Jack Connors’ Catholic Schools 2010 Initiative: The Verdict is…

With the big Catholic Schools convocation happening tomorrow–featuring a keynote speech by someone who knows less about Catholic elementary and high school education than most of the members of the audience–we thought now that it is also the start of 2011, this would be an OUTSTANDING time to recap on how Jack Connors’ Campaign for Catholic Schools “2010 Initiative” closed out its 3-year campaign.  Maybe this will be discussed tomorrow, along with the actual goals for Superintendent of Schools Mary Grassa O’Neill and the rest of her $1M-salaried team of superintendents, but we have not gotten a copy of the agenda or presentations.

Bottom line in fund-raising as we are told by several professional fund-raisers is hitting your goal.  If you get close to the goal, that is nice, but since you set the goal yourself in fund-raising, when you publicly announce a goal, you really want to hit it. In the case of Jack Connors’ 2010 Initiative, by all indications he/they failed to hit the goal. Getting as far as they did only came with funds from the archdiocese and other sources to help them. And troubling questions remain about who will make up the gap?  The archdiocese?  You and me?  Jack himself?

We bring this up because that same team is driving the annual Catholic Appeal and most fund-raising across the archdiocese, and if the team and methodology failed to achieve the goals for the Catholic Schools 2010 Initiative, what happens if they fail to hit the goals for raising funds that support parishes and almost every ministry people depend on?

We wrote to Kathleen Driscoll, Vicar General Fr. Erikson, Chancellor Jim McDonough, Communications Secretary Terry Donilon, and Cardinal O’Malley last week to ask if they could let us know how the campaign ended up.  Of course, we got no response.  (Perhaps that is because Kathleen is scrambling to deal with the low returns on the Annual Appeal right now and Terry is so busy keeping the Boston Globe in his back-pocket writing positive stories about the Cardinal’s annual Christmas-time visits to a prison and Pine Street Inn that he forgets who is paying his $166K/year salary.  But we digress…).

Anyway, we are receiving an increasing number of inquiries and complaints from donors, priests, and pastors about the current situation with fund-raising in the Archdiocese.  When the new Boston Catholic Development Services entity was announced in early November, the press release said the new structure would ensure donors of “independence and accountability.”  We are confused here at BCI.  How can there be accountability in fund-raising when there are no publicly-established goals and no communication of interim or final results?

As best as we can determine from public sources like press releases and their most recent financial report, the Campaign for Catholic Schools was formed to raise the following amounts, and here are the results:

  • $15M for Brockton’s Trinity Academy, but needed $2M from the Archdiocese to get close to the goal
  • 70M for Dorchester’s Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy, but raised at best $58M as of early November, including $15M from the Yawkey Foundation, which diverted other support from Yawkey all to the Campaign.  Needed $20M+ loan from the Archdiocese’s Revolving Loan fund normally used just for parishes.  Repayment of that $20M in its entirety seems to be at risk given the short-fall in overall fund-raising
  • $5M for Gloucester’s St. Ann’s School, and did not approach that goal
  • $500K for South Boston Catholic Academy.
  • New academies formed in Lawrence and Quincy are apparently relying more on the Catholic Schools Foundation than the Campaign.

We asked the archdiocese these questions:

  • How have each of the above done in terms of results against the established goals? How much of a subsidy was required by the Archdiocese for each of the above?
  • If they have failed to achieve their goals, why?
  • Is the Campaign for Catholic Schools 2010 Initiative officially over now? When are the results going to be publicly announced? If there are shortfalls vs goals, how will those be made up?
  • Did Pope John Paul II Academy cost only $70M, or were there cost overruns?
  • If people concluded that the Campaign for Catholic Schools had failed to meet their goals, how would you react to concerns that the exact same team is now being advanced to run all fund-raising for the Archdiocese?

No response.  As best as we can determine, for none of these “sub-campaigns” have they hit the goal without getting the Archdiocese to kick in its scarce funds or getting a major benefactor or foundation to redirect its support.

To be fair, the Campaign did gain support and in November, the archdiocese said they had raised $58M. But did the campaign mastermind and supposed fund-raiser extraordinaire, Jack Connors,  succeed in accomplishing the goals that Connors himself established? Unless there is information we cannot get ahold of today, the answer would appear to be that he failed. If they succeeded and there is proof they hit the $70M target, we will issue a correction immediately.

We are also curious if the Campaign repaid the $2.9M+ their annual report says they owed the Archdiocese Revolving Loan fund on December 1, 2010 as well as the $1M the report says was due on January 1, 2011.

Now the Archdiocese is housing and paying for the staff from the Campaign that could be costing–fully burdened–as much as $1.8-$2M per year when combined with what remained of the previous fund-raising staff.  (Kathleen and her #2 cost around $500-525K just in salaries, and when you add in all 15 people with benefits, it is tough not to get close to $2M in salaries and benefits expense).  This team could not meet the goal in 3 years, even with the one-time gift of $15M by the Yawkey Foundation. If you subtract out the Yawkey Foundation gift from the $58M announced in November, that would be only $43M over 3 years, or about $14M/year–much less than all of the entities they are currently responsible for need to raise just to keep the lights on.

In fundraising, people we spoke to who are expert in the field say that organizations quietly line up donors to get at least half of the total goal pre-committed before anything is announced publicly.  This could take as long as a year or more if necessary, because at the same time, you want to have at least a 90-95% likelihood of reaching the goal. For the Campaign for Catholic Schools, we saw 3 different goals announced from their own PR.  It seems to us that Jack and the Campaign have failed in each case to hit their goal without the archdiocese pitching in.  Can someone let us know if we are wrong?

When will the Cardinal and others realize Jack has not actually brought the level of success to the finances of this archdiocese that the Cardinal originally thought he would bring when he let Jack back in the ‘inner circle’ and on the Finance Council?

Furthermore, assuming we are correct that the Campaign failed to meet their own goals, the questions must also be asked, “Why?” and “What will be different going forward?”

Some of this might be blamed on the poor economy.  But we have also been hearing for a year now that the Jack Connors model of fund-raising counts on the deep-pocketed “older” money–not the “widow’s mite.”  In this case, it is the most loyal and generous benefactors to the archdiocese who are being tapped over and over again.  They needed to get behind this campaign.

Why did they all not get behind “his” campaign?   Might some people disagree with Jack’s vision for Catholic schools?  “While people may think that we are rebuilding a few Catholic schools, in fact we are rebuilding the Catholic faith.  Failure is not an option…” (Jack Connors, Jr, Chairman, Campaign for Catholic Schools).

Might at least some of them have decided to not sacrifice for “Jack’s campaign” because he bad-mouthed the archdiocese when things were tough back in 2002, stopped his own donations, and pulled other benefactors away?  Anyone else remember Jack’s comments from the Boston Globe back in December of 2002 when Jack was called the “pope of Boston’s Catholic powerbrokers”?:

“In the spring, when Connors publicly walked away from Law, saying the cardinal wasn’t listening to him or anybody else, the city’s other power brokers sat up and noticed. If Jack had turned his back on Law, the word went, the cardinal was history. Connors, who had helped raise millions of dollars for his church, began withholding donations. Others followed suit.

On Friday, after he learned that Law had resigned, Connors chuckled ruefully when asked if one of his ambitions as a young man was to someday help bring down an archbishop.

“Still, he was asked, it must be painful, knowing that the cardinal he helped steer through the cliquey corridors of power in Boston he also helped steer out the door.

”Looking back,” Connors said, ”I don’t have a single regret.”

Here on the blog, we wonder what Jack will do once he has gotten whatever it is he wants from the current archdiocesan leadership.  He landed the former Chancery and Seminary grounds and buildings for his alma mater, Boston College.  Caritas Christi is now free from the archdiocese, and potentially available for his Partners Healthcare to snap up in a few years.  He has control over the Catholic Schools.  Even though his team and approach apparently failed to reach their 2010 Initiative goals, he also has control over all fund-raising too.

What more does Jack want?  If anyone knows him well, do us a favor and ask Jack, and let us know the answer.

More importantly, what will the archdiocese do going forward if Jack’s approach–now a part of Boston Catholic Development Services and enforced on us by virtue of Jack Connors chairing the Institutional Advancement committee of the Finance Council–fails to hit the goal again?

2 Responses to Jack Connors’ Catholic Schools 2010 Initiative: The Verdict is…

  1. Angry Parish Council Member says:

    don’t hold your breath waiting for the archdiocese to acknowledge Jack’s campaign failed to meet the goal. I’d bet they’ll find some way of combining it all together and hand-wave to make it look like they succeeded.

  2. […] we mentioned in early January in our post “Jack Connors’ Catholic Schools 2010 Initiative: The Verdict is…”, the 2010 Initiative of the Campaign for Catholic Schools was supposed to raise $70 million and […]

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