I haven’t written much about Voice of the Faithful, the lay organization formed in 2002 in response to the sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church. Started in the basement of a church in Wellesley, Mass., it claims 150 parish affiliates and 30,000 members but I never got the impression it was all that strong in the DC area.
But I did know many religious groups are taking a huge hit with this economic crisis, not to mention lots of missionary friends who’ve seen their support evaporate this past year. So I wasn’t shocked to learn that both its president and chair of its board of trustees have sent out a memo to supporters begging for $60,000 to keep its Boston-area office open throughout the summer.
What was interesting is the huge amount of response the Boston Globe got when it posted the news yesterday of the organization’s problems. Read some of the 55 responses to this post.
I ran into some VOTF folks at a 2003 Call to Action conference I attended in Milwaukee but never got the impression VOTF was that liberal compared to some of the other groups floating around out there.
- Julia Duin, religion editor
Here is VOTF’s letter:
With great heaviness of heart, we write to inform you that VOTF is at the crossroads of financial survival and we need your immediate help in order to keep it going.
No U.S. business or organization (from the biggest corporate entity to the smallest non-profit) has been immune from the devastating downturn in the economy over the past 1-2 years. As we know all too well from unyielding media reports, that downturn has rippled into communities and households, confirming worst expectations and fears.
During the past two years, the Board of Trustees approved substantial reductions in VOTF’s operating budget as decreases in revenue reflected the emerging and now full economic downturn in our country. Between FY 08 and 09, the Board approved a budget reduction of over 30%. As the economy and our revenue stream worsened appreciably, in April 2009, the Board reduced the FY 09 budget by another 35% (nearly $235,000 more). To accomplish this huge drop, the Board made painful cuts in staff salaries and contractor support; relocated the office to a smaller facility at about half the monthly rental costs; and curtailed costly mailings intended to raise revenue. Throughout this period, staff, contractors and volunteers demonstrated remarkable resolve in doing even more with less.
At the same time, the Board continued an aggressive outreach to members, friends, and donors to raise more revenue, as you are no doubt painfully aware from a variety of appeals and fund-raisers communicated in emails and editions of In The Vineyard.
Cash reserves allowed VOTF to continue operations but only by a very thin margin. The Board’s plan was to generate a substantial infusion of revenue when the Officers rolled out a comprehensive Strategic Plan in early August. Based on the enthusiastic response from dozens of VOTF members who have been bringing the Strategic Plan to life for several months, we expected that it would result in a revitalization of members’ energy at regional and local levels, and with it, a level of necessary revenue as members and donors recognized the opportunity for a renewed voice and influence in achieving VOTF’s mission and goals. Previews of the Strategic Plan have been included in several recent editions of In The Vineyard.
Unfortunately, our financial condition has deteriorated before the rollout the Strategic Plan. As of early July, VOTF’s reserves have all but been depleted, and it faces the prospects of not being able to pay for recurring costs during July and beyond. After meeting in an emergency session on July 9, the Board foresaw two realistic options: (1) declare that VOTF could not continue to operate and begin to wind it down, or (2) appeal to members to fund operations in the short term and seek sustained funding based on an anticipated enthusiastic response to the Strategic Plan. If the latter is successful, the Board will develop a downsizing plan commensurate with sustained funding expectations, supplemented where feasible with additional volunteer help.
Many of you have labored tirelessly since 2002 and given generously of your time and treasures to sustain the dream of VOTF’s mission: To provide a prayerful voice, attentive to the Spirit, through which the Faithful can actively participate in the governance and guidance of the Catholic Church. We can make the difference in supporting that dream, but only if collectively we raise the revenue to do so.
As a result, the Board is soliciting from its members (and any friends or supporters that you can reach) a short-term infusion of $60,000 by the end of July (our current monthly costs run about $30,000 per month). We know this is a painful choice for you, especially in a very short time, but we ask you nonetheless to go to www.votf.org, click Donate at the top of the page, and make whatever generous contribution you can make, NO LATER THAN JULY 31. Or you can mail a check to VOTF, P.O. Box 423, Newton, MA 02464 (same address as previous facility until it is changed later).
If we receive this level of funding by the end of July, we will be able to continue operations for July and August, disseminate the Strategic Plan in the first week in August, and generate what we hope will be renewed energy and revenue based on the attraction of that plan (http://votf.org/vineyard/Dec8_2008/SP_Narrative.pdf). Going forward, membership will include an annual financial commitment—a feature common to most other similar organizations.
If reality dictates otherwise, either by July 31 or in response to the Strategic Plan, the Board will exercise its fiduciary responsibilities to begin the steps necessary to close the national office, yet seek to continue VOTF’s mission and goals through volunteers, affiliates and members at the national and local levels.
In any event, the conference scheduled on Long Island in October will continue since the Long Island affiliate will administer it as it has done with annual conferences on Long Island for several years.
If you need to communicate with either of us, please send emails to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the office at its new number 781.559.3360.
With great hope in the Spirit to lead us,
Dan Bartley, President
Bill Casey, Chair of the Board of Trustees