By Thomas Sonni
Founder and President of Greater Mission

In the Catholic Diocese of Richmond, Catholic Schools realized a remarkable ten percent overall increase in enrollment the FY 22 school year. Parents are rediscovering that they can access an affordable education for their children designed to nurture high achievement and strong formation in Judeo-Christian values. Significant tuition assistance ensures affordability for families across the economic spectrum.

Our experience in the Diocese of Richmond demonstrates that donors are also discovering how Catholic Schools deliver a great return on their philanthropic investment. The Learn to Lead Campaign ( has been designed by Greater Mission as a pioneering new model for the Diocese of Richmond. The investment pays great dividends in the lives of nearly 7,500 Catholic School students themselves, and the positive impact extends significantly to many other people that each child relates to throughout their entire lives.

The campaign is being led by Bishop Barry Knestout and Margaret Keightley, Executive Director of the Catholic Community Foundation of the Diocese of Richmond, with high involvement from Kelly Lazzara, Superintendent of Catholic Schools for the Diocese of Richmond. The Greater Mission team is providing significant implementation support, led by its President, Thomas Sonni. In the early months of the campaign, nearly $14 million has already been raised toward a minimum goal of $30 million.

There are two unique aspects designed into the model.

A. Two Levels:

I. Diocesan-wide Gifts: The campaign has been designed with a diocese-wide leadership gifts phase, with direct solicitations at the six and seven-figure levels. At the very end of the campaign, it is expected that Catholics throughout the diocese will be invited to participate.

II. School Campaigns: Every Catholic School in the Diocese has been encouraged to conduct their own locally led campaign to invite support from their constituent groups including current parents and family, alumni, local parishioners, businesses, friends, and previous donors.

B. Three Phases of the School Campaign:

I. Pre-Campaign: Paid for through the system-wide case for support, Greater Mission will work closely with school leaders and development staff where they exist to prepare for a successful campaign by developing:

i. a compelling case for support that can include capital, scholarship support and endowment building,

ii. a comprehensive and diverse list of constituents, expanding where possible,

iii. a set of identified lead gift candidates through a multi-dimensional process of research and rating, and

iv. a plan and timeline to communicate the campaign initiative, solicit pledges, and steward relationships.

II. School Campaign: The Greater Mission team will work side-by-side with the school team to implement the campaign plan. Schools pay a significantly reduced campaign fee under the
Learn to Lead Campaign umbrella.

III. Post Campaign Coaching and Consulting: A Greater Mission team leader will be assigned to work closely with school leadership to build on the new momentum gained through the campaign, nurturing the new and expanded donor relationships, and designing a
comprehensive plan for ongoing campaign gifts, major gifts, annual and legacy giving. This will also be included in the system-wide case for support so it will be free to schools.

This ground-level, grassroots support for school-based campaign and development support creates an exciting new path for mission advancement across an entire system of schools. The bold vision is to build a runway for ongoing relationship-centric mission advancement for Catholic Schools at the diocesan and local school levels, using the Learn to Lead Campaign as a major momentum-builder.

Greater Mission’s Catholic fundraising consultants serve the Church and faith-based organizations.
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