Diocese unveils results of fundraising campaign planning study

Seventy-five percent of the people interviewed or surveyed about a potential campaign to fund several priorities for the future growth of the Diocese of Nashville said they are in favor of such an effort.

That was one of the results of a fundraising campaign planning study completed by the Steier Group, a Catholic development consulting firm based in Omaha, Nebraska.

“I am extremely grateful for everyone’s participation in this important study,” Bishop J. Mark Spalding wrote in a letter to the faithful of the diocese. “The report showed solid support and favorable results. … Your valuable feedback and input will be considered as we examine the possible structure, timetable and goals of launching a diocesan-wide capital campaign in 2021.”

The Steier Group conducted the planning study earlier this year and reported its findings to the bishop on March 4, and to the diocesan Finance Council, Presbyteral Council and Development Committee in the following week.

But the growing COVID-19 pandemic and other events interrupted progress on the planning study and potential fundraising campaign.

“The spread of an illness, a natural disaster, civil unrest, an economic downturn – these events are never easy,” the bishop wrote. “In a meaningful way they do provide an opportunity for us to strengthen our mission to ‘Live and Proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, Welcoming All.’ Now, more than ever, embracing the shared mission of our diocese will help unite us.

“While many continue to suffer in various ways, we remain steadfast in our resolution to address today’s urgent needs of our diocese while remaining focused on our future as well. As we emerge from this crisis, our vision for the future will serve as a source of hope for our community as we reach out with God’s love and mercy to those in need,” he added.

“We, the Church, will always seek to do more and be more for the people of Middle Tennessee,” Bishop Spalding wrote. “Together, we can build a legacy to impact the faith in our region for generations to come.”

During the planning study, the Steier Group representatives conducted 129 personal interviews and collected 582 surveys completed online, mailed in or collected at several information meetings held at various parishes throughout the diocese.

Among the findings were:

• 75 percent were in favor of a campaign.

• 69 percent would make a personal gift.

• 158 respondents indicated that they would assist with personal solicitations of gifts for a campaign.

• 64 clergy and lay leader respondents indicated that they would serve on a clergy or campaign committee.

• 80 respondents indicated they have already left a gift to their parish or the diocese in their estate.

• 98 respondents indicated they would like to learn more about making an estate gift to their parish or the diocese.

“We got a great response,” said Ashley Linville, diocesan stewardship director.

In the survey, respondents were asked to rate five priorities for the future of the diocese. According to the Steier Group’s report, participants rated all the proposed priorities as high to moderately high in the following order: vocations, Catholic education, helping the marginalized, individual parish needs, and parish growth and expansion.

“They’re looking for support for each priority to be at a certain level before you move forward,” Linville said, “and all the priorities met that mark.”

“A big part of this campaign would be for endowments, which would support these ministries for the long term,” Linville said.

“The next move would be to begin the active planning process,” he added. “That’s the process you would go through once you decide to have a campaign.”

The Steier Group’s report included the following recommendations:

• Appoint a clergy committee that will be responsible for vetting campaign policies and procedures.

• Anchor campaign goals by the bishop’s vision for revitalization, renewal and substantial growth.

• Base the goals on the projected funding potential and feedback shared by donors, as well as projected parish and diocesan needs.

• Utilize the strategic planning initiatives at the diocese to provide additional details for each element addressed in a campaign.

• Implement a comprehensive communications plan that effectively promotes the campaign elements.

• Make the campaign a donor-centric effort that inspires supporters to renew their personal commitment to Catholic stewardship.

“We’re still prayerfully considering next moves,” Linville said. “The needs are still there. We’re just examining when would be the right time to move forward.”

To read the bishop’s letter and an executive summary of the Steier Group report, visit www.dioceseofnashville.com/planning-study.