In 1921, Ernest and Elsie Hiller bought a lake house way out in Oakland county as a summer home for their family.  They had thirteen children and wished to keep them occupied by living on the lake in the summers. One of the first things they did was to plant an oak tree on the property. The property did not have a lot of trees, and none close to the lake. Ernest and Elsie knew that they would never really get to enjoy the tree, but they would nurture it and watch it grow, as they did their children. One day, they envisioned, it would be a mighty oak tree. By 1965 Ernest and Elsie had passed away, but the home was still in the family and busy every summer with Hiller grandchildren. The small tree from 1921 had become the mighty oak that provided much-desired shade and a tire swing that the grandchildren could play on. The Hiller children, now adults themselves, sat in Adirondack chairs under the tree and enjoyed the shade and the cool breeze from the lake. This is what Ernest and Elsie dreamed of the day they planted the tree–that the generations that followed would benefit from their faith in the family and the permanent gift of the tree.

This is a true story, and I share it today because many people don’t realize that they have the ability to create their own legacy of giving for generations to come through the Catholic Foundation. Our goal is to help those who wish to leave a legacy and show them how it can be easily done through a program of charitable gifting. You might be a candidate if you have excess income through social security or Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) from retirement plans that can be redirected to create a legacy of giving.

Our goal is to help those who wish to leave a legacy and show them how it can be easily done through a program of charitable gifting.

Recently we helped Nancy* set up this program. She has worked hard her entire life and has managed to save enough so that she enjoys a comfortable and secure life.  She shared with us that though she is required to take her annual RMD, she did not need that money to live on, and she sought our guidance about how to invest these funds. In our conversation she shared about her strong Catholic faith and the charities she already supports. Nancy desired to create a legacy plan that would continue her funding of these charities even after she was gone.

She decided to take out a life insurance policy owned by the Foundation and insuring Nancy, so that once she is no longer here, the policy will pay out to the Catholic Foundation and create her charitable fund.  The premium amount is paid by Nancy to the Catholic Foundation which creates a tax deduction for her, so it is really a “win-win” for everybody. This endowment fund created by the life insurance will continue her annual contributions for years to come to the charities that are important to her.

The fund created by the life insurance will continue her annual contributions for years to come to the charities that are important to her.

Ernest and Elsie saw the benefits of planting a tree for their children and grandchildren to enjoy. The Catholic Foundation believes that the strategy of taking out a life insurance policy to create an endowment fund as one that “plants a tree” for the future.  It allows a generous, faithful donor to continue to fund the charities that are so important to them and the community, long after they are gone. Consider if we each planted a tree; we would have a forest. 

By William Barnett, CPA

To learn more about how you can implement a similar strategy in your legacy planning, contact Angela Moloney at the Catholic Foundation at 248-204-0332 or

*The donor’s name has been changed.


About the Author

William Barnett is an Executive Director of Financial Planning at Michigan Financial Companies and is a Preferred Professional Advisor with the Catholic Foundation. He can be reached at 248-663-4745 or

Securities and investment advisory services offered through Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. member FINRA/SIPC. Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. is separately owned and other entities and/or marketing names, products or services referenced here are independent of Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. 28411 Northwestern Hwy., Suite 1300, Southfield, MI 48034. 248-663-4700. 20843522-20200504

The main purpose of a permanent life insurance (whole, universal, indexed, or variable universal life) policy is to provide a death benefit. It is not a short-term savings vehicle nor is it ideal for short-term insurance needs. It is designed to be long term in nature and should be purchased only if you have the financial ability to keep it in force for a substantial period of time. Life insurance coverage needs may change if your personal situation changes. For example, if you get married, have a child or get a promotion, you may want to increase your coverage. Make sure that these strategies and products are suitable for your long-term life insurance needs. Also, make sure you are able to continue premium payments so your policy doesn’t lapse if the market declines. There are fees and charges for life insurance coverage, including a cost of insurance based on characteristics of the insured person, such as gender, health and age. It is important to note that qualifying for life insurance often requires a medical evaluation. Based on the results of this evaluation you may qualify for a lower or higher rate or you may be denied coverage entirely.

In March 2020, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan launched the Catholic Faithful Response Fund for COVID-19 to deploy rapid resources to affected organizations on the front lines during the pandemic.

Through community support, the Catholic Faithful Response Fund raised mission-critical funding to numerous ministries, schools and parishes in southeast Michigan. Our weekly grant cycles empowered our partners to support hundreds of families, senior citizens and vulnerable individuals through local food pantries, shelters, residential facilities, schools and more.

The Catholic Foundation took on all administrative work associated with the granting process, allowing organizations to focus on their critical ministry.

Total Assets




Total Granted



empowered by emergency funds




Last updated: July 21, 2020.

Give Now and increase the impact of these grants


Meet Our Grantees: Learn more about the parishes, Catholic schools and nonprofit organizations granted mission-critical funding during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Related Articles:


Please see below for images shared directly from organizations part of our Catholic Faithful Response Fund:

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“Spirit-led” grants will power missionary activity and evangelization

Throughout the history of the church, the Holy Spirit has inspired women and men to bring the Gospel to the people of their time in new and innovative ways. In our missionary work across the Archdiocese of Detroit, disciples are called to be innovative, bold, flexible, adaptable and willing to learn from the inspiration and ideas of the Holy Spirit.

That is why, as a direct response to the Archbishop of Detroit’s message in Unleash the Gospel, the Catholic Foundation was called upon to create the Spirit of Innovation granting fund.

Through “Spirit-led” grants, Catholic parishes, schools and organizations in the archdiocese will be able to develop, launch and grow new initiatives, ministries and approaches that share the Good News with all, forming joyful missionary disciples. 

“The call to unleash the Gospel is the work of a generation. No matter the circumstances in the Church or the world, we know Christ has called us to boldly proclaim the good news of Jesus, risen from the dead. He invites us not simply to receive this news but to be his co-workers in bringing others into relationship with Him,” shares Fr. Steve Pullis, Director of Evangelization and Missionary Discipleship for the Archdiocese of Detroit, and liaison to the fund.

“Pope John Paul II called the Church to evangelization with new methods. The Spirit of Innovation grant uniquely helps make these new methods possible, giving them the support to touch many more lives and spark further innovation for the growth of God’s kingdom,” Fr. Steve continues.

This fund, managed by the Catholic Foundation, will help activate projects that are bold and innovative. Even after Sent on Mission is complete, the Catholic community will continue to engage in a supportive, transparent and competitive process for Catholic organizations throughout the archdiocese to receive funding and articulate measurable impact on evangelization.

John and Kristan Hale with their children.

“The Spirit of Innovation Grant is yet another example of the way that the Holy Spirit is moving in and among our community here and now. The Holy Spirit is asking each of us to prayerfully be attentive to new and exciting ways to bring the message of Christ’s love into our world. This grant is an exciting indication of our community’s response,” share John and Kristan Hale, Chairs of the Sent on Mission Stewardship Committee.



Distributed in December, Spirit of Innovation grants will:

  • Activate future initiatives to serve beyond the work of individual parishes and their Missionary Strategic Plans 
  • Inspire disciples to dream and innovate
  • Attract national ministries and organizations
  • Support innovative and outward focused missionary work in the Archdiocese of Detroit
  • Respond to future inspirations of the Holy Spirit


The Catholic Foundation of Michigan will offer competitive Spirit of Innovation Grants ranging from $10,000 to $100,000 and expects to make the first distribution in December 2020.

Learn more about our 2020 granting process. 



You need a strong foundation to build something that will last. Since 2016, the Foundation has grown to meet the needs of our community and beyond, building up parishes, strengthening schools and supporting dynamic ministries. We could not have done this good work in our Catholic community without you.

In our third year, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan continues to be blessed with generous support from our donors while supporting the ever-growing need of ministries in our area. During 2019, the Foundation’s portfolio grew to nearly $16 million, and since its founding, it has granted over $3 million.

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Many charitable individuals and families have set up donor advised funds. And during times like these, we all can be grateful.

When markets drop significantly or when businesses aren’t as profitable, the charities that we love need us more than ever. Passionate donors desire to support the parishes and ministries they love with a contribution at the same level they have given in the past. 

Fortunately, those donors who’ve previously established a donor advised fund (DAF) are able to continue to provide generous and consistent funding to their favorite charities, even when their investments drop in value or when their income decreases.  

“These funds function like a family charitable checking account,” says Angela Moloney. “Individuals and families can receive a tax benefit when it is best for them, and direct the gift when it is in the best interest of the nonprofit organization.”

For example, knowing that some donors who give out of pocket may decrease their contributions if their jobs or investments feel uncertain, individuals with donor advised funds can  strive to provide the same or even larger levels of support. 

A benefit of contributing to a DAF, which can be administered by the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, is that “the donor has the ability to be flexible in choosing both the timing and recipients of the grants,” shares Chris Nemes, CPA and Preferred Advisor with the Catholic Foundation.

Additionally, many donors have been advised to bunch contributions to DAFs during high income earning years. This trend has helped donors realize the ability to provide consistent levels of support during times when their income will be less or when the tax benefits of donating may decrease.

All of us at the Catholic Foundation are grateful for our donor advised fund holders. We are here to support them in their faithful generosity to the ministries and nonprofit organizations in our community.


Learn more about how families use their Donor Advised Funds.



On Tuesday April 14, Catholic Foundation President and CEO Angela Moloney talked with Kresta in Afternoon on Ave Maria Radio about the Catholic #FaithfulResponse Fund.

The Fund is powerful, collaborative emergency funding campaign to support Catholic parishes, schools and community nonprofit organizations that are on the front lines in the COVID-19 pandemic. It is an opportunity for the Catholic community to come together in a unique way to evangelize and be the Church.
Listen here to the interview:


Provide mission-critical emergency funds to organizations in this time of crisis. 

Give to the Fund

We are very excited to announce the launch of our newly designed website, which is your destination for Catholic philanthropy in southeast Michigan. Whether you are a current or prospective donor or fundholder; a leader in a Catholic parish, school or nonprofit organization; or a professional advisor, we hope that you’ll find the new site to be more user-friendly and provide you the information you need to be inspired and to achieve your philanthropic goals.

Some of the new features on our website include:  

Ways to Enter Our Site

One of the first things you’ll notice on our homepage is the boxes directed at various groups: 

  • individuals & families
  • parishes, schools & nonprofits
  • grant-seekers
  • advisors

Each page provides relevant information about the Catholic Foundation’s offerings, tailored to the particular group. We hope this allows you to quickly find the information you’re looking for. 

Fund Search

One of our favorite aspects of the new site is the ability to search our various funds at You are able to search for a fund or an organization by name, or review the funds that relate to a particular issue, making it simple and easy to give to a cause you are passionate about. 

Donor Stories

Looking to learn more about the community of committed Catholics who are giving generously to make an impact in our community? Visit our Donor Stories page and read the variety of features sharing how our donors have been called by their faith to leave a legacy. 

Grantee Stories

Sixty organizations have received competitive impact grants from the Catholic Foundation since our founding in 2018. Learn more about these inspiring grantee partners and the innovative work they are offering throughout southeast Michigan. 

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to
contact us. 

We extend our gratitude to Solutio for their work in building our new site. We have had an excellent experience working with them and we wholeheartedly recommend them.

This year, perhaps more than ever, we may be in touch with a sense of the world’s uncertainty and suffering. Yet the Easter season provides the opportunity to access joy in the midst of pain and confidence in the promise of resurrection–that life and love that triumph over death, forever.

Psalm 30:5 reminds us that “weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.”

Similarly, after Jesus died, followers of Jesus who were “downcast”, were walking the road to Emmaus, and through encountering the resurrected Jesus, became “incredulous for joy and amazed.” (Luke 24:41)

The Catholic Foundation is here to help you give with joy, and support our community in life-giving ways that will endure in perpetuity.

From all of us at the Catholic Foundation, we wish you a very joyous Easter.


Each of us invests for different reasons, but at the core, it is to provide a level of security for the future. Security knowing that our daughter can attend her first choice college. Security knowing that we can put food on the table when in retirement or in difficult times. Investing allows us the security of knowing we can be there for others in times of need. 

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