Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Secret of Success

The NonProfit Times, Aug. 1, 2011. Reprinted with permission.
If you ever want to mount a case against religion, don’t bother trying to solicit testimony from American non-profits. According to a June 2011 survey of U.S. adults by The NonProfit Times, those who give to religious organizations are the top supporters of secular ones, as well:
• Forty-seven percent of those interviewed contribute to religious groups.
• People who donate to religious causes are three times more likely to donate also to secular causes than are those who never support religious charities.
• Where age is a factor, the highest disparity between those who give to religion and those who do not is in the 18- to 34-year-old bracket: 23%. Eighty-two percent of these young adults who give to religion also support secular causes, compared with 59% of those who expressed no interest in giving to religion.
• Consistently, among all ages, educational backgrounds, and household incomes, religious donors support more than one other charity. Two of the most dramatic differences occur in the age and education categories: 11% of religious donors of all ages give to between six and ten organizations annually, compared with 4% among the non-religious; and 25% of those religious donors who never finished high school give to more than ten, compared with 4% among the non-religious.

In addition, basing itself on IRS estimates for giving, Giving USA Foundation reported that the cause which U.S. adults supported most in 2010, was religion: 35% of the nearly $300 billion that Americans donated, followed by education at 14%. 

If that isn’t enough to upend preconceived notions, here’s another. Giving USA also recently published a study entitled, “Charitable Giving and the Millennial Generation,” 
that highlights giving patterns in “Millennial” donors—adults born since 1981. It states: “As with earlier generations, Millennials who give contribute the largest share of their dollars to religion. There has been a lot of information reported on the secularization of America, so this could be a countering trend” (Una Osili, Ph.D., director of research at the Center on Philanthropy).* Joanne Pong’s story, featured in the August 17 post of this blog, is a case in point.

Why this interest among our youngest adults? I spoke with Melanie McKitrick, one of the two researchers and authors of the study, who told me that while only 16% of Millennials preferred faith based giving in 2006, for example, it was a significant preference: three times more in contributions than to secular purposes. As with other demographics, Millennials who do give tend to have a steady income, are married, and have already graduated from college. Part of establishing themselves and raising a family is connecting with a faith community they can commit to, and a concrete part of that commitment consists of nearly $800 in donations annually.

In 2010, donors often gave to trusted umbrella groups that distribute funds among those they serve, for example the United Jewish Fund or Catholic Charities. Catholic Relief Services and other religious organizations ministered in the aftermath of Haiti’s earthquake last year—a key humanitarian cause for many donors in the U.S., religious and otherwise. Melanie acknowledged that it’s not yet possible to determine donors’ reasons for choosing charities, but she agreed that it’s very likely that not only Millennials, but other demographics made at least some of their religious contributions through this cause.

That said, it’s also true that people of faith tend to see God, not only in clearly religious settings, but also in what appears ordinary, even banal. As one man told me last week, “We should be able to hear the Word of God when we dig a hole in the garden and plant a flower.” From the Christian perspective, the Incarnation of God’s Son carries precisely this message. Nothing truly human is off limits for the divine.

So for these same people of faith, donating to charity, whether strictly religious or purely humanitarian, is an act of faith—whether they call it that or not. “It’s a good cause” means exactly that, since every good comes from God. Larry May at infogroup, which helped in carrying out The NonProfit Times survey, commented, “It might feel like our country is becoming more secular, but it’s not the case for these donors.”**

Against the current economic backdrop, that faith-in-action evidently moves such people to give even “until it hurts.” If my parents are any indication of the spirit behind this kind of giving, people of faith feel that God has been very good to them and will continue to care for them. In our house, you didn’t throw the scraps to God. I remember my father in particular saying, “We’re not rich, but we have a roof over our heads and food on the table. Everything we have comes from God, and it’s on loan to us to use as he wills. It’s up to us to find someone to share God’s blessings with, because they came from him.” This attitude is what motivated both my parents to give their blessing to both their daughters—their only children—when we chose religious life.

Mosaic rendering of the emblem worn by every
Daughter of St. Paul
This is the spirit behind what has become known in the Pauline Family as the Pact or Secret of Success. This “Pact” was first made between Fr. James Alberione and Fr. Timothy Giaccardo as one party and—upon what they felt was God’s invitation—the Holy Trinity as the other. Alberione and Giaccardo took seriously Jesus’ words in Mt. 6:33 and literally drew up a “deal” with God: “Seek first the kingdom of God and his holiness” (here they signed their names), “and all else will be given you besides” (here they wrote “the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit”). It was based both on their prophetic intuition regarding the responsibility they felt for evangelizing the world according to God’s call, as well as their trust in God’s liberality in giving these first members the help they needed to be saints and to carry out that mission.

That help certainly included material goods. In a talk, though, to the members on the feast of St. Paul’s Conversion in 1919, Fr. Alberione—“full of conviction and persuasion,” as Fr. Giaccardo recalls the founder that night—was quick to point out that their trust had to extend far beyond the material: “Our House lives on Providence. The greatest offense that God receives from our House is lack of trust in Him. He shows that it is he who does all things; we are stupid not to trust him….We must go before Jesus and tell him not to fail in his promises….Clear pacts and trust. The apostles were ignorant, but once they received the Holy Spirit, they amazed the world, confounded the learned, and enlightened everyone. This faith is essential to the spirit of the House; as the spirit is new, so it possesses new means. We must work for God and we need to know many things. So we work and the Lord takes care of providing our food, food not only for the body, but also for the mind and the heart….”

The Pact went through various revisions even during the founder’s lifetime. Here it is in its present form:
The Secret of Success     Jesus Master, accept the pact that we present to you through the hands of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, and of our Father, St. Paul.
We must correspond to your sublime will, arrive at the degree of perfection and heavenly glory to which you have destined us, and perform the apostolate of social communication in a holy manner. But we see that we are very weak, ignorant, incapable and inadequate in every way: in spirit, in knowledge, in the apostolate and in poverty. You instead are the Way and the Truth and the Life, the Resurrection, our one and supreme Good. We trust in you alone who said: “Whatever you ask the Father in my name, you will receive it.”
For our part, we promise and commit ourselves to seeking wholeheartedly in all things, in life and in the apostolate, only and always, your glory and peace to all peoples. We trust that on your part, you will give us a good spirit, grace, knowledge, and the means for doing good. According to your immense goodness and the needs of our special vocation, multiply the fruits of our spiritual work, of our study, of our apostolate, and of our poverty. We do not doubt you, but we fear our inconstancy and weakness.
Therefore, good Master, through the intercession of Mary, our Mother, extend to us the mercy you used with the Apostle Paul so that, faithful in imitating our father here on earth, we may be his companions in the glory in heaven. Amen.

Ed Robinson, president of NCCF, and
Paul Zambernardi, Raskob Foundation
One unique organization that facilitates this kind of giving is the National Catholic Community Foundation. NCCF believes that donors are looking to endow their favorite charities within the Catholic community, choosing long term growth over short term goals or projects. So it structured itself as “a pool of individual, perpetually created funds,” such as donor-advised or donor-designated funds, as well as field of interest funds, either in the name of specific Catholic non-profits or as vehicles for funding ministries according to donor intent. In this way, it hopes to assist Catholic non-profits in gathering “onto the bridge we provide between philanthropy and deserving Catholic ministries” (Richard J. Dowling, NCCF trustee). 

We learned of their services when an anonymous donor, a couple actually, decided to establish a small endowment of $400,000, called the “Daughters of St. Paul Fund” to support the life and works of our religious congregation. They wanted their contribution to begin doing good, and at the same time, continue to grow, both through investments made by the NCCF and through additional contributions from others who feel inspired to share in our mission in this way. So the fund was established to accomplish both goals, allowing our community to access a minimum percentage each year, while continuing to grow the principal. No contribution is too small. Click on the hypertext above or call the NCCF at 1-800-757-2998 to learn more.

“Charitable Giving and the Millennial Generation,” by the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University. Reprinted with permission.
“Religious Donors Give to Secular Groups Too.”
The NonProfit Times, Aug. 22, 2011. Reprinted with permission.

1 comment:

  1. This is really fascinating, thank you for describing so clearly a rich topic.


Your turn! Share your good word with us.