The Catholic Fundraiser

Mission-First Philosophy is Changing Catholic Philanthropy — Here’s How

Posted by Sarah O. Hanley on 8/20/18 12:16 PM
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Working towards the growth and sustainability of Catholic institutions is a concept you’re likely quite familiar with.

As many parishes struggle, convents cease to exist, and Mass attendance dwindles, it has become apparent that what Catholic entities need now is an approach to fundraising that has never been done before — an approach that will not only preserve our Catholic institutions but sustain them for future generations.

Keeping the Sustainability of Catholic Faith-Based Organizations in Mind

Five years ago, The Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia (CFGP) was formed with sustainability of Catholic faith-based organizations in mind. When it opened its doors in July 2013, CFGP’s principal purpose was to preserve and foster the long-term sustainability of the parishes and Catholic entities within the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.

How? With a mission-first approach to fundraising. That might seem obvious to some of us, but the truth is, organizations often forget the true reason they’re even doing the work that they do. The stress of fundraising and making ends meet becomes the forefront of their daily responsibilities, and that is the beginning of the end.

Focusing on Your Organization’s Mission

In order to be successful, you can’t lose sight of why your organization exists. Your mission is everything, and if you don’t believe in it, donors won’t either. With this in mind, CFGP embarked on a mission of its own: to grow philanthropy throughout the Philadelphia area that is consistent with our Catholic faith.

Our mission is not so different from other Catholic Community Foundations in the country except for one small but crucial detail: CFGP was designed to address philanthropy from both the donor perspective as well as the institutional perspective.

Philanthropy: From a Donor Perspective and an Institutional Perspective

Like many other Catholic foundations, CFGP addresses philanthropy from a donor perspective by offering several types of charitable funds. These include Donor-Advised Funds, Designated Funds, and Endowment Funds that all give back to the community through grant awards. Those who choose to establish a fund within CFGP have the ability to award grants and distribute funds to any of their charitable interests. CFGP not only stewards donors’ funds according to their wishes but uses its expertise to introduce those donors to new organizations and ministries that they may never have heard of before.

While having this investment component of philanthropy is important for all Catholic Community Foundations, there is a very present need that is not fulfilled by these services alone. As I mentioned, CFGP addresses philanthropy not just from a donor perspective, but an institutional perspective as well.

Our priests, Catholic school educators, and social service providers have increasingly demanding jobs. To also manage the creation of appeal letters, grant applications, and social media is unrealistic, overwhelming, and frankly detrimental to their regular responsibilities in their respective roles. Our priests should be focused on providing spiritual direction; our Catholic school teachers should be concentrating on educating our children; and our social service providers should be directing their attention to feeding the hungry and clothing the poor.

While some parishes and Catholic organizations have a dedicated Development professionals, many do not. What’s more, there is rarely enough time in the day for a development professional to take on every aspect of philanthropy.

Enter CFGP’s Mission Advancement Services (MAS)

The first of its kind, CFGP’s MAS puts Catholic organizations’ missions at the forefront of fundraising. In fact, MAS was designed to take the pressure off our Catholic organizations so they can focus on what they love and do best – living their mission. By offering nonprofit fundraising assistance and consulting through MAS, CFGP is actively working towards sustaining our Catholic institutions for years to come.

Evolve Fundraising with a Mission-First Philanthropic Approach

As the philanthropic world around us changes, our approach to religious fundraising must evolve. By taking a mission-first philanthropic approach, both with donors and institutions, Catholic Foundations can help preserve the Faith in their local communities. For donors, this will allow better stewardship of gifts while being introduced to new organizations whose mission aligns with their interests. For institutions, they can be guided towards effective and efficient fundraising, allowing them to focus on what makes their mission thrive.

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Sarah O. Hanley

Written by Sarah O. Hanley

Sarah is the Executive Director of The Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia (CFGP). She leads CFGP’s Mission Advancement Services (MAS) development consulting division and is responsible for the Catholic Charities Appeal for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the St Charles Borromeo Seminary Appeal as well as other campaigns and appeals. These combined efforts raise approximately $20 million annually.

Prior to the formation of The Catholic Foundation of Greater Philadelphia in 2013, Sarah worked for the Office for Stewardship and Development at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia as Director of Stewardship and then as Director of Appeals. The majority of her career was spent in national sales leadership, strategic account management and business development roles. Sarah holds a BS in Marketing and Management from Drexel University.

Sarah is a frequent presenter at Philadelphia area workshops and conferences. She is an active member of St Kevin Parish in Springfield, PA where she leads their Stewardship Council and is President of the Women’s Club Board of Directors. She is a mentor for the Association of Fundraising Professionals - Greater Philadelphia Chapter and a member of the Advisory Board for Villa Maria Academy Lower School. Sarah is a former member of the National Catholic Development Conference Board of Directors.