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Sustainable Grace

Nov 7, 2023

In this podcast, Zela Astarjian, Managing Director at CIS, joins Sister Barbara Thomas of the United States Province of the Apostles of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Katie Thiemann of Cor Jesu Academy, and Sister Irene O'Neill of Sisters Rising Worldwide to discuss incorporating a culture of philanthropy in your religious community.

More and more, Catholic institutions are making advancement a priority. The reason: Without a strong advancement program, some organizations may struggle or fail in the decades ahead due to shifting demographics and donation practices among Catholics nationally. This will be an educational workshop and will cover essentials such as enhancing financial management practices, creating an advancement function, making fundraising more strategic and building a strong endowment. The discussion will examine how religious orders can secure their futures by implementing best practices for board and committee governance.


  • The aim of the session is to demystify fundraising with real-life examples on how to improve fundraising efforts
  • Katie’s personal experience where a major donor initially said no, but later came back with a heavy donation
  • Sister Barbara’s experience of shifting from school administration to fundraising, and how the needs of a province drive the fundraising activities
  • The need for donations to support the home for the sisters, a responsibility handled by the fundraisers
  • The importance of asking for a specific number when fundraising because it is statistically more effective
  • Establishing a board instead of an advisory committee due to the major responsibility and commitment board members accept
  • The initial challenges and eventual success of a dinner event
  • Sister Barbara organized featuring Cardinal Dolan as the speaker
  • The centerpieces at the tables which contained pictures of young individuals associated with their ministries and a quote about their life experiences
  • The story of one of the sisters who actively engaged with attendees, just by getting them to sign in a visitors' book


Episode Resources