New Catholic foundation sets sights on $130M
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati launched its largest fundraising campaign in at least a half century Friday with the creation of a new charitable foundation that soon could become one of the region’s largest.
The goal is to quickly turn the new Catholic Community Foundation into a fundraising powerhouse with as much as $130 million available to help Catholic schools, priests, parishes and a wide range of social services – from food pantries to adoption.
The foundation is a departure from the decades-long practice of running all campaigns directly through the archdiocese. Under the new system, the church still will control the money but will conduct fundraising like any other private charity, with more public accountability and a board of directors comprised of lay people, priests, church leaders and Archbishop Dennis Schnurr.
Church officials already have raised about $36 million in pledges through a pilot program that began last year, but the archdiocese-wide campaign is just getting under way. They seek five-year commitments from donors – some for $100 and some for well over $1 million – and hope the new foundation structure assures potential contributors their money will be well spent.
“This isn’t a bake sale. This isn’t passing the hat,” said Michael Vanderburgh, the archdiocese’s chief development officer. “This is asking people to make a five-year sacrificial commitment. It’s natural to want assurance that their sacrifice is being used the way they want.”
Some praise move as more accountable, transparent
Some lay Catholic groups have complained for years about a perceived lack of openness in church finances and decision-making, especially in the wake of the clergy abuse crisis a decade ago. Annual donations to the archdiocese suffered after the crisis, but have rebounded recently.
“If it’s a move toward transparency and accountability; it’s good,” said Kris Ward, who has been active in several lay Catholic groups in Dayton, including the National Survivor Advocates Coalition for clergy abuse victims. “The devil is in the details.”
Vanderburgh said the new approach should address concerns about accountability and make the archdiocese’s fundraising more efficient – two reasons the foundation structure is increasingly common among Catholic dioceses around the country. The Diocese of Cleveland, for example, created a community foundation 15 years ago and has raised more than $230 million.
Cincinnati’s fundraising drive, which the archdiocese is calling the “One Faith, One Hope, One Love” campaign, is separate from the annual Catholic Ministries Appeal, which already is under way. The appeal campaign typically raises around $4 million and provides immediate assistance to many of the same causes the foundation hopes to support.
Eventually, Vanderburgh said, the annual appeal could be folded into the foundation. For now, though, they will operate independently.
Church leaders, including Archbishop Schnurr, are mounting a public relations campaign emphasizing the need for both the annual appeal and the foundation. In a letter to parishioners this week, Schnurr described the creation of the foundation as “historic” and said its success would strengthen parishes, schools and programs across the 19-county archdiocese.
“In scope, this represents a comprehensive, extraordinary and exciting outreach,” Schnurr wrote. “One Faith, One Hope, One Love provides an unprecedented opportunity for all of us to work together, to realize our vision for an even more vibrant Catholic Church.”
He said the foundation’s launch is perhaps the largest fundraiser by the archdiocese since a massive capital campaign more than 50 years ago.
Plan would bolster tuition assistance, building repair
The foundation will designate about half its money to the archdiocese’s schools and their 42,000 students, expanding tuition assistance and providing help with building repairs. The school system is the country’s sixth largest Catholic system by enrollment, and its health is considered crucial to the future of the church.
“If you bring them up Catholic, they’ll probably be there in the pews when they’re your age and my age,” said Elder High School Principal Tom Otten, who worked on the committee that recommended creating the foundation.
About 20 percent of the foundation’s resources will go to parishes to enhance ministries or to help with more practical concerns, such as a new roof. Another 20 percent will bolster Catholic charities and provide care to retired priests.
The remaining money, a little more than 10 percent, will help the archdiocese expand vocations and add more priests. After years of low enrollment in seminaries, the church is seeing a boom in recent years. The number of seminarians at the Athenaeum of Ohio more than doubled in the past decade, from about 30 to 65.
That’s the good news, church leaders say. The problem is making room for them all. The Athenaeum has expanded, but more space and programs might be needed, both for seminarians and for lay people who would like to study there.
“We’re bursting at the seams,” said the Rev. Benedict O’Cinnsealaigh, president of the Athenaeum. “I want to expand the program. The seminary should be the center for ministerial education in the diocese.”
If the church meets its $130 million goal over the next five years, the Catholic Community Foundation will become one of the largest in the region. The Greater Cincinnati Foundation is near the top today with about $450 million in assets, but relatively few others here have more than $100 million.
With $36 million in pledges in hand and about 200 parishes yet to join the campaign, church leaders are optimistic they’ll meet their goal. Vanderburgh said the church expects to collect about 85 percent of the pledged amount.
Otten, who has run smaller fundraisers at Elder for years, said the goals are ambitious but achievable. He said the new approach should help.
“It’s going to be a much more transparent thing,” Otten said. “It’s going to be very clear what’s happening.”
Where will the money go?
The Catholic Community Foundation of the Archdiocese of Cincinnati hopes to raise $130 million over the next five years. Here’s the plan to distribute the money:
Catholic schools and education: 50 percent
Parishes: 20 percent
Fostering vocations (seminarians): 12 percent
Care for retired priests: 10 percent
Catholic charities and social services: 8 percent
Source: The Archdiocese of Cincinnati