With the 240th Anniversary of our country’s independence rapidly approaching, it is a good time for American Catholic fund-raisers to consider charitable giving in its historical context, and to remember why America has traditionally been most generous to Faith-based causes. In their excellent resource book, Fundraising Basics: A Complete Guide, THIRD EDITION (Jones and Bartlett Publishers, 2009), development experts, Barbara L. Ciconte, CFRE, and Jeanne G. Jacob, CAE, CFRE, write that, from its earliest beginnings in colonial America, philanthropy “had its roots in necessity.”
Although colonized by the British crown and funded by British merchants, early Americans raised their own taxes and sought private funds to subsidize local schools and churches. The Great Awakening, a major religious revival movement which swept the colonies in the 1730s and 1740s, provided many opportunities for generous colonists to pass on their wealth.
New College, founded in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature to “advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches,…” did not begin construction until 1638, when John Harvard willed the fledgling institution half his monetary estate of £780, and his scholar’s library of 400 books. The grateful legislature subsequently ordered “that the Colledge agreed upon formerly to bee built at Cambridg shalbee called Harvard Colledge.”
Faith-based causes and religious institutions continue to hold great sway with our fellow citizens, not only because they help meet important needs, but also because, on an earthly level, they help build meaningful and lasting relationships. In the recently published, Giving USA 2015 The Annual Report on Philanthropy for the Year 2014, of the nine categories surveyed, the cause which still attracts top donor support is Religion, which the right to practice was so cherished by our founding fathers and mothers.
On June 21, 2106, the vigil of Sts. Thomas More and Bishop John Fisher, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops began its nation-wide observance of the Fortnight for Freedom, celebrating religious liberty as the first liberty embodied in our Constitution’s Bill of Rights. Over the next two weeks, let us as Catholic fund-raisers honor the witnesses to freedom given by so many good people in our country and in our church, who have gone before us. They took seriously Our Lord’s words, “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy. For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.” (Luke 12: 33-34)
For more information about the Fortnight for Freedom, as well as bios on 14 Witnesses to Freedom, please access http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/religious-liberty/fortnight-for-freedom/.
About the Writer:
Constance “Connie” F. Anderson, M.Ed. is a multi generational native of Baton Rouge, and is proud to call Louisiana’s state capital “home.” She recently returned to family and friends, after having spent a wonderful year away as the Executive Director for the Natchitoches Regional Medical Center Foundation. For more information about Connie, or to get in touch with her for a potential fundraising consultation, please contact her at Constance.Anderson@cox.net.
Thirteen Colonies, retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thirteen_Colonies
John Harvard (clergyman), retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harvard_(clergyman)
Colonial History of the United States, retrieved from