by Bob Hart
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s the kind of results that suggest something’s being done right. Just one year after the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas launched an initiative to promote opportunities for remembering the church in individuals’ wills, seven parishes and two schools have crossed a significant milestone.
By adding more than 80 new names to the Catholic Legacy Society, members of which have notified the church of an estate gift, those parishes and schools are at the forefront of a movement led by the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas (CFNEK) to increase awareness of leaving bequests and planned gifts to the church.
“Many people say they would like to leave a gift to their church in their wills,” said Gary Pratt, CFNEK as- sociate director of planned giving. “One of the main reasons people have told us they’ve done so is that they were asked. We’re trying to help people experience the joy of making a commitment for that sort of gift to their church.” In a nation where only 30 percent of adults have legal wills and only 7 percent provide for charities within them, the message is an important one to communicate.
“We want to develop a culture where it is the norm, rather than the ex- ception, that Catho- lics respond in faith through charitable bequests,” Pratt said.
The planned giving initiative was three years in the planning stages. It was rolled out in a pilot phase that started in July 2009. The second phase, currently underway, targets Topeka, Lawrence and the Southern Region of the archdiocese.
“We’re doing it in phases, but anyone can jump ahead in line by showing interest,” Pratt said.
In the pilot phase, parishes and schools were asked to meet eight criteria in 12 months to show they had an ongoing plan to increase planned gifts. The criteria included an endowment fund with a minimum of $5,000 and the formation of a committee to meet regularly and organize the effort.
Of the 110 parishes in the archdiocese, more than 40 have already set up endowment funds. All 110 have received information on how to promote planned giving, and future phases of the rollout will concentrate on Johnson and Wyandotte counties, followed by Atchison, Nemaha/Marshall and Leavenworth.
“I’m really proud of all our parishes who take the long view with their funds,” said Lesle Knop, CFNEK executive director. “It is so important that we continue to provide for our future generations, just as our predecessors did for us with the beautiful churches we’re enjoying now.”
Knop said the encouraging early outcomes of the initiative are the result of those who recognized a need a few years ago.
“I give credit to the leadership of the archbishop and the initiative of our board members, who began discussing a planned giving initiative more than three years ago,” she said. “When we talk about all these good things happening now