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'Success' is more than fundraising

When Shannon Tran, assistant director of appeals and operations for the Diocese of Burlington, considers a parish’s “success” during the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, she looks at more than the amount of money raised to help fund the various ministries of the diocese.
“I look at it from all angles,” she said: the total funds raised, the total number of gifts, the efficiency in running the campaign, the timeliness of completing it, cost savings and leadership.
With all that in mind, she said, “There’s something going on that’s right” in the annual appeal efforts of St. Anthony Parish in White River Junction.
Participation by registered parishioners in 2014 was 36 percent throughout the diocese. In 2015 and 2016 the percentage was 38 percent. In 2014, 28 percent of registered parishioners at St. Anthony’s participated, with the percentage increasing in 2015 to 40 percent and in 2016 to 41 percent.
Last year the parish’s annual appeal goal was $41,745 with pledges totaling $34,337. Of the 347 households, 145 contributed. The average gift was $236, just above the diocesan-wide average of $226.
Similar success was measured at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Windsor, which shares a pastor with the White River Junction Parish. Last year the Windsor parish’s goal was $21,898 with pledges totaling $23,974. The average gift was $228. Of the 271 households, 105 participated.
Tran said both parishes have been on an “upward trend” with a focus on performance, attitude and community building.
“I’m encouraged. We’ve done well, and I am optimistic we will meet our goal” during the current annual fundraising campaign, comment Father Charles R. Danielson, who has been pastor of the two churches since last year. “I encourage people to do the best they can and try not to get hung up on the goal. This is our opportunity to help support and advance the work of Christ in the Church in Vermont.”
The annual appeal, formerly called The Bishop’s Fund, supports numerous ministries of the diocese including Vermont Catholic Charities Inc., Catholic education, parish religious education, vocations, seminarian education and prison ministry.
Tran said one way parishes can complete the campaign more quickly, efficiently and cost effectively is to capitalize on the in-pew segment of the campaign in which parishioners make their donations and fill out their pledge cards at Mass, eliminating the need for costly mailings and follow up.
More and more parishes are emphasizing this phase of the campaign: Before 2014 only 600-700 donors used the in-pew method; now there are 3,600 pledges received through in-pew efforts – 30 percent.
Father Danielson invites his parishioners to carefully consider their contributions and encourages use of the in-pew option for giving, emphasizing the “convenience and ease of it.”
He speaks highly of Deacon John Guarino, “a constant presence” in the White River Junction Parish, and says that Windsor parishioners appreciate having a resident pastor after a hiatus of a few years.
He hopes people will get more involved in parish life. “There are a million things clamoring for our attention [in general], so it’s nice when people say, ‘This is my parish and I want to help.’”
And when parishioners are invested in their parish, they can better understand how the Bishop’s Annual Appeal benefits them, Tran said -- through support of database management, safe environment programs, human resources, evangelization, religious education, liturgy and youth ministry, for example.
“I look forward to continuing to grow the parishes I’ve been entrusted with and continuing to grow into active, faith-filled communities within the diocese,” Father Danielson said.
-- Originally published in the summer 2017 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.
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Bishop's Fund Annual Appeal