The Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Green Bay was the inspiration of Bishop Robert Banks. In the mid-1990’s, Bishop Banks asked Don Long and Cindi Brawner to develop the Catholic Foundation. He saw the positive effects of foundations elsewhere, and wanted to bring that same impact to Green Bay.
While many Catholic colleges and universities had large foundations, Bishop Banks felt the real work of the Church is done at the parish level and in our diocesan ministries. He believed it was important to ask Catholics to support local charitable, educational and pastoral needs. The inception of the Catholic Foundation provided families with this avenue for faith-based giving.
The Catholic Foundation for the Diocese of Green Bay, Inc. was formally incorporated in 1997 as a 501(c)3 not-for-profit, and a Board of Directors established. Initial seed money for the Foundation came from board members. “Meet and Greets” were held at parishes across the Diocese to introduce the Catholic Foundation; it took several years of cultivation to build awareness. Don Long served as the Board President from 1999 – 2004.
Strategic planning was an important focus for the Catholic Foundation in 2002, culminating in “Vision Day.” This event was attended by leaders in our diocese and led to a reshaping of the Foundation, and the formation of the Legacy Society – an annual gift effort. Additionally, three primary categories of endowments were identified: education, ministry and services. Vision Day directed our purpose; it created focus on what we do, why we do it, and how we do it.
By 2003, the Catholic Foundation had achieved $5 million in assets and 49 funds. Don and Darlene Long created the first $1 million endowment with the establishment of the Affordable Housing Institute. Growth was steady, and changes were continuing to take place. The Holy Father appointed Bishop David Zubik to oversee the Diocese of Green Bay, and he then took his seat as Chairman of the Foundation.
A pivotal year for the Catholic Foundation was 2005. A comprehensive legal review led to a stronger, more donor-focused independent foundation. The Foundation took on a larger role, now handling all diocesan fundraising efforts including the launch of the Advancing the Mission capital stewardship campaign, the Bishop’s Appeal, World Mission Services, and the Seminarian Collection. The Lumen Christi Education Fund was also moved into the Foundation. Over time, fund raising efforts evolved to include annual giving, major giving, and planned and deferred giving. By 2006, assets grew to $35 million and more than 100 funds were established.
Advancing the Mission was a significant multi-year campaign launched in 2006. Parishes were encouraged to form Stewardship Committees and establish goals for the campaign. During these years, $39.6 million was raised from over 25,000 donors through Advancing the Mission, with 50% of these funds returning to parishes for their greatest needs, and the balance to establish four endowments: Evangelization, Leadership Development, Lifelong Catechesis, and Priestly Retirement Care. Beginning in 2009, parishes have been able to apply for grants from three of these endowments.
In 2007, the John S. Grundman Scholarship Fund was established. This was the second $1 million gift received by the Foundation. Mr. Grundman was an employee of Oshkosh Catholic Schools, carefully saved money, and generously built up a substantial trust to serve financially distressed students at Oshkosh Lourdes Academy. His story is indicative of the many humble, generous people of northeastern Wisconsin.
The National Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help, outside Green Bay, Wisconsin, was officially approved by Bishop David Ricken as a Marian apparition site in 2010. It is the only approved Marian apparition site in North America. The Catholic Foundation assists the Shrine with its fundraising to benefit daily operations. The Foundation also works with friends of the Shrine to establish endowments and invites people to remember the Shrine in their will. For more information, explore their website.
It has always been important for the Catholic Foundation to support Catholic values. Families want to know their endowments are faith-based, in harmony with their diocese and the Bishop’s vision. We exist to benefit the Diocese of Green Bay, but we are a completely separate entity.
In 2012, the Catholic Foundation celebrated 15 years in service to the needs of the Catholic community in northeastern Wisconsin. And by 2014 the Foundation grew to over $72 million in assets and more than 190 funds.
Throughout 2017-2018 we celebrated our 20th anniversary. With this milestone came change. Cindi Brawner transitioned from executive director to working more with families and individuals wanting to leave a legacy. We are grateful for her leadership and years of dedicated service. With her guidance, the Foundation has grown to $98 million and has distributed nearly $40 million over the past 20 years. In January 2018, Josh Diedrich became our new executive director. Today our incredible growth continues and would not be possible without the support of a very generous Catholic community.
Throughout our history we have encouraged stewardship and generosity by providing a faith-based avenue for giving. Our friends support us because of our Catholic values – it’s what makes us different from other local community foundations. Donors recognize the impact we have in the community and in our parishes. We are eternally grateful to the families whose gifts we extend to others.