middle of next…

WelCom April 2021

Michael Fitzsimons

Catholic charities are likely to be significantly affected by the phasing out of cheques, which is to happen between now and the middle of next year.

The knock-on effect of the phasing out of cheques for the charity sector is enormous, says Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand director, Julianne Hickey.

‘Without risk of overstating, the abolition of cheques is one of the most significant challenges facing Caritas and its supporters for some time. While donations by cheque to Caritas have decreased slightly since 2019, last year over a fifth of our donors were still giving by cheque.’

Caritas is promoting alternate payment channels including online banking, giving over the phone, transferring of funds at a local bank and being a One World Partnership (OWP) supporter, which allows donors to decide how much they can afford to donate and how frequently. 

Karen Holland, director of Catholic Social Services (CSS), says about 20 per cent of their donors currently pay by cheque.

‘Many of our long-term loyal donors such as members of the 1000 Club often send in cheques. Some of them are worried that electronic banking is just too difficult and they don’t have enough confidence to even try.’

Karen Holland noted that the use of cash is declining too. ‘People who still run street-day appeals have noticed the decline and have to put in place electronic alternatives for people who don’t carry cash.’

Supporters of Catholic Social Services can visit their website and donate directly from their credit card or deposit money directly into the CSS bank account.

‘I am hoping,’ says Karen ‘that we won’t lose as much as the 20 per cent that currently comes via cheque. We have been communicating with people over the last 12 months to encourage alternative ways of giving.’

The Home of Compassion in Island Bay reports that most of their elderly donors use cheques to donate.

‘For this group the cheques provide an essential means of people managing and maintaining control over their finances,’ says Ruchika Jayatilaka, fundraising and communications manager.

The Home of Compassion has alternative payment methods in place, such as paying via the website, internet banking and automatic payment options. 

It is hard to predict the longer-term impact of phasing out cheques, says Ruchika, as most groups are still getting to know the online payment systems. 

Steph Grantham of the Cathedral Parish in Palmerston North says the number of donors who pay by cheque has reduced considerably over the last five years. She said that most affected were the elderly and if necessary they would invite the bank to come to the parish and speak with those interested in other ways of giving.

Brian Kelly of the Catholic Parish of Hastings says that most parishioners have moved from using cheques and the main giving is by auto bank transfer. ‘We will be contacting all cheque givers requesting they either go onto auto bank transfer or to donate cash and hopefully most will change to suit.’

John Prendergast, general manager of the Archdiocese, said the phasing out of cheques does have a potential impact on donors.

‘However, we will be doing all we can to support their transition to other ways of making their donations. In recent years, people are certainly using cash much less frequently than used to be the case. We have seen significant shifts, for example, in our Sunday Mass collections, to a point now where a significant proportion of our Mass congregations are giving via direct credit. 

‘Change is challenging but our recent experience has been that people are willing to adapt, and we are working to assist parishioners and donors to do just that.’

Caritas Lenten appeal needs your support

In a statement to its supporters on 26 March 2021, Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand advised that targets for its Lenten appeal this year are well down.

Director, Julianne Hickey says ‘We have seen a number of challenges this year, including a lockdown before and during Lent and the continued Covid restrictions. We are grateful that, despite all the challenges, we have continued to receive support from the Catholic community. However, we have fallen far short of our Lenten appeal target which, in turn, will have a knock-on effect to what work we can do. The Lent Appeal supports Caritas in working with poor and vulnerable communities around the world, our engagement with Catholic schools in New Zealand, and our social justice work here in Aotearoa New Zealand.’

Donations are eligible for a 33% tax rebate. You can give through the Caritas website caritas.org.nz/donate or for further information please call 0800 12 10 22.