Widening ‘community’ efforts spurs name change

By Peter Finney Jr., Clarion Herald

What’s in a name?

The Catholic Foundation, founded in the mid-1970s by the late Archbishop Philip M. Hannan to serve as a planned-giving vehicle to fund Catholic entities and causes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, believes there’s added value in one extra word.

At the end of December, The Catholic Foundation will become the Catholic Community Foundation.

Executive director Cory Howat says the name change reflects a consensus reached by the foundation’s board of directors during a long-range planning process to broaden the organization’s identity and public perception.

Reaching out to community

“The word ‘community’ shifts all of that because it’s less walled-off and it’s less a perception that philanthropy is just for the uber-wealthy,” Howat said. “A ‘community’ foundation changes the ownership to the community. Moving toward a community foundation model is something we’ve talked about internally for some time.”

The subtle shift could mean the Catholic Community Foundation would develop and fund its own programming that would benefit the broader community.

Down the road, Howat said, the Catholic Community Foundation might even offer grants to groups that apply for funding. Right now, The Catholic Foundation distributes money according to the specific wishes of its donors.

“We’re not currently a granting agency,” Howat said. “Somebody can’t write to us for a grant. But as a community foundation, if we wanted to, we might be able to fund things like leadership training programs in the archdiocese. We would have a fund, and people could apply to us for those grant monies. That may be 10 years down the road, but it gives us that avenue to eventually do that.”

iGiveCatholic model

Howat said another example of the changing stewardship landscape has been the iGiveCatholic online giving program, which the archdiocese started on its own in 2015.

On the Tuesday after Thanksgiving – this year it is Tuesday, Nov. 27 – individuals can go online for 24 hours to make a donation to any of hundreds of Catholic ministries. There also is an advanced-giving period from Nov. 12-26 (iGiveCatholic.org).

The iGiveCatholic campaign has been so effective it has now expanded to 28 dioceses across the country, but it is still run by the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

“We’ve got dioceses from Juneau, Alaska, to Vermont participating,” Howat said.

The online giving day also emphasizes the message that someone need not be extremely wealthy to spread his or her Catholic values.

“That’s at the very heart of what’s behind iGive         Catholic,” Howat said. “For $25, you can have a role in philanthropy, and you have a way to be intentional in your giving. That’s the fun part of ‘crowd-funding.’ You’re able to connect people.

“Philanthropy, at its heart, is the love of mankind. So, if it is the way you love mankind, one of the deepest ways is truly to trust them with your treasure. The reality is we want everybody to know that we’re all called to be philanthropists.”

Assets are growing

Over the last five years, The Catholic Foundation has increased its assets from approximately $92 million to $117 million, Howat said.

The foundation also makes it easy for Catholic-oriented  individuals to set up their planned giving because the foundation carefully follows where the money is invested, following guidelines established by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for socially responsible investing.

For example, The Catholic Foundation does not invest in certain companies that fund embryonic stem cell research.

“It’s interesting because some of those stocks have been hammered over the past two years, so in addition to not investing that way, we’ve been able to have a little bit of an advantage because our portfolio has done better than the average,” Howat said.

Several Catholic foundations set up in dioceses across the country have begun to embrace the community foundation model.

“The real change is that when you say ‘The Catholic Foundation,’ it seems like it’s the church’s and not the people’s,” Howat said. “When you make it the Catholic Community Foundation, you really start to say this is the people’s. This is meant to be something that has a deeper and wider impact.”

Peter Finney Jr. can be reached at pfinney@clarionherald.org.

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