Endowments - The Fundraiser's Apple Seed

Dear Father Zagloba,

I've been talking to the Director of Development for the Diocese, and we've come up with a brilliant idea. An endowment!!!

Stay with me here. You have probably heard in one of your clergy meetings that about 15 years ago, the Bishop created a diocesan Catholic Foundation. This foundation is a separate non-profit from the Diocese, and it exists for the sole purpose of shepherding and safeguarding endowment funds for parishes and Catholic Organizations in the Diocese.

Planning for eternity

With most giving in the parish, donated funds quickly move to serve some purpose… running a program, fixing toilets, even building a new building. Donors expect to have an immediate impact, and that expectation typically bears fruit.

Endowments, on the other hand, provide a way to make a gift that keeps on giving. Gifts to the endowment are prudently invested to preserve the principle, while a portion of the profits can be devoted to supporting the parish. The endowment becomes a growing body of income producing assets that can support the parish as long as civilization continues.

Donors, especially donors who have the ability to make larger gifts, love being able to make this kind of gift. They know that their gift will continue to bear fruit long after they are gone, and so they view it as a way to leave a legacy of their support for the Church.

How long is forever?

The oldest endowment that I know about is the gift that founded Oxford College in England. Some nobleman decided that he wanted to make a gift that would continue to serve the school for future generations. About 800 years later, it's still going strong.

The long view allows us to start small. If we form an endowment now, it might be 5-10 years before it really starts producing meaningful income for the parish. Besides set up and telling people about it, the process is relatively painless in the short-term. Where it really begins to pay off is in the long-term.

Will the Catholic Church exist in 50 years? 100? 500? With the last 2,000 years as a guide, I'd be willing to bet that it will weather any storm that the world or the devil will throw at it. We also have the assurances of Christ that the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church that He founded. So this endowment will continue to have a purpose in 100, 200, or even 500 years.

Important, but not urgent

The one challenge that we'll face putting the endowment together is the fact that there will always be something more pressing and more urgent for us to do. If you want an apple right now, you don't plant an apple tree. You go to the store. Planting an orchard takes forethought, a willingness to invest your energy now for something you'll get to enjoy only much later.

So my question for you is, "Are you a planter or a grocery shopper?" Realistically, we have to be both, and ultimately our short game and our long game will work together. I think that the parish will appreciate that you're taking steps to ensure the future stability of the parish, especially if we put it in the context of meeting the parishes current needs as well.

Let me know what you think, and we can get started.


Nathan - the Almoner

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