Survey: Catholics highly motivated to donate if assured of ethical investing

BOSTON, MA – Catholics overwhelmingly want their money invested ethically, and to most, that means avoiding companies that produce pornography or make tobacco products and e-cigarettes, according to new survey released today. But most Catholics aren’t as concerned about investments in companies involved with oil and gas, birth control, or human embryonic stem cell research.

Additionally, those responding strongly advocated for Catholic institutions to invest in companies involved in clean air and water, workforce education and job training, education technology, agriculture and food, and healthcare providers—all of which had about two-thirds support.

The survey was commissioned by Catholic Investment Services (CIS), a nonprofit organization that helps Catholic institutions manage their financial assets according to the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ ethical guidelines.

Overall, the survey showed that Catholics are highly motivated to donate to Catholic institutions when they are assured that those donations will be invested ethically, with nearly 87 percent saying they’d be more likely to donate with that assurance.

The survey asked respondents to identify businesses they strongly believed should not receive Catholic investments. About 60 percent identified entertainment companies that produced pornography, or makers of tobacco products and e-cigarettes. About half of those surveyed said they opposed investments in casinos or gaming businesses, companies that make alcoholic beverages, makers of medications used for abortions or medical facilities that provide abortions and gun manufacturers.

The smallest percentage, about one-third of those surveyed, expressed concerns about investing in oil and gas companies, manufacturers of birth control, or companies doing research on human embryonic stem cells.

Conversely, the survey asked what businesses should receive investments from Catholic institutions. The top industries: clean air and water (67 percent), workforce education and job training (66 percent), education technology and agriculture and food (both 65 percent), healthcare providers (62 percent), and affordable low-income housing (60 percent). Recycling, renewable energy and land conservation all received support from more than half of respondents.

In April, CIS surveyed Catholics and found that the vast majority believe Catholic organizations can – and should – invest their financial assets according to Catholic values and principles without sacrificing financial gains.

“In our last survey, we learned that Catholic parishioners care deeply that their religious institutions are investing ethically,” said Tom Lanctot, Catholic Investment Service’s CEO. “This time, we wanted to drill deeper to understand whether ethical investing was, in fact, a motivating factor in their giving habits, as well as how they defined what ethical investing means to them. The results make clear that every Catholic institution who does invest ethically should be regularly touting that to their parishioners, and every Catholic institution that doesn’t invest ethically should strongly consider doing so.”

More detailed findings are included below:

If you knew a Catholic institution invested donations it receives according to Catholic values and principles, would you be more likely to donate to that Catholic institution?

  • Yes, much more likely – 49%
  • Yes, somewhat more likely – 38%
  • No, it wouldn’t impact my decision to donate – 14%

Below are a few types of businesses in which Catholic institutions may invest your donations. Please select ALL of those you strongly believe your donations SHOULD NOT be invested.

  • Entertainment companies that produce pornography – 60%
  • Tobacco and e-cigarettes – 57%
  • Alcoholic beverages – 52%
  • Manufacturers of medications used during an abortion procedure – 52%
  • Casino and gaming – 51%
  • Medical facilities that provide abortion as part of their services – 50%
  • Gun manufacturing – 47%
  • Legal marijuana – 46%
  • For-profit prisons or detention centers – 45%
  • Security, defense, and large-scale weapons – 44%
  • Research on human embryonic stem cells – 37%
  • Manufacturers of birth control – 31%
  • Oil and gas – 30%

Below are different types of businesses in which Catholic institutions may invest your donations. This time, select ALL of those in which you strongly believe your donations SHOULD BE invested.

  • Clean air and water – 67%
  • Workforce education and job training – 66%
  • Education technology – 65%
  • Agriculture and food – 65%
  • Healthcare providers – 62%
  • Affordable low-income housing – 60%
  • Recycling – 57%
  • Renewable energy (wind, solar, etc.) – 53%
  • Land conservation – 50%
  • Fitness and nutrition – 49%
  • Banking and financial services to low-income individuals and small businesses – 46%

About Catholic Investment Services

Catholic Investment Services (CIS) is a non-profit, SEC registered investment advisor that manages endowment and pension assets for Catholic organizations. It seeks to deliver strong investment returns aligned with Catholic principles so Catholic organizations can make a bigger impact in their communities. CIS was founded by some of the investment industry’s most respected leaders to address the investment challenges faced by Catholic organizations. Based in Boston, CIS’s assets under management represent over $650 million.

Survey Methodology

This survey was conducted using online survey platform Pollfish and compiled by DKC Analytics. The sample of 500 adults (18 years or older) who self-identify as Catholic was surveyed on September 7-9, 2019. The margin of error is ± 4.5%, and no additional weighting was done to the initial sample. Pollfish’s survey platform delivers online surveys globally through mobile apps and the mobile web along with the desktop web. Some data shown here does not add up to 100% because of rounding.