First Place Award for General Excellence, Catholic Press Association, 2013-2016

Renew + Rebuild Parish Fund-raising Campaign Off to Strong Start
By JOHN WOODS
MARY DIBIASE BLAICH
Cardinal Dolan visits teacher Jennifer Nygard’s second-grade class at St. Teresa’s School on Staten Island Oct. 5. The cardinal also celebrated Mass for the school’s students and staff. St. Teresa’s successful showing in the archdiocese’s Renew + Rebuild parish fund-raising campaign means air conditioning will be installed in school classrooms and in Conran Hall.

With many Staten Island pastors and parish lay leaders gathered around him, Cardinal Dolan injected an upbeat note of congratulations at a gathering to formally introduce the archdiocese’s Renew + Rebuild parish fund-raising campaign, which already has raised $119.4 million, nearly 60 percent of the $200 million goal, in its early phases.

“We should be popping champagne corks,” the cardinal said during an Oct. 5 press conference in Conran Hall, a parish gymnasium at St. Teresa’s on Staten Island.

Throughout the past year and a half, 114 parishes have conducted their campaigns during Renew + Rebuild’s “quiet” phase, which included a 12-parish pilot program and the two initial parish blocks, in which 102 parishes participated.

A total of 132 parishes will roll out their campaigns during the next year, and a final phase of 44 parishes will be completed by March 2019, meaning more than 60 percent of the archdiocese’s 293 parishes are in the early stages of their campaigns or have not yet begun them.

When Cardinal Dolan first spoke to pastors and parish leaders about conducting such a campaign (the archdiocese’s first since the Bicentennial Campaign, 2005-2008, during the tenure of Cardinal Edward Egan), the cardinal said he asked what would they most like to see addressed. The top priority was parish capital improvements, the cardinal said, which extends beyond the reach of many parish budgets.

“If we are going to expand and strengthen and develop and continue our good work in an even more vibrant fashion, then we have to do some repairs and major improvements,” Cardinal Dolan said.

Bettina Alonso, executive director of development for the archdiocese, emphasized in her remarks that 74 percent of every dollar raised by parishes, or $130 million, would go toward parish capital improvement projects.

Before the press conference, Cardinal Dolan spent the morning celebrating Mass and visiting classrooms in St. Teresa’s School.

The repairs and upgrades at the church and school, being made possible by Renew + Rebuild, are significant. St. Teresa’s, which was one of the pilot parishes, topped its goal of $1.1 million by $100,000, said Anthony DeFazio, a parish trustee and chairman of the parish campaign, who spoke at the press conference and was interviewed by CNY afterward.

Both Conran Hall and the school classrooms will be outfitted with air conditioning, and needed wiring upgrades; the parish church and chapel will also undergo repairs; and the parish will be able to repay a loan.

Because of the many initiatives the campaign funding is making possible, “every parishioner has something they can feel good about,” DeFazio said.

DeFazio described the active campaign phase as an “intense” six-month period, which included weekly visits from the campaign’s associate director, Joseph Ferrara. The planning and coordination involving parish volunteers, DeFazio and Msgr. William Belford, the pastor, led to a campaign that brought the parish closer together. “I really met a lot of people,” said DeFazio, a 25-year parishioner of St. Teresa’s.

Msgr. Belford said without the “advice, prodding and encouragement” he and the parish team received from Ferrara and the other members of the Renew + Rebuild team, he thinks St. Teresa’s would have fallen “far short” of its goal.

“You are given all the guidance. You just have to follow the plan,” he told CNY.

In an interview with CNY the week before, Ms. Alonso said, “Parishioners and pastors were ready for the next capital campaign. Parishioners can see the needs.”

Ms. Alonso said the organization of Renew + Rebuild is like “293 mini-capital campaigns” in the archdiocese’s parishes, “and one huge one.”

Along with the $130 million to be returned to parishes for capital projects, another $10 million will be put into an endowment for extraordinary capital projects in parishes with special needs and $14 million will be applied to restoration costs at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The total of $154 million represents 87 percent of the $177 million funding that the Renew + Rebuild campaign expects from parish fund-raising.

Additional funding from the parish campaigns will include $8 million for an endowment for capital projects in Catholic high schools; $4 million for a programmatic endowment for evangelization and lay leadership formation; $4 million for programmatic support for Catholic Charities and an endowment for emergency grants in the upper counties of the archdiocese; and $7 million for the operating costs of the campaign.

A total of $23 million, which Cardinal Dolan is responsible for raising through direct solicitations of donors, will be earmarked for archdiocesan priorities, including a $10 million endowment for capital projects in the regional Catholic elementary schools in the archdiocese; $9 million for capital projects at St. Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, and the St. John Vianney Center for Retired Priests in the Riverdale section of the Bronx; and $4 million for the restoration costs of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

Ms. Alonso said the Renew + Rebuild campaign is breaking new ground by using Cardinal’s Stewardship Appeal managers, supplemented by seven or eight new employees, working with consultants from CCS Fundraising.

The “hybrid model,” which was “almost an experiment” at the outset, Ms. Alonso said, is paying dividends because of the familiarity Cardinal’s Appeal personnel enjoy with pastors and parish staff.

She gave high praise to CCS, which she called “the experts of religious capital campaign fund-raising,” and cited the excellent working relationship it has fostered, including an eagerness to transfer knowledge and provide mentoring and guidance to archdiocesan staff.

Ferrara briefly outlined a few benchmarks for a successful parish campaign. First and foremost is the direct engagement of the pastor to make one-on-one visits to the top donors in the parish to ask for support for the Renew + Rebuild campaign. Those visits can take place after Mass, in the rectory or at the home of parishioners.

More than $50 million, or nearly 40 percent of the total raised so far, has come from pastor visits.

At the same time he is asking for funds, the pastor will also urge some parishioners to consider being part of a campaign executive committee. The committee helps with the logistics associated with fund-raising receptions, in-pew solicitations and announcement weekends.

Members also are assigned to conduct some one-on-one solicitations themselves. A total of $10.5 million has been raised that way. Another $17.3 million has been raised from in-pew solicitations.

The last benchmark is adhering to a set timeline that gives proven guidance for the best time to publicly announce the campaign in the parish and when to conduct in-pew solicitations.

The “Follow the Plan” mantra becomes easier to adopt when early successes add up as the Renew + Rebuild campaign unfolds within a parish, Ms. Alonso said. Another primary driver is the word-of-mouth response from pastor to pastor.

The good early results have put Renew + Rebuild “a little bit ahead” of the pace expected at the outset, with plenty of parish campaigns still to be conducted, Ms. Alonso said.

“It’s like running a marathon,” she said. “You can’t celebrate too much at the middle.”

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