Uncovering the roots of stewardship in the Catholic Church

Book review of the fundraising classic, Grateful and Giving

Make sure to get your free copy of ‘The 10 Commandment of Catholic Fundraising’. It’s a book that highlights the ten tasks you should do to keep you focused on your mission and hit your fundraising target, every time.

Monsignor Thomas McGread, a priest in the Diocese of Wichita, Kansas, is well known for his work across the United States in fundraising. He developed an approach called The Stewardship Model, which has helped parishes, dioceses, and national organizations (such as the United States Bishops Conference) raise millions of dollars. You could say he’s the #1 ranked priest in the United States when it comes to how to fundraise for the Catholic Church.

He’s been successful because he’s developed concepts and practices that make being good stewards a tangible reality. Thankfully for you and me, Deacon Donald R. McArdle, CEO of Catholic Stewardship Consultants, documented his approach in the book, Grateful and Giving. This book was written in conjunction with 

This book showcases parishes, dioceses, and national organizations that have been changed through strong and faithful stewardship programs.

I’d like to highlight for you some of the key steps in his program that can serve your fundraising, whatever its level, too.

The Local-Parish Level

When Monsignor Thomas McGread was assigned by his bishop to a parish flooded in debt, rather than jumping head first into fundraising, he turned to the fundamentals of stewardship.

Stewardship means everyone takes care of everyone. It’s not simply parishioners writing a check to support the priest and parish. It’s the priest and parish supporting each family, and each family’s involvement supporting their parish and priest.

It sounds simple because it is. Monsignor Thomas McGread structured his stewardship into four activities:  

Activity #1 – Msgr McGread believes that time is an element of life that is too often dismissed. Focus on the time you have for being the gift that it is. Therefore, he challenged parishioners to consider their time as a gift and to reflect upon what they do with the time they have been given.

Activity #2 – He initiated a recurring newsletter entitled The Vernacular, which included information about parish events and activities. His objective was to continually highlight the ways people could get involved. Just these two activities caused a jump in parishioner involvement.

Activity #3 – Monsignor offered free parish dinners to make people feel it was the parishioners’ parish. This made people feel that their loving pastor was inviting them to take part in a parish family. People became more friendly with one another.

(Note: I delighted to hear this from Monsignor Thomas, as I always recommend the same approach to events for Catholic nonprofits and missions. My best fundraising happens after hosting a free event.)

Activity #4 – He asked each family to make a commitment to stewardship in writing. He would then publish material detailing the specifics of the different ministries, which allowed parishioners the opportunity to commit themselves to greater involvement. His focus was in ensuring that each family made this commitment.

Results: Attendance increased, involvement increased, donations increased. Out of debt in few years and consecutively increased the number of active donors and amount raised.

The State-Diocesan Level

After the success at his own parish, the Monsignor’s bishop asked for help with the diocesan appeal. Bishop A wanted to build a retreat center, a priest’s retirement home, a shelter for the homeless, and strengthen parish life.

Monsignor Thomas McGread took his stewardship model to the diocese and implemented the four steps.

Results: The diocese raised $17.5 million in pledges and Mass attendance increased by 18%.

The National-Bishops Conference Level  

The bishops conference took note of the Monsignor’s excellent work and results and invited his help writing a pastoral letter on fundraising. The letter, entitled, Stewardship: A Disciple’s Response, highlighted the priest’s philosophy on fundraising and giving. 

He emphasized that stewardship is not focused on fundraising but is centered on the Bible and the Eucharist, and supported byChrist-centered disciples who would give their lives to God’s service.

In fact, 19 of the Bible’s major parables relate directly to stewardship. Therefore, being a steward of the resources God gives us is an important element in following Christ.

Practical advice to move forward with

In addition to his four-step approach to stewardship, Monsignor Thomas McGread offers us practical advice on how to approach raising funds. Whether you are a parish, diocese, national organization or local Catholic organization, you will find this advice helpful in aligning your mission with your next appeal.

Advice #1 – See it as a campaign, not a program. It’s about a way of life rather than something you hit or miss. Stewardship is a way of life that is adopted by the leader and those around him or her. Stewardship is not about money.  Use your ability to bring people closer to God as your gauge for success.

Advice #2 – Establish a Stewardship Committee which is responsible for implementing this way of life, rather than tracking financial targets. Have each member follow the four steps in Monsignor’s stewardship plan and you’ll be on your way forward.

Advice #3 – Ask the people around you what they need, and then base your activities on those demands. Don’t always think you know what your parish, diocese, community or organization needs. First, ask them, and then consider the best way to give them what they want.  

Advice #4 – Monsignor Thomas McGread concludes his advice for success with: “Don’t worry about your numbers. Worry about the people you can get involved and really take care of them.”

Question: What do you think is the reason for Monsignor Thomas McGread’s success with fundraising? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Brice was born and raised Catholic. After enjoying a successful career in technology consulting with Accenture and PriceWaterhouseCoopers in cities across the United States (Dallas, San Francisco, Paris, Abu Dhabi, and London) around the world, he left it to help his Catholic diocese in London, England with a fundraising campaign. The campaign went on to raise over $60 million, the largest sum ever raised for the diocese and in the United Kingdom.

Learning from professional fundraisers, he figured out the basics and then left the diocese to focus on what he loves most: building Catholic charities that change the culture, save lives, and save souls.

Brice currently lives in Texas and travels the world helping Catholics fundraise. This website is where he shares what he is doing and how he is raising funds for Catholic causes and missions. That way you can move more quickly with your next appeal.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic. Mother Mary and Saint Joseph, protect us as we announce the good news of God's beloved Son, Jesus Christ.