App aims to encourage more giving at church, prompt ‘cashless’ to donate

Cathio, a free payment processing app for iPhone and Android, will “transform the way the Catholic community moves money,” say its founders. (CNS photo/Cathio)

By Elizabeth Bachmann Catholic News Service

The Catholic community has created its own Catholic Match, Bible apps and even confession preparation apps. Now, it has a Catholic Venmo.

Cathio, a free payment processor application for iPhone and Android, will “transform the way the Catholic community moves money,” founders said in a news release announcing the app.

The app, which CEO Matthew Marcolini projects will be available this fall in the App Store and Google Play, is an easy-to-use donation platform that allows users to select their specific parish, even a specific cause within that parish, and send a donation in seconds. The advent of this app removes the classic millennial tithing excuse ‘I don’t have any cash on me,’ whispered while awkwardly averting eye contact with offertory collectors.

Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, a member of the Cathio board of directors, weighed in on this generational idiosyncrasy.

“Millennials don’t carry cash, date on apps and watch on-demand entertainment,” Santorum said in the news release. “We have to be there, we have to learn from successful tech companies, and we have to provide a universal solution that makes it easy for younger generations to engage with the church.”

There are churches in the Northeast that have closed because they lack operational funds, and, according to Cathio founders’ research, the number of overall church donors is decreasing, while the value of each donation is growing.

“How do we get around falling donations?” Marcolini asked. “It is by giving (millennials) an easy to use solution to give small amounts to the church. The church is built on small donations. Large dollar donations are great, but what keeps the doors open at every nonprofit and at our churches are those $5, $10 and $20 dollar a month donations. Anything we can give matters.”

Within the app, parishes and organizations can personalize their donation page, adding Mass times and parish histories. They can even break their donations down into categories so that donors can choose whether they want to fund mission trips, the bishop’s appeal, or other special collections.

While other payment processors exist, Marcolini said Cathio is unique in that is does not charge a church or organization for donations it receives. Unlike PayPal and Authorize.net, which both charge a 2.9% processing fee plus a 30 cent per-transaction fee to the charitable organization, Cathio charges a fee only to donors that does not deduct from intended donations. While the company has not yet set its transaction fee, Marcolini guarantees that it will be below 2%.

Marcolini admitted that similar apps exist within the Catholic community, but that Cathio’s search by map function and cutting edge design make it unique. By allowing the app access to their location, users can easily find the parish they are attending, even if they are traveling, or visiting a parish for the first time.

“We are trying to make it as easy for people to use as possible,” Marcolini told Catholic News Service. “So, one of our beta testers will be my mom. If she can use it that means we will have done our job.”

Cathio operates as a public benefit corporation, and Marcolini said that the company will marry best business practices with orthodox Catholic teaching. With that in mind, they intend, not only to encourage donations and save the church money, but also to “bring its financial transactions in line with its beliefs,” according to the news release.

Top payment processors, PayPal and Authorize.net, also process payments for pornography cites, and PayPal matches contributions to Planned Parenthood.

“So the issue is the church is accidentally boosting the bottom line of these for-profit entities that are funding things that are entirely antithetical to the mission of the church,” Marcolini said. Cathio provides a Catholic alternative.

The app also will boost donations for smaller charities because it puts their name into an engaged and universal Catholic economic pool.

“We want to see the people of goodwill connected with the people of good works in a really meaningful way,” Marcolini said.

Among the initial customers for the app are Christendom College, a Catholic liberal arts college in Front Royal, Virginia, and the Dominican Friars Foundation, which is based in New York.

The company expects to expand next year to provide a service for remittance payments so that Catholics working abroad can send money home to their families.

“We as a generation have to step up to the plate,” Marcolini said. “We have been gifted a beautiful mess in the state of the church and we have the shoulders of saints to stand upon. And every way that we can participate in evangelization, we can also participate in evangelization by building the technologies necessary to support the church in the 21st century.”

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