Appeal supports schools, parishes, ministries

By Michelle Martin | Staff writer
Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Annual Catholic Appeal posted record numbers for its 2011 campaign, receiving more than $21 million in pledges from 97,500 donors.

“I think people really get it,” said Barbara Shea Collins, director of development services/Annual Catholic Appeal. “They know these ministries are necessary, and they know that so many people can’t support it like maybe they used to, so they are going to give what they can.”

Collins and other archdiocesan officials hope the success of the 2011 campaign, which will close its books at the end of January, will carry over into the 2012 campaign, which will be kicked off in February.

That campaign, with the theme “Be Imitators of Christ!” will be announced at Masses on Feb. 4-5, with parishioners asked to make a pledge the following weekend, Feb. 11-12. Follow-up for those who did not make a pledge will take place Feb. 18-19.

The Annual Catholic Appeal supports the ministries of the Archdiocese of Chicago, including Catholic schools and religious education; support for parishes in financial need; seminaries and ongoing formation of priests, deacons and lay ministers; and offices such as Respect Life and Family Ministries that help support Catholics as they live out their faith. A portion of the proceeds also supports Catholic Relief Services, the U.S. bishops’ international relief and development agency.

While the Annual Catholic Appeal has established a track record of success, the 2011 appeal showed a big jump in the number of donors — up 5,000 to 97,500. The amount pledged rose $3.9 million to $21.3 million. And the amount paid through mid-January went up $3.4 million to $19.7 million.

In addition, parishes will be getting even more money back.

That’s because parishes are asked to contribute only 6 percent of their ordinary annual income. Any donations above that level are rebated to the parishes they came from for the parishes’ use. This year, $3.5 million is to be rebated to more than two-thirds of the archdiocese’s 357 parishes.

Collins said the Office for Stewardship and Development is particularly proud that 92 cents of every dollar raised goes directly to the schools, parishes, agencies and ministries of the Archdiocese of Chicago, with only 8 cents going to pay for all administrative and fundraising expenses. According to the Better Business Bureau, charities should spend more than 35 cents of every dollar on fundraising and administrative costs.

“People know the money is going to go where we say it’s going to go,” Collins said. “They know what has to be done and they’re willing to support it.”

Part of the appeal’s success, Collins said, is that pastors throughout the archdiocese have bought in to the process, which involves three weekends of activities, starting with the announcement weekend. On commitment weekend, parishioners are all asked to fill out a pledge envelope in the pew, during Mass, even if they choose not to contribute.

“It’s a given that if the pastors don’t support it, it’s not going to be successful,” she said. “They know they are going to get their rebates. A lot of the parish plans have that money coming back built in to the budget.”

Another part of this year’s success might be the Annual Catholic Appeal’s added focus on making it easy for people to donate by, for example, accepting online gifts, and on following up and reminding people to pay what they pledged.

But those internal efforts do not have anywhere near the effect of the good will of the people in the pews, Collins said, noting that the donations are generally modest, and come from people who would not consider themselves affluent.

“It’s the spirit of the people,” she said.

“We hear from people all the time who say, ‘We’re very lucky. We still have our jobs, so we can do this.’ There’s a gratitude, of course.”