St. Mary of the Assumption Parish
Executive Summary of the Findings & Recommendations
Introduction & Methodology
Greater Mission, LLCconducted a Feasibility Study for a proposed Capital Campaign for the parish. A Gift Analysis/Constituent Study was conducted in conjunction with DonorSearch. A case statement, study questionnaire and interview list was produced with the assistance of the pastor and parish staff. The study consisted of input from parishioners through individual interviews, a Town Hall meetings and an In-Pew survey. A total of 40 individual interviews of 69 parishioners were conducted. Every interview slot was filled and there was 100% attendance at the interviews. An additional 25 couples were unable to be interviewed due to the study schedule. This is both unusual and a very significant sign. Parishioners were selected for the interviews to represent various constituencies of the parish. Fifty -(50) parishioners attended the Town Hall meeting on August 13thand 258 parishioners responded to the In-Pew survey. The case tested was to raise $3 million to conduct a restoration and renovation program for the Church and school as well as funds for a proposed new Spirit Center and development of 3.5 acres of land at the parish cemetery.
Appreciation of Parish and Challenges Facing the Parish
Parishioners most often mentioned the beauty of the church, the long history and tradition of the parish, the importance of the school as part of the parish and the friendliness and the welcoming nature of the parish community; “its home” was often said. There is strong support for Fr. Eilerman, “We’re blessed to have him”. Traditional Catholic values at the parish, along with the strong sense of community, were also cited.
The most frequently cited challenges were:
– The aging of the parish and loss of revenue that occurs with this
– The need to get youth and younger families more involved
– The cost of the school deterring families from providing a Catholic education
– The cost of maintaining aging buildings
– The lack of commitment to the Catholic faith by many
Reaction to Case for Support
Over 85% of the parishioners who responded were in favor of the case and moving forward with the campaign. This is a combined total from the all study sources. While support for the overall case is very good, some parishioners commented on specific aspects of the case, such as “the needs for the Church and school are very real” – “All of the needs noted are important” – “school projects are important but need to prioritized” – “we can do this if we all pitch in” – “I hope the renovations in the Church are good but I hope they don’t change the history of it.”
Parish’s Capacity to Raise $3 Million
The combined responses of all participants indicated that 73% felt the parish could raise $3 million. As is typical in most parish feasibility studies, many parishioners were unsure if this amount could be raised.
Indication of Financial Support to the Campaign
Ninety (90%) of those responded indicated they would make a gift. Only 3% parishioners said they would not give, and the remainder, were unsure based on a variety of reasons – the most common being from people who were older and on fixed incomes.
Level of Giving
Two hundred eighty seven (287) parishioners indicated they would make a gift to the campaign in ranges as high as $100,000 to below $1,500. The amount of these gifts totaled over $1.275 million from 22% of the total parish community. This is an average gift of $4,485 and indicates strong financial support.
Willingness to Serve in a Volunteer Capacity
The combined responses of participating parishioners indicated that 5% (65) would volunteer to assist with a campaign. Many were willing to open their homes for receptions and serve in other volunteer roles. These figures indicate strong volunteer support. A large number of parishioners were unsure about volunteering but many indicated depending on what was asked of them they would consider it. The current level of volunteers would be sufficient to conduct a successful campaign.
Advice Offered to the Pastor and Parish Leadership
Parishioners had many comments and a great deal of advice to share. Over 75 comments were noted. They expressed consistent support for Fr. Eilerman’s leadership. Many indicated that Fr Eilerman must take an enthusiastic lead in making the case and that there must be a clear communication effort to explain the campaign. In general, there was good support for the case, although some elements, the restoration of the Church, the upgrade of the bathrooms and the school renovations received the most support.
· Don’t carry it alone, pick up the phone and ask for help.
· Keep being transparent. Keep the traditions of the parish alive into the next generation.
· The campaign plan as presented seems very good.
· As a parish we have lots of needs… bring it all back to the parish mission.
· You are not in this by yourself, lean on the rest of parish leaders, get lay people involved and focus on this as a gift for the future while supporting the community.
· Thanks for your willingness to ask parishioners input! Please continue to provide opportunities to help with the campaign.
· The campaign will need very strong communications.
· Reclaim our status as the beacon Church on the hill.
· Clarify the Spirit Center project.
· Concerned we are spending too much on old buildings.
Conclusions to the Findings
The following is a synopsis of more detailed findings addressed in the full study report.
· St. Mary is a warm and deeply spiritual community with a history and tradition that is deeply part of the parish culture, “It’s home”.
· Fr. Eilerman is widely respected and has the support of the parish.
· There is strong understanding for the need to restore the Church and to upgrade the school buildings.
· A significant number of parishioners are willing to contribute financially to the campaign.
· The gift levels indicated by parishioners are broad with some evidence of mid-level gifts and participation level gifts but a broader level of lead gift support will be needed to reach the goal.
· Prioritizing the School projects will be important to the success of the campaign.
· Continued transparency, communication and clarification of the Spirit Center and Cemetery projects will be needed.
1. The findings of the study indicate that there is strong enough support for the parish case to immediately proceed with a capital campaign. A sufficient number of people are willing to volunteer for the campaign and there is a large enough pool of potential donors to raise significant funds.
2. Set the campaign goal at $2.5 million, with a challenge goal of $3 million. A gift table showing a comparison of the gifts needed for each goal is attached as Appendix 1.
3. Begin the campaign with the solicitation of the top 10 potential lead donors who could immediately affect the potential of reaching $3 million.
4. Launch a communication effort to inform current parishioners of the results of the feasibility study, letting them know that their concerns and input has been taken into consideration.
5. The parish leadership should create a specific cost list and prioritization of the projects in the case, especially those for the parish school, and begin an education and communication process that will provide parishioners with information about these projects. As part of this communication process, the development of the cemetery land and the possible future Spirit Center should be more directly defined and explained. A plan for phasing the projects will be important.
6. Building an aggressive but achievable gift table for the campaign will help stimulate broad-based sacrificial generosity. This gift chart must challenge the entire community to support the campaign at levels that will be sufficient to overcome the possible lack of top Lead Tier giving and enhance Base and Mid-Tier pledges to the campaign.
7. Father Eilerman will need to take a pivotal role in meeting individually with about 35-40 major donors.
8. Lay leader involvement will be critical to work closely with Fr. Eilerman in engaging many parishioners in the campaign.
9. The importance of a Campaign Continuation Plan to seek secondary gifts and legacy giving will significantly impact the total funds raised over the intermediate and long term. A list of prospective legacy gift parishioners should be established.
10. A strong communications plan will need to be developed. This plan will focus on educating and informing parishioners about the current state of parish, school and projects.
While an adjustment is recommended in how the total campaign goal is presented, the overall plan of conducting a campaign has been strongly affirmed by the Feasibility Study. These projects are critical to the life and future of the parish. As St. Mary of the Assumption celebrates 200 years, it’s an opportunity to transform the parish and inspire the parishioners to do something amazing. The dedication of the parish family, the long and appreciated history of the parish, the beauty of the Church itself, and a strong and well-liked priest are key ingredients to a successful campaign.