Catholic Schools Week 2018

Development Is Essential To Sustaining Academies

By Brother Ralph Darmento, F.S.C., deputy superintendent, Office of Catholic Schools

As dioceses grapple with innovative ways to finance Catholic education, renewed emphasis has been placed on the area of development, or as the secondary and higher education communities say, institutional advancement.

Brother Ralph

Tuition and fees can no longer support Catholic education. Tuition rarely approaches the per student cost of an education and fees are specific to services or materials provided in the process of educating a student and not really revenue given to the support of the academy and its programs. The selling of chocolate bars, candles, wrapping paper and subscriptions to magazines only provide a percentage of the net income raised since the vendor may benefit from up to 50 percent of the proceeds; these events are termed fund raising. So, where does an academy turn?

Since the implementation of the academy governance model in 2008, one of the avenues explored to provide long-term revenue to the academies is the creation of a development committee of the academy board, sometimes with a local development officer.

Fostering Relationships

So just what is “development?” By definition, development is the process of creating and enhancing relationships with potential donors. The donor becomes the “main character” and the goal focuses on creating a relationship with the academy centered upon its mission and vision. Central to the definition is involving the prospective donor in the life of the academy, inviting that person to important events in the life of the academy and having the culture of the academy so impress that person that the academy becomes a beneficiary of the donor’s treasure.

The development committee and/or the development director engage in prospect research, database management, special events planning and coordinating an annual appeal. Some initiate alumni databases and outreach, plan an annual event that attracts alumni, friends and prospective donors as well as parents, parishioners and community members.

While not all academies are functioning with development committees at optimum levels, some have realized annual revenues of at least 50K while also paving the way for the future.

An example might help to understand how some of this works: At a strategic planning event which drew a healthy representation of parents, friends, alumni, faculty, parishioners and community members, an audience member became so enthused with the undertaking of a strategic plan by the academy and so impressed with the mission and vision of the academy leadership, that this individual quietly presented the amazed principal with a sizable check for the academy’s efforts, thus increasing the fund for student financial assistance.

Research in the area of development for Catholic schools indicates nine conditions for mature and effective development operations well positioned to cultivate a culture of philanthropy from individuals, community members, foundations and grantors. These indicators are:

• Having a clear strategic plan

• Managing resources effectively and efficiently

• Soliciting feedback from constituents and focusing on their needs

• Continuously improving

• Continuously cultivating relationships with stakeholders and community

• Having leadership personnel that are engaging, articulate and accountable

• Planning and managing communications

• Targeting improvements

• Assessing financial and strategic plans

Clearly, development would be a giant step for diocesan Catholic academies which – through the efforts of dedicated teachers and administrators – continue “to touch the hearts, nurture the souls, kindle the minds and inspire the lives of students entrusted to their care.

The academies of the Diocese of Brooklyn would benefit greatly from the expertise and engagement of individuals with a passion for Catholic education and an interest in relationship building.

If interested in joining a development committee, contact your local Catholic academy or reach out to me at
The rewards are out of this world!

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