[RISING STARS IN PHILANTHROPY] No Money, No Mission – The Evolving Nature of Faith Based Fundraising  

I have always been fascinated by faith based organizing as to me it’s an authentic progression of translating your values, beliefs and what those have taught you into practice.  

Another key piece of this is of course the infrastructure, the churches, gathering places scattered throughout our neighborhoods that welcome all and are historically (and still remain currently) anchor institutions in our community.  

I often wonder what a fully activated church community might look like, not just giving in the plethora of ways they currently give, not just giving through their congregation, but in organized ways that support those in need locally and ultimately reflecting the communities they seek to lift up. Working arm in arm with other community leaders & bringing an important voice to the table. 

Recent reporting from Giving USA highlighted that donations to religious causes increased 2.3% between 2018 and 2019, with an estimated $128.17 billion in contributions. But what is the future of faith based fundraising and how is it seeking to modernize its practices beyond the traditional asks from the pulpit? I sat down with Ian Rangel, Director of Pastoral Service Appeal & Fund Development at the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange to learn more. 

Ian really gets it. And what I mean by it, is fundraising. By his own admission he says he “is one of the weird ones that knew I wanted to work in Advancement/Development when I was in college”. It’s always refreshing to hear folks say they joined our profession intentionally and not because ‘they fell into it’. That being said, he also knew a few years working in the corporate sector would provide the necessary experience to thrive in his chosen career so he spent several years working in client relations and business development beforehand. For those playing at home, that’s the fancy for-profit lingo for stewardship and donor identification/cultivation. 

When Ian began his important work as a frontline fundraiser it was a no brainer that it would be in supporting the work of the Catholic Church. To him, it was the best way to bring his whole self to work and support his view of philanthropy’s role in society – providing everyone the opportunity to share their time, talent and treasure to support something greater than themselves. 

“Now my “Why” has been focused on modernizing fundraising practices within the Catholic church to support the growing outreach and ministry within the community. I support 62 parishes, collaborating with parishioners on their individual efforts because you can’t just jump in given the size and scope of it all.” 

“We need to help grow outreach and the ministry because parishioners need support or will move on. Catholic fundraising is unique in that there are some who view it as a strictly spiritual act, compelled to participate out of a sense of duty. That being said, if we can build a compelling narrative beyond that threshold, we can build more resources to expand our work. At the end of the day, if there is no money, there is no way to achieve our mission.” 

Ian’s work (and ultimately his why) has been focused on modernizing fundraising practices within the Catholic Church to better support the ministries alive in his community. While he admits that many in his field are behind their peers in higher education in regards to the adoption of technology, he is encouraged about the opportunities that exist. 

“I’m excited about the mindset of growth that I witness in the people I interact with here in the Diocese of Orange and would describe my current feelings towards the nonprofit sector, specifically religious organizations, as optimistic. In so many ways the past 18 months (living and working through a pandemic) exposed not only the holes in our personal lives, but also those in the organizations we support. I’ve seen so many nonprofit leaders take this as an opportunity to recognize these areas of growth and really ‘lean in’ on creating a brighter more meaningful future for their organization and constituents. 

Ian believes this future can also be accelerated by tech with him predicting the potential benefits of work-flow automation and predictive analytics being key. It’s should be no surprise here that one of those businesses he worked at to gain more experience was a data science and analytics firm.. 

“We’ve certainly made it a point to push the envelope. We’ve used geofencing activities, placed targeted ad-buys, and have piloted a/b testing in a number of our communications. The success of these efforts is definitely helping us demystify the tech available to us to both optimize our prospect pipelines but also identify those with the capacity to provide more transformative gifts through more detailed research and of course data modeling through AI.” 

Tech has also enabled the church to expand its reach especially during the pandemic with many parishes utilizing live streaming. Churches are definitely evolving and regardless of what your beliefs are, you would be wise to be open to the work, motivations of those who predominantly give through their church and respect the impact they wish to have on the world.  

Ian dutifully brings it all back to leadership and mission. Individual giving supports both, and tech can enhance it. “If we are beholden to a certain model our mission will suffer as a result. We must continue leveraging the strengths of others, well established relationships and simple communication to figure out answers for difficult problems, wrapping in these advances into the traditions that underpin our work.” 

Leadership and mission. There’s nothing more gospel to our sector than that. 

Connect with Ian today:

LinkedIn – https://www.linkedin.com/in/ian-r-07217864/

Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange – https://www.rcbo.org/ 


If you know of anyone doing great work or believe someone espouses the values of future focused leadership and deserves to be highlighted in this way then please nominate them. If you believe this ultimately speaks to you, please, please nominate yourself.

To nominate an individual to be featured, please fill in the quick contact form here. Individuals don’t need to be specifically in organized philanthropy either – we hope to cover all facets of the ecosystem from planned giving to programming, from fundraising to IT, from nonprofits to activism or those that simply have a passion for giving back and are standing up to showcase their values through our field.

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