In this episode, Andrew visits with Mary Macuga, the director of the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Brisbane. Mary has 22 years of experience in Catholic fundraising, and she and Andrew chat about the unique challenges of fundraising in different parts of the world and the universal need to be authentic and transformed in our fundraising.
Mary began her career in development at the Catholic Newman Center at Arizona State University. During her years at Arizona State, Mary learned everything she could about fundraising, and she received her MA in Philanthropy and Development from St. Mary’s University of Minnesota. After her years fundraising for the Newman Center, Mary worked for a Catholic foundation in Phoenix, and eventually, she and her family made the move to Australia where Mary took the position as director of the Catholic Foundation of the Archdiocese of Brisbane.
The Catholic Foundation (Archdiocese of Brisbane)
As director of the Catholic Foundation in Brisbane, Mary raises funds for charitable works across the archdiocese. While raising money for Catholic social services, for retired priests, for catholic education scholarships, Mary understands that her work is not just about the money. Her work is very much a work of transformation and evangelization.
Catholicism and Philanthropy in Australia
Mary shares with Andrew about the differences she sees in fundraising and philanthropy in Australia. Mary describes how religion in Australia is often more personal and less public than it is in the United States. The Catholic population in Australia is very generous, but they want to give privately, without recognition, and the desire for privacy sometimes makes Mary’s work in fundraising more challenging.
Storytelling, Authenticity, and Conversion
Mary and Andrew discuss how important storytelling is to fundraising, and Mary offers advice on how she worked to become a better storyteller. She emphasizes the need to be authentic, to be a good listener, and to know how to engage a donor in conversation. As Mary shares, “you don’t have to be charming and charismatic to be a good fundraiser. You just have to be real.” Finally, Mary and Andrew highlight how fundraising is a call to conversion, not just for the donor, but also for the fundraising professional as well.
If you could fundraise for any organization or cause at any time in history, what would it be?
I’d fundraise for the poorest of the poor. I would have loved to be able to walk up to Mother Teresa and say, “What do you need? I’m going to get it for you.”
If you could get a donor meeting with anyone living or dead, who would it be?
Benjamin Franklin. He was a great man of faith and virtue, and he had a passion for building community.
Is there enough money out there for every organization that's doing good work?
Oh, yes! I do think, however, that as a Catholic nonprofit sector, we need to think more about collaboration and sharing resources so as to not bombard donors with so many different letters and requests for funding.
What is one piece of advice that you would give your past self?
Virtue stands in the middle. To combat polarization (especially in our current world!), we need to stand in the middle to hear both sides, to hold hands with both sides.
Who are 3 people who have most influenced you, professionally?
Fr. Nathan Castle and Fr. Fred Lucci: Two Dominican priests I worked with at the Arizona State Newman Center. They led me to expand my capacity to love God and to love this work.
Vicar General in Brisbane: He was an exceptionally cheerful, pastoral, kind man.
What is one fact about you that most people don’t know?
I’m a black belt in karate.
What is a book that you would recommend?
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin by Benjamin Franklin
If you would like to connect with Mary, you can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
My first takeaway fits in nicely with that point. I loved how Mary shared that the act of philanthropy is not just a time of reflection and conversion for the donors, but also for us as fundraisers. I can attest to this as many times throughout my career, the generosity that I have been witness to has inspired and made me reflect on my own spiritual walk and relationship with God. Fundraising is a tough line of work but moments like that bring to mind the great privilege that it is as well. We are invited in to people’s lives in a special way through our work to facilitate acts of charity that if we are open to it, can have transformative impact on our own lives in profound ways. Conversations like this with Mary help to reinforce that and hopefully will give you the opportunity to reflect and remember them in tough times as well.
That is a perfect segue into my second takeaway. Fundraising is tough. Mary used the phrase, "it's a slog", which i know that i have heard so it must not just be an Australian term. The late night meetings. The tediousness of updating the database. The feelings of failure when you make 2 hours of calls and don’t get a single appointment. It is tough. But that’s where that conversion of heart and understanding our why becomes so important. Simon Sinek talks about knowing your why. Why do you do this work? What is your ultimate motivation? If you are in fundraising, especially in faith-based fundraising, just to close deals and build your resume, you will eventually realize there are easier ways to make a living. You have to know and believe that the impact that your work is having is for a greater purpose and be willing to stick it out on even the most frustrating days.
And lastly, I loved her quote that virtue stands in the middle. In media stat virtus. What a great thing to remember. Plato and Aristotle taught about the cardinal virtues of temperance, prudence, justice and fortitude. As Christians, we must be willing to embrace and live these virtues even when faced with challenges and extreme views. Virtue stands in the middle is an excellent perspective that we can do so much more good in the world when we recognize and remember that people are people and we are called to love them and recognize their inherent worth even when we disagree with their personal stance on issues. As Mary said, standing in the middle allows us to hold hands with both sides and fight for communion.
Thank you again for joining me for this podcast. As you listen today, know that I am praying for you today in a special way. If you ever want to connect, please feel free to email me at email@example.com. I would love to connect and learn more about you and what you are working on or struggling with. God bless and we’ll see you next time.