WARWICK — Tuesday, December 1, marked the eighth annual “Giving Tuesday” in the United States — a comparatively new holiday dedicated to fundraising for non-profits and charitable organizations throughout the country. This year, however, many donors focused in a spiritual way on this annual celebration of charity by participating in the “#iGiveCatholic” movement, a nationwide effort towards raising much-needed funds for Catholic charities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although the campaign began in 2015 in the Archdiocese of New Orleans, 2020 saw by far the highest rate of Catholic participation in the project, with an estimated 2,500 Catholic organizations in 40 dioceses throughout the country raising a combined total of roughly $13 million.
About 160 of the overall participating organizations were Catholic schools — including several in the Diocese of Providence.
“It was really a huge push this year,” says Christian Kabbas, the senior manager of Communications and Marketing at Bishop Hendricken High School.
“Funding is probably more important this year than ever, and our families and alumni really stepped to support the boys. It was the largest single day of giving in the school’s history, so we definitely have a lot to be grateful for this week.”
Although Hendricken has participated in Giving Tuesday before, this year dwarfed earlier campaigns by raising a total of $126,419 from over 450 donors.
“Our goal had only been 350 donors this year, so we managed to totally outperform our expectations,” Kabbas explains. The theme selected for the 2020 campaign was “Strongest Together” — a phrase that reflects the enormous accomplishment which the donors achieved by working in concert, but which also indicates how the money which they raised will be spent.
“We’re working to make sure that the funds are distributed throughout the entire school community,” Kabbas says.
“Our athletics and art departments have been trying to cope with drastically reduced ticket revenue due to social distancing this year, so this will go a long way towards supporting our actors, musicians, and athletic teams. Even more importantly, the funds will help us keep our Hendricken family together by offering tuition assistance to families whose finances have been impacted by the pandemic. We believe that a Hendricken education should be available to every young man who wants it, so this will help us to make that possible during this period of uncertainty.”
Although the two schools may have a longstanding friendly rivalry, La Salle Academy expressed a very similar sentiment with their Giving Tuesday campaign, which was dedicated to families whose livelihoods have been impacted by the outbreak of the Coronavirus.
Jason Boulay is the school’s director of Marketing and Communications, and helped to organize this year’s online fundraiser.
“We have maintained a President’s Special Needs Fund for several years now in order to make sure that we can support La Salle families who have encountered financial hardship,” he explains.
“This year, however, we have had many students whose families have experienced health issues or job loss, and we knew we were going to need to put in extra effort to support them.”
In a prepared statement, the president of La Salle Academy, Brother Dennis Molloy, FSC, noted that the funds would offer him “the opportunity to help families with unforeseen financial circumstances. I want to ensure that every student in our Lasallian family is given the opportunity to finish his or her four years at La Salle Academy, despite extraordinary circumstances that may have otherwise disrupted their education.”
Like Hendricken, La Salle exceeded their fundraising goal for the day. La Salle raised about $2,300, surpassing their goal of $2,000.
“This money will go a long way towards assisting our families in need,” Boulay explains. “We have students that have been already studying at La Salle for three years, but whose families simply can’t afford their final year’s tuition due to the health crisis. No student should be forced to leave behind their entire high school career — with all of the hard work they’ve put in and all of the friendships they’ve made — simply because of their family’s financial hardship.”
Although both Hendricken and La Salle experienced enormous success in their campaigns, Erin Hanna believes that St. Mary’s Academy, Bay View, is currently on track to claim the distinction of having the most profitable Giving Tuesday fundraiser in the diocese. Hanna, the director of Institutional Advancement at the school, said that an anonymous donor has offered to match all donations up to $1.5 million. With the Bengals having already raised $75,000 on their own this Giving Tuesday, contributions from this generous benefactor will bring the total funds raised to a remarkable $150,000 — and Hanna says that the campaign is only just getting started.
“Giving Tuesday is just a part of a much larger match campaign we have going on this year. Our donor’s match campaign will continue running until June 30, 2021, and the funds raised will support academic priorities, programs, financial aid, and COVID-19 mitigation.”
Like other schools in the diocese, Bay View has dedicated much of this funding to tuition relief for struggling families, although they will also be using the proceeds to help the school adapt to the unique needs of COVID-era education.
“Earlier this year, we equipped our classrooms with state-of-the art virtual stations as part of our ‘You Choose’ academic format, which allows students to attend school safely in person, via a hybrid model, or remotely,” Hanna explains.
“The tremendous number of safety precautions and technology upgrades to our campus have not come without a heavy financial strain to the Academy’s operational budget, so gifts to the Bay View Fund have never been more important than they are this year.”
The theme of Bay View’s Giving Tuesday event was particularly novel — the alumnae have organized a “Decades Challenge” pitting different generations of Bay View graduates against one another in a competition to raise the most money for their alma mater.
“2020 has been a particularly difficult year for so many, so the decade challenge was really intended to just be some good, sisterly fun, while also raising important funding for the Academy during this unprecedented time,” Hanna explains, adding that she and the other members of the Advancement Office “had a blast going through old yearbooks looking for the perfect photos for the challenge.”
The challenge is scheduled to continue until Dec 31, when the winning decade will be declared and rewarded with commemorative Bay View facemasks — the perfect means of showing off school pride in the midst of a global pandemic.
According to Hanna, the competition is shaping up to be an extremely close one: “Currently, the 60s are in the lead for the highest amount raised, but our 80s alumnae have really been motivated by the big hair throwback and are right on their heels.”
Like Bay View, the Prout School took advantage of Giving Tuesday to promote an ongoing fundraising effort — in this case, raising money for the construction of a new athletic field for their soccer and lacrosse teams.
The Meghan C. Cooney Field will be named after a member of Prout’s Class of 1996 who passed away in 2007; she is remembered fondly by her former classmates, who are responsible for just over half of the $12,000 the school has raised so far.
In addition to our diocesan high schools, Rhode Island’s two Catholic colleges also benefitted from alumni generosity on Giving Tuesday.
Salve Regina University raised a total of $35,795 in their campaign, with the Providence Journal Charitable Legacy Fund having agreed to match the first $25,000 in donations.
In addition to providing for scholarships and financial aid, a portion of this money will be used to establish the Mercy Emergency Relief Fund, which will seek to support students personally affected by the pandemic.
Providence College, meanwhile, managed to raise $200,000 in one day with their fundraiser, which will also be devoted to COVID-related expenses.
An infographic provided by the school allowed donors to see the expenses which their gift will help to defray: a $25 donation will pay for one Student Protection Kit (consisting of a face mask, hand sanitizer, and other pandemic necessities) while a $1,000 donation will fund one day of COVID testing at the college (which expects to perform 400 tests a day when in-person classes resume).
Although Giving Tuesday may have come and gone, all of the schools mentioned above are still accepting donations from any alumni or friends who might be a bit late in joining the season of giving. Donations may be made on the website of each school and will certainly make an enormous impact in the lives of students throughout the diocese during this difficult time.