When it comes to believing in the unparalleled value of Catholic education, the Diocese of Trenton has something to celebrate.

The 2020 #GivingTuesday charitable appeal raised more than $100,000 – the Diocese’s most successful outreach to Catholic school supporters to date.

“We have raised more at this point than we did the entire previous school year!” said Christine Prete, associate director of development operations for the Diocese. “We have doubled the number of donors and tripled the number of dollars raised.”

#GivingTuesday, which fell on Dec. 1, is an annual, global crowdfunding campaign that occurs on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. In the Diocese of Trenton, supporters are asked to make a donation, commit to volunteer for their Catholic school or offer prayers for the mission of Catholic education. All funds raised go directly to participants’ school of choice or to the diocesan Department of Catholic Schools for broader tuition or program assistance.

As of Dec. 30, $102,000 in funds had been raised for the 29 schools that participated, in addition to both four prayer and four volunteer offers. The highest donation made was a $10,000 match by a single anonymous donor, with an average donation of $126.

Holy Cross Academy, Rumson, was among the Catholic schools to experience unprecedented success. Charissa Keavey, president of the school’s Board of Delegated Responsibility, noted that the academy launched its annual fund in conjunction with #GivingTuesday, with unexpected results.

“Last year, Holy Cross Academy raised $1,345 during its #GivingTuesday campaign,” she said. “As of this writing, we have raised $33,550 – almost 25 times our prior year’s raise! We are thrilled to share in the excitement and success the whole Diocese had this year.” 

Holy Cross Academy’s receiving the anonymous $10,000 match helped build enthusiasm in the days leading up #GivingTuesday, she said.

“We reached out to all constituents in the school community – present and past parents, staff and faculty, alumni, grandparents, parishioners and friends – and we stressed how much participation mattered, no matter the size of the gift,” Keavey said. 

In addition, she said, “We could not have made it happen without the legwork of the Diocese’s Department of Development. They took on the expense and back office workload of setting up the donation pages for schools, hosted webinars and gave schools a toolkit that laid out a plan for success. We followed the plan in the diocesan toolkit almost to the letter.”

Indeed, though 2020 was the third year the Diocese has participated in #GivingTuesday, the diocesan Department of Development launched a rebranding effort in its ongoing effort to foster relationships with Catholic schools and help in their advancement. With 2020-21 being the first full year of new branding, the annual Catholic Alumni Partnership effort has become Catholic Schools Have it All. #GivingTuesday is the first appeal for the 2020-21 campaign. Two more will follow in the coming months.

“We realized through research and conversations that we needed to broaden our reach beyond alumni,” Prete said. “Our Catholic schools receive spiritual and financial support of several additional constituent groups. ‘Catholic Schools Have it All’ more clearly represents these additional supporters who have a passion for Catholic Education.”

Those in St. Joan of Arc School, Marlton, say they are grateful for the Diocese’s help, which in addition to again having access to a #GivingTuesday promotional toolkit, included for the first time the crafting of a #GivingTuesday mailer and thank you letter to donors by diocesan Superintendent of Catholic Schools Dr. Vincent de Paul Schmidt. Schools could also connect with Prete and staff via online video platforms.

“Last year, we only raised a fraction of what we were able to rase this year on #GivingTuesday,” said Mary Clare Brandt, St. Joan of Arc School’s director of admissions and marketing.

The school raised less than $1,000 in 2019, but almost $4,500 in 2020. Funds will largely go toward purchasing Chromebooks for each student as well as tuition assistance.

“We are so blessed to have parishioners, alumni and families who are our extended family,” Brandt said. “We always like to stay connected … not only on #GivingTuesday, but every day. Our parishioners are wonderful, generous people; we couldn’t do any of this without them.”

Keavey stressed that the funds raised for Holy Cross Academy will go where they are most needed – areas including tuition assistance, ensuring state-of-the-art classrooms and more.

“To say that this year was unlike anything anyone anticipated is an obvious understatement. The pandemic has affected everyone,” she said.

“One of the things it may have also done is magnify the gifts that are right in front of us – one of those gifts being Catholic education. It has become clear to many people that as the world gets more complicated, Catholic schools provide a foundation for life that is unmatched,” Keavey said.

With two more appeals planned for February and April 2021, Prete hopes the partnership between the Diocese and its schools “will continue to more effectively engage the various constituents and integrate them into our Catholic school family of supporters. 

“The growth of support from those who recognize the critical importance of a faith-based education will result in increased donors and dollars and will translate to more tuition assistance for students,” she said.