Reprinted with permission from Detroit Catholic.A group of lay Catholics in the Archdiocese of Detroit has formed what they believe will be a “game changer” in church philanthropy in southeast Michigan.

On Oct. 3, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan — an organization its founders hope will serve as a conduit for long-term giving to Catholic parishes, schools and ministries in the Archdiocese of Detroit — held its kickoff event at the Detroit Athletic Club.

“We see ourselves as a service that provides a connecting bridge from donors to ministries,” said Angela Moloney, president and CEO of the new foundation. “We’re here to provide perpetual support in line with our Catholic principles.”

The Catholic Foundation of Michigan plans to work with parishes, schools and other nonprofits in identifying needs, financial strategies and other places where long-term financial assistance might be required. The foundation then works with donors who want their philanthropy to be as effective as possible to set up strategies for giving.

“Donors can identify a parish or school where they want to set up an endowment, and we see ourselves as a resource, a partner to set up the foundation,” Moloney said. “A parish might want to create an endowment fund, which would create an annual source of income. So we set up all the required paperwork to create the 501(c)3 to comply with state and federal laws.”

Moloney said a parish, school or nonprofit — which doesn’t necessarily have to be Catholic, but must follow Catholic principles — must have at least $10,000 to establish a fund.

The Catholic Foundation of Michigan will then invest that fund, following the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ investment guidelines — to create an annual return the nonprofit can use to supplement its income.

Once a fund is created, donors can contribute as little as $10 to the fund.

“A school recently came to me, explaining they wanted to create an endowment fund,” Moloney said. “Once the fund is created, they wanted it to be public. We work with publicizing the fund and reaching out to potential donors, like alumni who no longer live in the area, but can donate to the fund online.”

Leaders of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan say its organization offers an opportunity for more sustainable giving, providing a source of income for nonprofits that will allow them to engage in long-term planning.

“This is a service, not a fundraiser, we’re about perpetuity,” said Patrick Fehring, a member of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan’s board of directors and president of Level One Bank. Fehring discovered the Catholic Foundation of Columbus, Ohio, when he was working there in the 1990s.

“What makes this attractive to donors is the fact this is an independent, Catholic foundation,” Fehring told The Michigan Catholic. “The donor and family whose doing the giving can maintain some engagement with the fund. That’s very attractive to individuals who want to set up philanthropic plans.

“For those who want to give, it allows them to set up a gift in perpetuity, which allows them to have an advisory role in the gift,” Fehring explained. “They will have a gift ministered in alignment with Church teaching.”

In addition to endowment funds, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan offers donors advised funds —DAFs — which Moloney describes as a charitable checking account where a donor can put a specified amount of money, as little as $5,000, to receive an immediate tax benefit and grant the money out at the donor’s discretion.

While there are many avenues of Church giving already set up at the archdiocesan and parish levels, such as the Catholic Services Appeal, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan is intended to help with specific types of long-term giving, Moloney said, such as creating scholarship funds at schools and helping people prepare for end-of-life giving.

“You look around church with people giving religiously every week, but the question is what happens when they’re gone,” Moloney said. “End-of-life giving provides a vehicle were a certain percentage of a person’s assets can go to a person’s parish or nonprofit of their choosing.”

The Catholic Foundation of Michigan is run by an independent board of lay leadership, but has the blessing of Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron, who along with Msgr. Robert McClory, moderator of the curia, are ex officio members of the board.

“When we talked to the archbishop and members of the clergy, some of the things discussed were the model of the organization, the governance, and we agreed on the Catholicity of it,” Fehring said.

Archbishop Vigneron expressed his support of Catholic Foundation of Michigan in a press release before the Oct. 3 kickoff.

“As I have grown to understand the mission of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan and what it will strive to accomplish, I cannot but be filled with hope knowing that this work, too, has the potential to grow abundantly and fruitfully,” Archbishop Vigneron said in the statement. “It will be a cornerstone ensuring that we will have the resources to continue to witness to Christ for many years to come.”
Moloney added the Catholic Foundation of Michigan sees the work they do as their own way of spreading the Gospel message.

“I see this as discernment, as ministry,” Moloney said. “What we provide, in the context of our faith, is a vehicle in which people can safely invest in the future of our Catholic institutions.”