DETROIT — A little more than a year ago, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan sought to become a “game changer” in regards to stewardship and philanthropy in the Church in southeast Michigan.
 
To date, the Catholic Foundation of Michigan has distributed $700,000 in grants to parishes, schools and ministries dedicated to “unleashing the Gospel” in southeast Michigan, and is on track to give out just under $1 million in its first full year of operation.

The grant-writing process has signaled a paradigm shift in how people give to the Church and how the ministries of the Church can seek funding for projects, said Angela Moloney, president and CEO of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan.
 
“We’re really excited about teaching the granting process, inviting parishes, schools and Catholic organizations to learn about how to write a grant, what goes into writing a grant and the tools available to parishes to perfect their bids and requests,” Moloney said.

The Catholic Foundation of Michigan recently hosted a workshop for all Catholic nonprofits seeking funding, teaching the ins and outs of grant writing, how to come up with proposals and how to maximize interest from potential donors.
 
“We had 40 people at the grant-writing workshop, teaching them how to write grants with confidence and competence,” Moloney said. “At the beginning of the conference, people's confidence levels ranged from 0s to 2s. After the conference, it was 4s and 5s. It’s a beautiful component of the work of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan, helping these organizations learn what they need to be to be stronger grant applicants.”

Angela Moloney

The grants distributed by the Catholic Foundation of Michigan are divided into two specific categories. The first are "Impact" grants, where donors contribute toward or establish an endowment fund to support the mission of parishes, schools and Catholic nonprofits that promote social outreach and formation.

The second category is the "Church in the City" grants, which sprang from the archdiocese's Changing Lives Together capital campaign, designated for parishes in Detroit, Hamtramck and Highland Park and focusing on evangelization along the lines of Detroit Archbishop Allen H. Vigneron’s pastoral letter Unleash the Gospel.
 
“The Church in the City grant process is a direct result of Archbishop Vigneron directing $1.4 million dollars from the Changing Lives Together campaign to foster innovative evangelization in line with Unleash the Gospel, to boldly proclaim the Gospel of Jesus,” Moloney said.

In total, 17 parishes in Detroit’s urban core will receive grant funding from the Catholic Foundation of Michigan this year, a direct result of the organization sharing its know-how on grant writing.
 
“A number of the grant applications were extremely new and innovative ideas in bringing people together to maximize their strengths and create a deeper impact because of their collaboration,” Moloney said. “Many of these projects wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the Church in the City grant. One parish, St. Mary of Redford Parish, is bringing in a Gospel choir for a ‘Jazz Mass’ to draw people into the parish who normally wouldn’t go near a Catholic church.”


The Cabrini Clinic, a free clinic providing medical services for Detroit's poor and homeless, has an endowment through the Catholic Foundation of Michigan. (Courtesy photo)

The Catholic Foundation of Michigan’s Grant and Impact Committee reviews all the grant application, assessing each request, its potential impact in the community and how it brings the Gospel to people in a new way.

Anthony Schena, CEO of Schena Roofing and Sheet Metal in Chesterfield, chairs the committee.
 
“In creating this granting process, we had to create the criteria for the grants and who we are trying to create an impact with,” Schena said. “We were pretty aggressive in deciding how we are going to give away money, who are we going to give it to, and how we were going to do it.”

Schena said it is the committee’s mission to make sure the grants will do what the applicants say they are going to do and are in line with the mission of the Catholic Church, particularly its call to evangelize.

For both the Church in the City grants and the Impact grants, Schena said the committee’s focus was on whether the grant applicants answered all of the committee's initial questions, and whether the grant money would start a project that would have a lasting, sustainable legacy.

“We were looking for programs where a few thousand dollars would really make a difference,” Schena said. “What stood out was even in this great economy, people don’t realize how many people still need help, who are still trying to get back on their feet and can’t get a break for a variety of reasons. We were looking for programs that not only helped families, but did so by putting Christ at the center of their lives, nourishing their souls.”

The entire grant writing and approval process is a moment of formation for the committee itself, which has the important task of approving or declining applications with donors' intentions in mind.

Chris Allen, president and CEO of Detroit-based Authority Health, serves on the Grant and Impact Committee and said keeping good faith with donors is something all members of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan need to keep in mind when discerning grant applicants.
 
“The donors intend for these dollars to be used for specific purposes,” Allen said. “As stewards, we want to go back to those donors and show what we have done. (We want to say), 'Here is the evidence that your donations have made an impact.'”

Allen and his colleagues on the committee said the parishes, schools and nonprofits who received grant money focused on building an outward, mission-based Church in the Archdiocese of Detroit.

“The organizations that receive our grant money really understood the purpose and reason for the grant,” Allen said. “They were able to tailor the proposals that went beyond the four walls of the Church.”

Moloney and the rest of the Catholic Foundation of Michigan team are already gearing up for the next round of grant applications, discernment and judgment, armed with knowledge from the first year of the process, supplemented by results from the first grant recipients.

Seeing the results of that discernment enhances the credibility of the organization and its ability to be stewards of people's donations, Allen said.
 
“We’re going to learn from the first round of granting, getting testimonials after the grant is used, looking at the intent of the donor and staying connected with the people we’re partnering with,” Allen said. “We’re going to look at how these grants are ‘unleashing the Gospel’ in communities that are in transition or are building on prior foundations. It’s about showing our donors they are making a difference; they are helping the Church proclaim the Gospel message.”