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ACCU-FUNDRAISING Feb-3-2009 (630 words) With photos posted Feb. 2. xxxn

Catholic colleges adjust fundraising efforts to fit economic climate

By Chaz Muth
Catholic News Service

WASHINGTON (CNS) -- While downsizing may be prudent for most organizations in an economic recession, the presidents of U.S. Catholic colleges said they are increasing the size of their fundraising staffs.

Philanthropic organizations and generous citizens with traditionally deep pockets may have gotten socked in the recent meltdown on Wall Street, but these presidents believe the time is still right to approach such institutions and individuals for much-needed contributions.

"The economy is bad, everyone is tightening their belts and the natural instinct is to say, 'Wait until everyone's financial situation gets stronger before asking for money,'" said Charles J. Dougherty, president of Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. "But we're on our way to having our best fundraising year ever. We just had to change the way we do our fundraising."

Like several other presidents attending the 2009 annual meeting of the Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities in Washington Jan. 31-Feb. 2, Dougherty said he has had to make cost-cutting measures to survive in the current economic climate, but he's actually added more staff to his development office.

"We had three major front-line fundraisers in that department and four people in administrative jobs," he told a roomful of professionals from Catholic colleges Feb. 2. "We realized we needed to get more people out on the street if we wanted to compete for those all-important gifts. So, we restructured that department, removed the four administrative people and hired more front-line fundraisers to go out on the road."

Now with 14 fundraisers in the development office, Duquesne representatives have increased their in-person visits to potential donors by 300 percent, Dougherty said.

"We've found that you have to keep going with your fundraising efforts in these challenging times, and you have to change your approach a bit," said Mary J. Meehan, president of Alverno College in Milwaukee. "We've also increased our staff in the development office, and we're finding that people are more willing to give than we would have expected in this economy."

Holy Cross Father Mark T. Cregan, president of Stonehill College in Easton, Mass., said the depressed economy has inspired fundraisers at his school to get creative in their approach, taking students along on their visits to donors, performing extensive research on potential contributors' financial situation before meeting them in person, and offering supporters' alternative and delayed gift-giving options.

All the college presidents who spoke about their fundraising efforts emphasized that it was vital to stress the Catholic identity of their institution when seeking gifts from a potential donor.

In his plenary address to the Catholic college presidents, Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travelers, said students, parents and potential contributors are looking for these institutions of higher education not only to be places to enrich intelligence, but also to augment a sense of spirituality for people of all faiths.

"The internationalization of our contemporary universities, facilitated by a new globalization, clearly provides the church with these new opportunities for listening and sharing in the spiritual experiences of the believers of other religions," Archbishop Marchetto said.

"Even before that, it provides occasions for those who have lived out their Catholic life in a different cultural setting to grow through fraternal love and support," he said.

Potential donors need to hear about the history of Catholic education in the U.S., what the impact has been on society and why it's important to keep these institutions competitive -- and affordable -- in today's American culture, Father Cregan said.

"One important note when approaching potential donors is, if you don't ask for enough, you can insult them," Meehan said. "Remember, their ability to contribute says something about their success and charitable contributions are a recognition of that."


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This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
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