Fundraising Fiasco: $2.5M Miss on Catholic Appeal

This post is an urgent plea to Cardinal O’Malley to make some bold changes in the governance and financial/administrative leadership of the Archdiocese of Boston–for the good of the future of the Catholic Church in Boston.

The theme of the 2010 Catholic Appeal was “Called to Love and Share.”  Though Catholics across the archdiocese have been waiting for six weeks now for the archdiocese to officially release the results of the 2010 campaign, based on what BCI has seen, people loved and shared a lot less with the archdiocese in 2010 than they did in previous years. That is cause for grave concern and decisive action.

They had a goal of raising $15 million and raised $12.5 million. Objectively, this is a fundraising fiasco. 

Of course, we were told in November the new fundraising group created by Jack Connors and Chancellor Jim McDonough was supposed to ensure donors of “independence and accountability,” so the ongoing failure to account for the results of the 2010 campaign is yet another example of the double-talk coming from 66 Brooks Drive and reasons why Catholic faithful have completely lost trust in the financial and administrative leadership.

As part of our normal work to keep up on the latest for BCI readers, we just happened to be looking at the Catholic Appeal website the other day, and coincidentally came across a report of results by parish in the area of “parish resources.”  It must be official, since it is on the website. Here is what it shows:

The Catholic Appeal had rebounded from a low of $8.8M in 2002 during the heat of the sexual abuse crisis to $15.1M in 2009.  As you can see from the chart below–taken from published figures anyone can find posted here–the 2010 results have set us back to about the same level last seen in 2005. 

CATHOLIC APPEAL PLEDGES (in $M)

We have mostly Jack Connors and Chancellor Jim McDonough to thank for this result, and in appreciation, we understand Cardinal O’Malley is planning to renew the term of the Chancellor for another 5 years, if he has not already done so.

All kinds of explanations are possible for this:

“It’s the economy.”  Well, the economy is about the same as it was last year, is it not?  And the stock market is up, as evidenced by the one-year chart of the NASDAQ seen to the right, so investment portfolios should allow for more donations.

Let’s see, then there is…, um….and then surely there is….er, and of course, we cannot forget the impact of, um, er…  

In other words, the folks at 66 Brooks Drive are struggling to explain this in a way that sounds comforting to anyone, so instead of being transparent and “accountable”, they are just saying nothing hoping everyone will forget eventually.

Objectively, we know that 48,838 people donated the previous year, and the number of donors has ranged between about 48,000 and 49,000+ over the past 5 years.  In 2010, suddenly the number of donors dropped to 46,099–nearly 3,000 fewer people than donated the year before–and the average donation per-person also dropped.

Here are two thoughts from BCI about what happened for everyone to consider:

Fundraising turmoil and a team with questionable track record. We all know that Jack Connors and Jim McDonough pushed out the previous fundraising team, put in a temporary guy,  deceived us all into thinking they were conducting an open nationwide search for a superstar fundraiser while they instead bided time and then announced Jack Connors’ crony, Kathleen Driscoll, for the position along with her team that had failed to meet their Catholic schools fund-raising goals, and now Jack’s crack fund-raising team is batting 0 for 2 on hitting their goals. Disrupt the operation at a critical time, install a team that missed previous goals, and you can probably expect they will miss again.  That is not fair to anyone. It is unfair to the Catholic faithful of the archdiocese who rely on certain ministries that could be cut.  It is unfair to priests and pastors who push their parishioners to donate to the appeal.  And it is unfair to the Pastoral Center employeees who once again face the prospect of layoffs due to potential budget cuts as well. The new team is largely from Hingham (home town of Kathleen Driscoll), has several people earning $200K+/year, and just hired yet another person (this one to do “marketing”), while at the same time, sources tell BCI they have no idea what many of the former Campaign for Catholic Schools people are actually doing every day.

Growing distrust in the financial/administrative leadership of the archdiocese.  Excessive 6-figure salaries while parishes run in the red, sham searches, deception, cronyism, conflicts of interest for nearly every “open search,” possible pension fraud and misdirection of funds, broken promises,  six weeks of paid vacation for the Chancellor, underqualified lay executives in high-paying positions, and more.  Has it occurred to anyone at 66 Brooks Drive that people are sick and tired of the corruption and are fighting back to regain Catholic values in the archdiocese the only way they know how to–via their checkbooks?

Some people might try to blame Boston Catholic Insider for some of this, and in the strongest terms, we disagree.  This blog is just reporting on the corruption and ethical breaches already happening.  Besides, the Archdiocese keeps dismissing the blog as not relevant.  After all, the blog has only had 132,372 unique visitors since last June and 48,000 returning visitors who have read a total of 207,804 pages, and most of our visits now come from emails forwarded by readers to friends and family members.  Why would anyone believe that faithful Catholics–upon being enlightened to the corruption, excessive salaries, misuse of funds, and other breaches of trust–would decide to hold back on donating to an entity whose actions and words suggest they cannot be trusted as good stewards of their hard-earned monies?

Besides, we tried to be helpful back last August and September when we offered our suggestions for how to restore trust in our Open Letter and some of our key suggestions have been ignored.  We respectfully asked the archbishop to deal with the excessive six-figure salaries and to not renew the term of the Chancellor.  The distrust in the Chancellor and in how he and his team are spending our money has become irreparable.  We hate to think that BCI will have to chronicle this in even more painstaking detail over the next 5 years, but we are in this for the long-haul.

We urge Cardinal O’Malley to make several bold moves to signal to the priests and laity of this archdiocese that he understands we need a change before it is too late.  A changing of the guard in financial management is needed, and a new Vicar General should have the freedom to install a new team that reports to him. Therefore, an independent, objective search for a new Chancellor (reporting to a new Vicar General, as the role should) and real action on cutting the excessive six-figure salaries are the best places to start in rebuilding trust.  Once new people are in place–who accept the teachings of the Catholic faith and for whom operating with Christ-like values are a part of who they are–then the diocese can mend the broken promises (eg. funding the lay and clergy pensions) and rebuild broken trust.

BCI asks all Catholics to let their priests and pastors know you want them to urgently communicate this request to the Cardinal in whatever way they deem appropriate.  This is not a BCI issue–it is for the good of the archdiocese and Catholic church for generations to come, and frankly, it is just common sense.

17 Responses to Fundraising Fiasco: $2.5M Miss on Catholic Appeal

  1. anonymous says:

    Why would anyone want to give to the Appeal given what’s going on at the Archdiocese?

    Wake up Donors!

  2. Albert says:

    Things do not look good. I’m getting concerned about the future.

  3. anonymous says:

    Albert

    Hope you are not in their pension plan.

  4. david budinger says:

    +sean and his aux bishops may have done separate fundraising to boost the overall total above the funds raised by the parishes. other arch/dioceses have shifted monies from legacies, one-time gifts, etc to their ‘annual’ appeals to cover shortfalls. the ‘braintrust’ in braintree has multiple ways of managing the numbers. so don’t take your stand on an individual statistic.

    • David, thank you for your comment. We have no knowledge of any separate fundraising to raise money for Central Ministries outside of the annual Catholic Appeal here in Boston. The report we saw compares the 2010 Catholic Appeal apples-to-apples vs the same effort in 2009. The appeal closed on January 31. FYI, last year, the results were reported publicly on February 8, 2010, and it is now almost six weeks later with no report. The Campaign for Catholic Schools “2010 Initiative” ended almost 3 months ago, and there is still no report.

      We are told by professional fund-raisers that you set goals you know you can achieve, and when you hit the goals, you broadcast that news and thank everyone involved. The dedicated workers who helped raise the money feel a sense of accomplishment and recognition, and the donors feel good that they and others were all a part of hitting an important milestone.

      Your point about how the ‘braintrust” in Braintree could manipulate things is a valid concern. Still, since the archdiocese set an expectation of accountability when they announced the new entity, BCI is simply holding them to their word.

    • Objective Observer says:

      David, you hit the nail on the head. If you turn your Annual Catholic Appeal coupon over, you’ll notice some small print that allows you to designate your gift to Blessed John XXIII Seminary or Saint John’s Seminary. If you designate one of these, and make your check payable to a seminary, the Appeal takes credit for the amount in its total, even though the donor demonstrates an intent for it to benefit a completely separate entity (neither is Corp Sole). This also gives the Appeal the ability to say it supports the seminaries (it does not). If you have given to either seminary in this way, notice who the payee is on the back of the cancelled check… it’s RCAB. At least in the case of Blessed John XXIII, the seminary is assured that the funds find their way into the seminary’s account. Someone at Saint John’s would know more about their luck with this.

      The second method that I know of is, in my opinion, a much darker and more questionable practice. Apparently an employee of the Appeal calls upon older people of great wealth, whom he has cultivated over the years, and whose mental acuity had diminished significantly. I know because I got a call from a family member who asked that I intervene in one case. The RCAB employee actually contacts them directly and convinces them to give an additional (they’ve usually already given a good-size check) large donation to the Appeal to get them to goal. In the case of which I had close knowledge, the family had to remove the elderly person’s checkbook so that it couldn’t happen again. In my business, this approach would be called larceny by trick, and the fellow seeking the money would by now be a guest of the governor, in Norfolk.

      If I know about those two methods for inflating the Appeal total, and I am not a 66 Brooks insider, surely others know of more of their tricks of the trade.

      • anonymous says:

        If someone wants to give to the many good causes at the Archdiocese, then I would urge them to make the contribution directly to that organization/parish.That way you can be assured it goes to the right place.
        The best way to address fiscal impropriety is to cut off funding.

        DO NOT GIVE TO THE APPEAL

        DO NOT DESIGNATE APPEAL MONEY.

  5. […] The Boston Herald is reporting this afternoon that the Boston Archdiocese has pulled the real estate listing of Holy Trinity in Boston, saying it was causing confusion about its intent. We will have more to say about this over the weekend. In the meantime, make sure you read our post from earlier today, “Fundraising Fiasco: $2.5M Miss on Catholic Appeal.” […]

    • Cardinal O'Connell says:

      Also was reported on radio that the property was taken off the market; a spokesman for Cardinal O’Malley was said to have explained that the property was put on the market to test the asking price of $2.3 million. Good one. Are they serious?

  6. DBP says:

    McDonough’s being re-upped? Very, very bad news. MOTS (more of the same) lies lie ahead.

  7. anonymous says:

    Who actually run/oversees the real estate department? What are their qualifications? 2.3 million seems low for this piece of real estate. With the amount of real estate RCAB currently owns I would assume they have a strong real estate department -right?

  8. Kelly says:

    Thanks for sharing the information about the fund raising tactic, it is a common practice by development professionals to tap into someone who supports the goals of an organization for additional donors. But it’s clear that RCAB is always tapping the same faithful people or internal organizations by either “reallocating” their money like McDonough does, btw it is discouraging to hear that his contract is renewed, or by make believe support to established and respected groups like the seminaries.

  9. Dan Brown says:

    Still can not believe they removed Scot Landry from the fundraising position. Do they now realize the mistake?

  10. […] Assuming the 2011 central ministries budget was “balanced” if they raised a minimum of $14 million from the  Catholic Appeal, what happens if they missed the goal and raised only $12.5 million in 2010 as the Feb. 4 Parish Results suggests happened? […]

  11. […] matter of fundraising and the growth of the archdiocesan fundraising feifdom in the wake of the 2010 Catholic Appeal fundraising fiasco, where donations and the number of donors dropped substantially from the previous […]

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