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Daring to Dream, Fundraising in Catholic Organizations

Join the upcoming workshop presented by The Catholic Development Council of The Nonprofit Alliance, The Challenges of Ministry and Mission for Catholic Fundraisers, led by Sister Susan Durkin, OSU, and sponsored by American City Bureau.

Pope Francis once said, “We need lay people who take risks, who get their hands dirty, who are not afraid of making mistakes, who go forward. We need lay people with a vision of the future, not confined to the little things of life.” He concluded, the Church needs lay people who “dare to dream.” 

Photo by Matthew T Rader on Unsplash

Through my work as a major gifts/capital campaign consultant, 16 years of Catholic schooling, along with the associations and boards on which I have served, I have worked with hundreds of lay directors of development.   

Those who thrive in their positions have long, meaningful careers and share a deep devotion to the organization or religious community they represent.  These lay development directors reap the rewards that come from building and nurturing meaningful relationships with donors.  Some directors have described their experience as “coming home.”  

A common thread among their success is the leadership who trusted these directors to dream.  Leadership welcomed them, listened, and were open to new ideas.  They respected and supported the office of mission advancement, even when they did not fully understand it.  And leadership garnered precious buy-in by communicating the importance of advancement to everyone in the organization.  You could say leadership took risks and went forward in trust.   

What a powerful combination!  Leaders who trust and development directors who dare to dream.  And do we not need this dynamic more than ever?  The challenges of ministry and mission in Catholic fundraising are well documented and, more so, felt.  Church scandals, the shrinking number of people in the pews, and a shift to a virtual reality brought on by the pandemic are some of the universal roadblocks. The diminishing numbers of vowed religious and religious in development positions is a more specific hurdle to advancement.   

Yes, these are challenges but are they insurmountable?  No, I do not believe so.  When I am overwhelmed, I like to ground myself in Henri Nouwen’s teachings.  Fundraising is not, as he reminds us, a response to the crisis but rather a way to invite others into our mission.  I love how Nouwen puts it—fundraising is “proclaiming what we believe in such way that we offer other people an opportunity to participate with us in our vision and mission.”   

Now more than ever before, it will be up to lay people to get their hands dirty, as our Pope tells us, and play an active role in the Church’s renewal.  In my opinion, this very much includes the way we look at advancement in Catholic organizations.  Together, religious and lay must work together and unite forces to remain true to our Catholic identity and promote with passion our life-giving missions.  We must collaborate, trust, and work to bring out the best in one other.  We must dare to dream! 

NOTE: The Catholic Development Council of The Nonprofit Alliance invites you to join the upcoming workshop on March 10, The Challenges of Ministry and Mission for Catholic Fundraisers, led by Sister Susan Durkin, OSU, a 30-year member of the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland who brings seven years of service as her congregation’s Director of Development.

Leslie Biggins Mollsen
Author: Leslie Biggins Mollsen

Leslie Biggins Mollsen is CEO of American City Bureau.

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