Since the arrival of Bishop Dennis Sullivan, a great deal of emphasis has been placed on the restructure and stability of the financial statement of the diocese. Under the guidance of William Murray, diocesan Chief Financial Officer, and the accounting staff, and with the mutual assistance of the Financial Council, the balance sheet of the diocese has improved dramatically. This was accomplished by liquidating non-performing assets, cost-cutting measures, and a change in the overall philosophy of several diocesan financial elements. All of these changes were done with approval and support of Bishop Sullivan.
With the stabilization of the diocese it was now time to focus on the parishes and certain diocesan ministries. We determined that expenses were not the budgetary issue but one of revenue. This brought us to the topic of fundraising and/or a capital campaign. This had been an old topic of conversation within the council, dating back to 2007. Unfortunately, with the announcement of parish mergers, the onset of the great recession, and the overall weakness in the local and global economy, it was wisely decided not to pursue a capital campaign.
Fast forward 10 years, we find ourselves in a very different economic situation. Thankfully, parishes have stabilized both attendance and revenues, but some challenges still remain, especially on the local level. So in an effort to structure our Finance Council in a manner consistent with USCCB Guidelines, we choose to create an Institutional Advancement subcommittee for the purpose of exploring a capital campaign. Members of this committee include myself and Patrick McGrory, Vice Chairperson of the Finance Council. Other members include Jim Lanahan, Director of Development, William Murray, Delegate for Temporalities, Michael Walsh, Director of Communications, and Sheila McGirl, Associate Director of Development for the House of Charity.
Our committee was formed in the last quarter of 2016. We met on several occasions and we determined that we should seriously investigate a capital campaign. With the permission of Bishop Sullivan, we began to solicit the best known fundraising firms for proposals. We followed the same procedures that parishes are asked to follow when they conduct their own campaigns. We solicited proposals from five national recognized firms, each of whom had extensive experience in diocesan-wide campaigns.
We interviewed all five firms, spending several hours with each firm. The interviews were in-depth and comprehensive and targeted to covering the critical needs of our diocese and its parishes. Each firm concluded that we were well-positioned to succeed and that our needs were similar to other dioceses throughout the country. We felt that all the firms were capable of managing our campaign. However, one firm stood out within the group and we unanimously chose “Changing Our World.”
With further permission from Bishop Sullivan, we hired “Changing Our World” to conduct a feasibility and planning study in the early part of 2017. The study took six months to complete. Pastors and clergy of each parish were interviewed, as well as most department heads within the diocese. The outcome of the study was very positive. In particular, the pastors were very pleased about the revenue sharing provided by the campaign.
Each parish will receive 70 percent of the funds raised in their parish. This would allow them to consider paying down debt, making capital improvements, and focus on the critical needs of their parish. Those needs might also include resources to strengthen their local ministries.
In addition to the study, we believe success will come from a good economic environment that will likely continue. Unemployment is low, the stock market is near all-time highs, and many household net worth’s have never been higher. We believe we have the ideal climate for a Capital Campaign.
We pray you will join us in this very important endeavor and make a generous pledge to your parish community and support the spirit of stewardship for our diocese.
Joseph DiFilippo is a member of the Institutional Advancement Committee, Diocese of Camden Finance Council.