By Larry Irish     6/24/2021

Catholicism is rooted in generosity, and thus far in 2021 the generosity shown by those in the Diocese of Orange has been nothing short of extraordinary. Case in point: the Pastoral Services Appeal, the primary fundraising appeal for the Diocese. 

Although Diocesan leaders set a 12-month goal of $9.5 million, in only five months the PSA has already received $9.8 million in pledges, many having already been fulfilled. Approximately $3 million will be returned to the parishes in the Diocese, says Ian Rangel, director of PSA and Fund Development.  

Along with the generosity of more than 16,000 donors, Rangel notes that the success of this year’s Pastoral Services Appeal is due to the easing of COVID restrictions, the PSA’s transparency and clarity of purpose, and strong support from the top levels of the Diocese, which includes the Stewardship and Finance pillar of Bishop Kevin Vann’s Strategic Plan. 

Another factor, one behind this year’s success in particular, is the work and dedication of the Diocese’s financial professionals, led by Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Jensen. She gives well-deserved praise to Rangel and the entire team on the financial side. 

“Ian was hired by Bishop Vann two years ago to overhaul and streamline the administration of the Appeal. He was tasked with rebranding [it], making it fresh.  He’s done a brilliant job at providing training to our parishes and ensuring transparency in the collections of the money and the granting of the funds to the ministries.” 

Rangel is happy to reciprocate. “We’ve got some amazing finance professionals at the Diocese who walked this journey hand in hand with our parishes and schools,” he says. “They’ve done some remarkable work. I continue to be humbled by the generosity and faithfulness that our pastors have been able to inspire in their parishes.” 

Along with Catholic education and clergy and seminarian formation, PSA funding helps support the Diocese’s many outreach ministries, among other programs. “The PSA provides a great opportunity for everyone to contribute to the causes most important to the mission and vision of the Diocese,” Jensen says. As an incentive for parishes, once their goal is reached, every dollar collected beyond their goal goes back to the parish.  

That clarity of purpose will always remain a key element of the fundraiser’s success. “The job of the fundraiser isn’t to ask for money, but to communicate with people what the money is used for,” says Nic Prenger, founder and CEO of Prenger Solutions, a firm specializing in Catholic fundraising. “It’s about transparency. ‘Here are some worthy ministries. Here’s how you can help.’ What the Diocese has done well is communicate exactly how this money is used.”  

In addition, the Diocese freely shares the percentage of donations that are used for administrative expenses. “We have a firm commitment to keep our administrative costs at or below five percent, well below the national average for nonprofits which can be anywhere from 15-20 percent,” Rangel says. “Fundraising is important, but raising funds the right way is even more so. We want the money to going where it’ll make the biggest impact.” 

That impact is already significant. For example, thanks to the Pastoral Services Appeal’s stellar success, retired priests in the Diocese are receiving much-needed assistance. “This past April we made a distribution of $1 million to the Diocese’s priest retirement fund,” Rangel says, noting that “some of the first dollars raised this year went towards this distribution.” Contributions otherwise would have been made by individual parishes, as has been the case for the past decades. 

Jensen adds, “Always a main focus for our fund development efforts is the support of our Catholic Schools. The PSA raises funds every year for tuition assistance, which helps to ensure that Catholic families might have access to a Catholic education for their children.”   

Strong and decisive leadership at the top paved the way for the Pastoral Services Appeal’s success. “[They’ve] created an environment that has allowed us to present a meaningful and clear case to our community,” Rangel says. “That includes the Strategic Plan. It’s given us the targets we are aiming towards and it has enabled us to narrow our focus towards what matters most, supporting the mission and ministry of the Diocese.” 

Catholic fundraising expert Prenger notes that almost all of the 196 dioceses in the country run annual fundraisers. “The Diocese of Orange has one of the most successful,” he says. “It’s the gold standard among the dioceses. And people work very hard to make it so.” 

To learn more about the PSA and its impact on our local church, please visit rcbo.org/psa.