Catholic Schools Week — Why the window stays open

Richard A. Lechleiter is the president of the Catholic Education Foundation. (Photo Special to The Record)

By RICHARD LECHLEITER

It was on March 12, 2020, that I re-learned a very valuable lesson. Six days from hosting the largest fundraising event in our history, the Salute to Catholic School Alumni dinner, I sat in a studio to produce a video announcing the cancellation of the event because of COVID-19.

Fearful of the financial consequences of the cancellation, we reached out to all our event sponsors and patrons and asked if we could retain their financial commitment to the event even though it wouldn’t be held.

As many of you may know, the response was completely overwhelming, so much so that we realized the largest net profit from the event in its 30-year history – an astounding $1.25 million!

Lesson re-learned: He knows The Way.

But that was only the beginning. For the next six weeks, our fundraising activities were essentially shut down as everyone tried to come to grips with a pandemic never seen before. Interestingly, during that same period, our team was busy making tuition assistance award decisions for our needy families for the upcoming fall school term.

It was becoming increasingly apparent that the foundation wasn’t going to raise enough money to fund the student demand in front of us — our revenues were declining while their needs were climbing. Our expected funding gap was enormous — over $500,000.

And then it happened again. In early May, we launched our Annual Fund Campaign (six weeks later than normal) and donor participation shot up an incredible 30% to its highest level ever! Then our Board of Directors stepped up — at the most difficult time to do so — and raised over $200,000 amongst themselves.

Then an anonymous donor reached out to us and offered a $100,000 challenge grant in recognition of the board’s awesome achievement. In June, three other donors contributed an unexpected $100,000 each.

Last fall, for the sixth consecutive year, every student who came to the foundation for tuition assistance, and who demonstrated a financial need, in fact earned an award. Every single one!

Lesson re-learned: He knows The Way.

May God bless you for your unending kindness to the great mission of the Catholic Education Foundation. Because of you, we can say to all our families in need, “The Answer is YES!!”

Richard A. Lechleiter is the president of the Catholic Education Foundation of Louisville

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