Need is great ‘now more than ever’ for Catholic schools

Holding the annual fundraiser for the Diocese of Nashville’s Advancement of Catholic Education in the midst of a pandemic highlights the need to support Catholic schools, said diocesan Director of Development Ashley Linville.

“Now more than ever, the need is great,” Linville said. “We want to make Catholic education accessible to all and ACE funds help make that a possibility.”

This year, the ACE fundraiser will be an online event, rather than the in-person dinner it has been in the past. It will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 27. The event will be hosted by ACE board member Marty Blair and will open with a prayer from Bishop J. Mark Spalding. It will feature several videotaped messages about the importance of supporting ACE and Catholic schools in the diocese.

The ACE fundraiser will highlight what each of the diocese’s schools does well, Linville said. “Each school has its own strengths. This will give us the opportunity to showcase some of those.”

For the first time, the ACE event will include an online auction.

The event will be patterned after the recent seminarian education fundraiser that was held as an online event. Linville hopes to use some of the lessons learned from that successful event in organizing the ACE fundraiser.

“We learned, one, that people are generous,” Linville said. Before the Seminarian Education Event, there was some anxiety about whether people would participate in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said. “We found out in a resounding way that yes people will support things they’re passionate about.”

Organizers also learned to make sure the online program is succinct, Linville said. “If people are going to go online to watch, you’ve got to keep it shorter than you would for an in-person event.”

“You want to make sure your message is clear and that you share the importance of what you’re doing,” Linville said.

ACE was created in 1992 to provide additional funding for the 16 diocesan schools, primarily through tuition assistance, although the funds can be used for more than tuition, such as purchasing academic materials or funding campus improvements.

Donors can designate their gift for a specific school or for a general fund that is used to help all the schools. 

Currently, the ACE endowment is valued at about $5 million, and diocesan officials would like to ultimately build it to as much as $30 million.

Last year’s dinner, which was the third time the event had been held, raised a record amount of more than $400,000. Half of that was raised through sponsorships, ticket sales and donations, and the balance came from a matching grant from an anonymous donor.

Organizers are hoping to exceed last year’s donations before the matching grant of just over $200,000.

Event sponsorships are available. For more information about the ACE event, sponsorships or how to make a donation, visit www.dioceseofnashville.com/ace.