As the Upon This Rock campaign officially surpasses the $100 million mark this month, it is by no means too late to contribute. While the pledge phase is winding down, the distribution is just beginning. Parishes began to receive checks last summer representing their 35 percent share of the fund drive. This summer, a total of $94,000 will be distributed to 18 Catholic schools to enhance or, in the case of seven of those schools, launch a STREAM program for the first time.
Over the course of the next several months, guidelines will be developed for grant distribution in other categories such as evangelization and catechesis, communications and outreach, tuition assistance and campus ministry. This period of time will also allow for the fund to accrue interest for nearly a year in compliance with the interest accrual period for all Foundation UTR endowment funds.
"We want people to know that there is a process going on behind the scenes," said Kellie Ulrich, chair of the grants committee for the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. "Our purpose of not spending the money right away is to have these pots grow over the next year, so that we can offer more meaningful grants."
Betsy Sullivan, co-chair of the Upon This Rock campaign, points out that some of the grants will be direct "spend downs" on the money collected, and others will be endowment funds which offer grant money based on the interest accrued from the funds over time. "Until we collect the money, we can't actually grant money," said Sullivan, who notes that many of the donors have opted to contribute over a period of five years, or will leave a certain amount in their estates.
Ulrich and Sullivan are both volunteers serving on an ad-hoc committee, which will spend the next several months drawing up the guidelines for the Upon This Rock grants. It is anticipated that the final guidelines will be made public in March, allowing those who are interested to apply for grants by the deadline of April 15, 2018, for the May 2018 grant cycle. Additional grant cycles and deadlines will be announced. "We are meeting every week and we are going through the case elements," said Sullivan. "We are getting input from all different perspectives before we come up with grant guidelines. It's important that we communicate to the people who will be asking for the funds that everything is consistent with the donors' intent and with what the bishop's vision is for the diocese."
The process will follow some of the pre-existing grant guidelines set by the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo such as; funds cannot be used to pay salaries or fund capital improvements. Individual diocesan departments, Catholic organizations listed in the Diocesan Directory, parishes and schools are free to apply for Upon This Rock grants. Grant funds cannot be payable to any individual, so anyone with an idea for a grant should contact the appropriate organization, school or parish council to help facilitate the support necessary to apply for a grant. Applicants are encouraged to involve more than one organization, school or parish, if possible, to increase the scope of who would benefit from the idea.
The focus of the grant process is to make sure the money goes to initiatives that prove to be generational and transformational, according to Sullivan. "We don't intend the money to be used as budgetary plugs for organizations or departments. We're hoping it will last longer than us and help our children and our grandchildren. We need to do things differently to get more Catholics involved and to keep the Catholics we have."
"We are really looking for things that will impact the greatest number of people within all eight counties of our diocese," said Ulrich. "As we set these guidelines, as we prepare for these applications, we want people to know that this has all come out of conversations with different people in different positions throughout the diocese," according to Ulrich, who stresses the importance of programs that will sustain themselves or can be sustained by the parish or co-sponsors moving forward. "Programs that can grow and continue are things that we really want to look at."
More information can be found on www.UponThisRockWNY.org and on the Grant Making page of the Foundation website www.frcdb.org, which will feature updated guidelines when they are finalized in the winter months.