by Joe Bollig
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — It’s just a little word, but it means so much: ask.
If you don’t believe it, consider this true story about a church in North Carolina. It was told by keynote speaker James K. Kelley at the annual meeting of the Catholic Foundation of Northeast Kansas (CFNEK) on Nov. 4 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kan.
A well-off, elderly couple had been faithful members of their church for years and had always given generously. Upon their death, however, they left $5 million to a museum — and nothing to their church. Mystified, a member of the church’s staff asked their daughter why.
The answer was astoundingly simple: They hadn’t been asked. No one at the church talked about it, and the couple didn’t know it was a possibility.
The CFNEK is working to make sure that “ask” isn’t forgotten through its Planned Giving Initiative, which was launched as a pilot program in six parishes and two schools a year ago, and which Kelley praised on Nov. 4.
“I love your mission,” said Kelley. “Your mission is to foster a culture of planned giving across the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas, where all practicing Catholics have updated wills that include charitable gifts.”
The Planned Giving Initiative’s pilot program began on June 30, 2009, and continued to June 30 of this year. The result was a more than 300 percent increase in confirmed planned gifts, and the addition of 65 new, confirmed names to the Catholic Legacy Society.
“The work actually began [in 2008] when we decided to do this project,” said Lesle Knop, CFNEK executive director. “There was a big, behind-the-scenes effort to focus on planned giving. It was part of our core mission to enhance estate planning and planned giving in the archdiocese. [How to create] a culture of philanthropy in the archdiocese was the question the [CFNEK] board asked.”
The pilot program was so successful that the CFNEK is now seeking to expand the Planned Giving Initiative to all Catholic parishes and institutions of the archdiocese. To this end, the CFNEK has developed a “planned giving toolbox” that parishes and other entities can use to bring the Planned Giving Initiative to their location.
“What we are trying to do — systematically, methodically — with our plan is to work regionally with parishes and schools to develop legacy societies and endowment committees,” said Knop. “We have a ‘toolbox’ of things they need to do.”
“It’s very simple, in steps,” she continued. “They can’t do everything at once. But we want to work with parishes to build the foundation of . . . a five-year plan to create a culture of philanthropy and planned giving in each of those entities, based on the best practices that we’ve learned from our pilot program. We’re ready to launch.”
The CFNEK will contact each parish, but parishes don’t need to wait.
“The Planned Giving Initiative is available to all parishes immediately,” said Gary Pratt, CFNEK associate director of planned giving. “We’ll help any parish that shows interest [to] get started on year one of the five-year plan, which is to create the infrastructure [of philanthropy] in the parish culture.”
Most active Catholics are faithful supporters of the church all through their lives, said Knop and Pratt. They make sacrifices and give out of their income because of their love for the church. Through planned giving, though, they have the opportunity to make a much greater impact by giving with their assets.
“We’re trying to help people live their Catholic faith with a planned gift,” said Pratt.
Bringing planned giving to a parish is not difficult.
“All [parishes] need is a very small committee that meets three to five times a year,” said Knop. “They don’t need a lot of events or to reinvent the wheel. We have the methodology.”
“All the pilot parishes are ready to help them,” Knop continued. “We now have a network from the foundation board and the pilot parishes ready to help sustain and launch Catholic legacy societies. It’s our goal that every parish and school have one.”
For more information about the Planned Giving Initiative, call the CFNEK at (913) 647-0325, or visit the founda- tion’s Web site at: www.cfnek.org.