Nothing ‘Quiet’ About Archdiocese’s Campaign
The NonProfit Times – September 13, 2012
The Catholic Archdiocese of Detroit knew economic conditions were not ripe for a major capital campaign in 2010. Detroit was arguably at the nadir of an economic downturn that devastated the Big Three automakers, the fuel that had spurred its economy for a century.
The city’s unemployment rate peaked at 16.5 percent that September. U.S. Census figures showed that Detroit lost almost 25 percent of its population during the previous 10 years. The State of Michigan lost six percent of its population.
The six-county archdiocese was also hurting, losing $1.2 million a month. The population loss meant fewer Catholics in the pews. Many of those who remained had lost their jobs. Offertory giving to finance parish operations dropped. The archdiocese assesses part of those moneys for central administration and ministries, so that portion of its income also dropped.
The archdiocese tightened its belt by slashing expenses and forged ahead with a parish-based, $135-million capital campaign called “Changing Lives Together,” which ends next year.
“We launched the campaign because we had to. That’s the bottom line,” said William Blaul, the campaign’s communications coordinator.
Now nearing the halfway mark of the staggered campaign, Changing Lives Together has received $52 million in pledges from more than 36,000 households. The pledges are to be paid over three years. “Changing Lives Together is right on goal,” Blaul said. “Our fulfillment right now is right where we want it to be — better than 90 percent.”
Catholic Services Appeal, an annual fundraising effort that raises money for archdiocesan ministries and operations, continues to meet its goal, Blaul said, with slightly less than $18.7 million raised last year. “Right now we’re right on track for achieving success again this year.”
As if economic woes in the archdiocese’s six counties were not enough of a challenge, Blaul said campaign officials decided not to solicit advance gifts before taking the drive to the almost 270 parishes, the public phase of the campaign. That’s correct. There wasn’t a so-called quiet phase. Instead, fundraisers helped parishes identify their own major donors.
“I think that’s one of the things parishes have learned along the way,” he said. “Many of them know who their parishioners of means are, but I don’t know that pastors segmented people in terms of giving potential. They’re more concerned with the sacramental and pastoral care of donors.”
Through the campaign, pastors learned “you have to shepherd your major donors in this way as well,” he said. “Some of them haven’t been approached directly in many years, if at all, for a major gift.”
The success in Detroit might seem almost miraculous, especially in light of the 2012 Giving USA report that showed a 3.7 percent drop in giving to religion-related organizations between 2009 and 2011.
Blaul thinks one key to the success in and around the Motor City is the campaign’s parish-based approach. Some 70 percent of the goal, or $95 million, is set aside for parish projects such as renovation and repairs to churches, schools and halls, repaving of parking lots, enhancing ministries, an even paying down outstanding bills. The remaining 30 percent goes to the archdiocese to provide tuition assistance for Catholic schools students; help train priests, deacons and lay leaders; strengthen urban ministries within the city of Detroit, and pay for the campaign.
Each parish determined its own projects after a series of strategic planning sessions that included looking at ministries of nearby parishes to see whether they might collaborate in certain areas, improving overall youth ministry while reducing the total cost to parishes involved. All of the money raised in excess of a parish’s goal is returned to the parish.
Blaul compared the parish-based approach to his past work with the Red Cross. “We were most successful when we asked donors to contribute to victims of this hurricane or that wildfire,” rather than to a national campaign for ongoing needs, he said. “Here we’re asking parishioners to respond to parish-based needs. The closer we bring that campaign to what they feel in their hearts and in their minds, the better.”