Robert Sullivan , vice president of university development, was quoted in a Catholic News Service article about monetary donations by Catholics during Christmas. See his comments in the story below.

Spirit of Christmas, more prosaic concerns motivate year-end giving

From: Catholic News Service Date: Dec. 8, 2006 Author: Nancy Frazier O'Brien WASHINGTON (CNS) -- It's the most wonderful time of the year.

That's what many of those who run the nation's charitable organizations might say about the period that includes Thanksgiving and Christmas, as well as the end of the tax year.

But Mark Melia, director of fundraising for Catholic Relief Services in Baltimore, thinks it is the spirit of Christmas rather than the thought of tax deductions that drives increased giving during the holidays.

"This is the season that calls giving to mind," as Christians reflect on God's great gift of his Son to the world, he told Catholic News Service. To help others is "an expression of our faith," he added.

CRS, the U.S. Catholic overseas relief and development agency, receives 42 percent of its total private donations during the months of November, December and January, Melia said.

At Catholic Charities USA in Alexandria, Va., and its member agencies around the country, the Christmas season is both a time of increased giving and a time of increased need.

"Many families in our diocese are walking a tightrope, hoping to have enough just to make it through the day and keep from falling into poverty," said Rachel Hrbolich, associate director of social services for Catholic Charities in the Diocese of Youngstown, Ohio, who said emergency assistance cases locally are becoming more complex.

"People are no longer simply delinquent with a bill or in need of food," she added. "They are delinquent with several bills, need food, clothing and medication, and are in danger of foreclosure/eviction or are homeless."

With more than $646 million in private donations last year, Catholic Charities USA and its agencies placed 14th on The Chronicle of Philanthropy's list of the top 400 charitable organizations. CRS is 32nd with nearly $343 million in private funding in 2005. The two are the only Catholic organizations in the journal's top 50.

The Contemporary Catholic Trends poll conducted recently by LeMoyne College in Syracuse, N.Y., and Zogby International shows that Catholics are a generous bunch.

Asked whether they had given money in the past year to a charitable organization in addition to their parish, 79 percent of Catholics said yes. Half said they had given more than $300, and half said they had given less than that.

In addition, 62 percent of Catholics said they had done volunteer work in the previous 12 months. Nearly one-third said most or all of that volunteer work had been done in conjunction with a religious organization.

According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, educational enterprises -- including colleges and universities -- received the most from private donors in 2005 at $15.6 billion, followed closely by social services agencies and youth groups at $15.5 billion.

International charities like CRS got nearly $9.9 billion, while hospitals, medical centers and other health-related charities received $6.8 billion in private funds.

Bob Sullivan, vice president of development at The Catholic University of America in Washington, said the school sees an increase in "the volume and often the size of donations" at Christmastime, as do most U.S. colleges and universities.

But he attributes the increase as much to "the motivation people feel at the end of the tax year" as to the Christmas spirit.

When the university shuts down for Christmas break, Sullivan's office remains open to respond to donors who want to be sure their contributions are properly credited before the end of the year.

That motivation, aided by the Katrina Emergency Tax Relief Act of 2005, prompted a spike in giving to the university last year.

After Hurricane Katrina, Congress wanted to encourage Americans to donate to assistance efforts in the Gulf region but did not want to hurt contributions to other nonprofits, Sullivan told CNS. As a result, tax breaks were approved for both Katrina recovery and other charitable endeavors, boosting giving to many charities and nonprofits.

To motivate donors and prospective donors throughout the year, charitable organizations rely on a variety of methods -- all aimed at keeping people informed about how their money has been or would be spent and thanking them for the good that has been accomplished.

Keeping the cause in front of potential donors can be a challenge, "especially for those of us who work exclusively outside the country," said Melia of CRS, which has projects in 99 countries. News reports can help keep viewers informed about disaster situations, but it is harder to make people aware of ongoing and long-term needs such as hunger and the HIV/AIDS pandemic, he said.

First-time donors to CRS receive phone calls thanking them, as do those who have increased their giving. Informational tools for donors include regular e-mails to the approximately one-sixth of donors who provide their e-mail addresses, a catalog listing each CRS project and its cost, and a magazine called The Wooden Bell, named for a Haitian proverb: "Nobody hears the cries of the poor, or the sound of a wooden bell."

But, the magazine notes on its cover, CRS donors "not only hear the cries of the poor, but answer with compassion."

###2006 (c) Catholic News Service www.CatholicNews.com Reprinted with permission of CNS

Related News