Private Philanthropy

Develop Investment-Oriented Strategies for Partnering with Private Philanthropic Institutions

Two principles are readily apparent with regard to the role that private philanthropy can play in responding to this crisis. First, private dollars alone cannot sufficiently meet the challenges that these schools and school systems face. Second, and much more importantly, private philanthropy absolutely must do more than it is presently doing.
This is not to suggest, however, that these schools should demand more from private givers simply because of the extent of their financial need. Rather, we must re-think the product that Catholic and other faith-based schools represent in the educational marketplace, and find the means to demonstrate their exemplary value. In the words of one current Diocesan superintendent, “"a much more effective mantra than 'We're poor, give us money,' is 'We serve the poor. Invest in us, and we'll provide a good return.’” In addition to the fact that students in Catholic and other private schools demonstrate higher academic achievement than students from similar backgrounds in public schools, Latino and African American students who attend Catholic schools are more likely to graduate from high school and more likely to graduate from college than their public school peers. Research from Notre Dame Law Professors Margaret Brinig and Nicole Garnett, among others, have demonstrated the devastating impact that the closure of a Catholic school has on urban neighborhoods.
While ventures such as Chicago’s Big Shoulders Fund, the Children’s Scholarship Fund, and the Catholic Education Foundation in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles have done extraordinary work to protect faith-based schools across the country, they should not be expected to continue to carry this burden on their own. To this end, we should consider a concerted national marketing effort to raise the national consciousness about the unprecedented stakes involved in this crisis. Furthermore, it should be made clear that the viability of urban Catholic schools is the responsibility of the entire Church. As one conference participant noted, the historically poor rate of giving among individual Catholics must dramatically improve if there is to be any hope for these schools, and the most prudent realm to cultivate such support is within individual parishes. In some contexts, a robust stewardship model such as the one presently employed in the Diocese of Witchita may be a possibility. Most importantly, these schools must learn to take a more disciplined, long-term, investment oriented approach to their fundraising; one that focuses on the tremendous opportunity that faith-based urban schools represent for an educational renaissance in many of our inner-cities.