June 2024 Newsletter – Part II

Announcing Our Inaugural Class: ISPD Circle of Catholic Champions
(Part II)

In celebration of our 35th anniversary in June 2024, ISPD is announcing our first Circle of Catholic Champions. This is a combination of individual Catholic leaders, parishes, schools, and (arch)dioceses that ISPD has worked with in the past 35 years. They represent the following traits that exhibit true Catholic Development – Advancement – Stewardship excellence:

  • Commitment to engaging people
  • Belonging leads to believing culture
  • Proactive thinking
  • Excellent stewardship of resources they have been given
  • Collaborative leadership
  • Ability to create and share an innovative and dynamic vision
  • Mission-driven results
  • Commitment to bringing people to Christ and Christ to people

This first year we are honoring eight individuals, schools, and/or parishes. Those who will be able to attend will be awarded their commemorative plaque at the ISPD Summer 2024 Development School in New Orleans this June 18 – 20.

We are excited to name the recipients.

  • Father Dennis Hartigan
  • Father Jim Manning
  • Archbishop Moeller High School; Cincinnati, OH
  • Holy Name of Jesus Parish and School; New Orleans, LA
  • Jesuit High School; New Orleans, LA
  • Mount de Sales Academy; Catonsville, MD
  • St. Ursula Academy; Cincinnati, OH
  • Scecina Memorial High School; Indianapolis, IN

In the May 2024 newsletter (Part I) we recognized and spoke of the accomplishments and achievements of Father Dennis Hartigan, Father Jim Manning, Archbishop Moeller High School, and Holy Name of Jesus Parish and School. This newsletter (Part II) we will recognize the remaining four recipients: Jesuit High School, Mount de Sales Academy, St. Ursula Academy, and Scecina Memorial High School.

Jesuit High School; New Orleans, LA

In 2016, ISPD was invited by Tom Bagwill, the advancement director for Jesuit High School at the time, to come and make a presentation to Father Anthony McGinn, S.J., the president, on how ISPD would conduct a Financial Feasibility Study. The school was considering a $25 million campaign that would be applied to major capital improvements such as:

  • Completing the renovation of the school’s classrooms;
  • Renovating the 1926 administration building;
  • Renovating and air conditioning the gymnasium and second and third floors of the health and physical fitness building.

The Study proved positive, and the Campaign was launched.

During the Financial Feasibility Study, we personally interviewed 65 individuals and/or couples and received input from another 43 people via a direct mail questionnaire, with the same questions we asked in the personal interviews. Throughout our history, ISPD has conducted over 100 Financial Feasibility Studies, thereby interviewing thousands. Being headquartered in the Greater New Orleans Area, we had long heard about the ability of Jesuit High School to raise money; however we had always wondered why. Why was this school so successful with over $2 — $3 million raised each year in annual giving? We found the answer.

“Men for Others” is not a slogan; it is not just a theme and nice title to a newsletter. These words are lived by the young men who walk the halls of Jesuit High School and implemented by the graduates who move on to achieve great success. Here was a typical exchange, between ISPD and the person/couple being interviewed.

“Jason, in terms of your participation in a proposed capital campaign, here are a number of categories of giving. (We showed them categories ranging from 7-figure gifts to 5-figure gifts). When it comes time for you to consider a gift to campaign, are there one or two categories you might consider?”

“That will be easy. More than likely we would consider a gift in one of the higher ranges. This is not a difficult decision; the main question will be how high. Here’s why. When I was a student here at Jesuit High School, my parents could not pay full tuition, so I was here because of the generosity of someone else. Because of my education at Jesuit High School, I have been able to achieve some success in my business. I am a man for others, and now it is time for me to give back to the school that essentially made me the man I am today.”

Wow! We now understood. “Men for Others” – a mission taught and integrated with all who attend Jesuit High School.

Father McGinn, after serving many years as president, stepped down shortly after the Financial Feasibility Study, and Father Christopher Fronk, S.J. stepped in as the new president. Father Fronk was brand new to Jesuit High School and brand new to capital campaigns. However, there was one thing he was not new at: building relationships. In his 3-4 years at Jesuit High School, he set a new goal for the campaign — $30 million – and cultivated relationships with many Jesuit alums. “Minds and Hearts Enlightened: The Campaign for Jesuit High School” was launched, and the campaign raised over $30 million. This campaign addressed the following case points:

  • Classroom Renovation
  • Restoration of the Banks Street Wing (originally the Jesuit residence)
  • Construction of a Pedestrian Walkway over Banks Street
  • Construction of Jesuit’s new building at Carrollton and Banks in three decades
  • Renovation of the Jesuit Recreational Center and the second and third floors of the Health and Physical Education Building
  • Endowment Growth

Every Friday morning for close to two years, Father Fronk, Tom Bagwill, Jason Britsch (Campaign Coordinator), Father John Brown (Major Gift Officer and now the President of Jesuit High School), and Frank Donaldson met to strategize, implement, and track the success of the campaign. With a matching/challenge gift of $5 million secured by Father Fronk, the campaign soared over its goal on December 31, 2019.

Jesuit High School: where “Men for Others” is lived.

Mount de Sales Academy; Catonsville, MD

In June 2025, ISPD began working with Mount de Sales Academy (MDSA) in the Archdiocese of Baltimore. In 1852 the school was founded for the education of young women by a group of Visitation nuns from Georgetown. The first Catholic institution in Baltimore County to offer education to young women of all denominations, Mount de Sales’ earliest students represented nearly all states, as well as several European and Latin American countries. The school was set in the pastoral landscape of Catonsville, at that time home to many summer residences of well-to-do Baltimoreans. Even St. John Neumann once visited the school. As Mount de Sales gradually became more day than boarding school, boarding was discontinued in 1932. In 1979, when the Visitation nuns could no longer continue at the school, a dedicated lay Board of Trustees was assembled with the goal of maintaining and growing Mount de Sales Academy. They wanted a group of religious sisters dedicated to Catholic education to continue at the Academy, and in 1985, the Dominican Sisters of the Saint Cecilia Congregation in Nashville, Tennessee, responded to the call and took up residence.

When ISPD became associated with MDSA, our focus was on assessing the Advancement efforts of the school. Sister Mary Thomas, O.P. was the principal, and Elizabeth Savarino was the Director of Advancement. During the first month of the consult, one point stood out to us: the school was/is a special place. With the chapel at the center of the school, Mount de Sales is one of those unique all-girls schools where the Dominican Spirit is alive.


After the Advancement Assessment, we moved into a Financial Feasibility Study to test the marketplace on building a new Fine Arts Center. This was a topic that had been talked about for years and years, and a campaign to fund this building was even started and then discontinued. ISPD completed the Study in December 2016, and we projected that MDSA could raise between $4.5 — $5.0 million. They were successful, and the long-awaited Fine Arts Center was funded. Today, a beautiful new building, architecturally in tune with all other school facilities, stands as a testament to the excellence and dedication of the Mount de Sales Academy community.

In June of 2023, the school, now under the leadership of Sister Mary Raymond, O.P., invited ISPD back to work with the Advancement Team. The goal has been and continues to be to grow and enhance the already-vibrant Advancement efforts at MDSA. We focused on the following:

  • Conduct an overall Advancement Assessment.
  • Continually educate on a relational advancement culture.
  • Restructure/refocus the job descriptions of Development and Enrollment Management personnel.
  • Realign the teams that advance the school.
  • Advancement Team
  • Development Team
  • Admissions/Enrollment Management Team
  • Communications/Marketing Team
  • Major Gift Team
  • Advancement Core Team
  • Create the Advancement Team Mission Statement.
  • Create the Top 10 Selling Points and WOW of MDSA.
  • Create the foundation to build a Master Plan for All Requests for Support.
  • Further transition from Admissions to Enrollment Management.
  • Initiate Alumnae Initiatives.
  • Create the Strategic Plan for Advancement.
  • nitiate a Major Gift Portfolio Process.

Just like the capital campaign, MDSA has been hugely successful. Here are some highlights of 2023-24:

  • Enrolling 116 students in the incoming freshman class;
  • Grew their Annual Fund from $738,935 in 2022-23 to $1,025,058 in 2023-24;
  • Increased alumnae giving from 203 ($376 average gift) in 2022-23 to 263 ($545 average gift) in 2023-24;
  • Raised $285,000 for scholarships with three new scholarships established;
  • Record-setting $211,099 raised with 382 donors for Day of Giving;
  • Established Major Donor Portfolio system;
  • Created a Strategic Plan for Advancement with over 100 people involved;
  • Had 265 alumnae and their kids attend the Easter Egg Hunt;
  • Hosted 14 amazing events and receptions which involved hundreds of volunteers.
  • Mount de Sales Academy: Who says all-girls schools can’t excel in Catholic School Advancement?

St. Ursula Academy; Cincinnati, OH

We first met Lelia Kramer when she and her husband Mac were parishioners and capital campaign chairs at St. Gertrude Parish and School in Madeira, OH. Father Ken Letoile, O.P. was the pastor and Sister Maria Christi, O.P. was the principal of St. Gertrude. That campaign was successful in restoring the church (“Open Wide the Doors to Christ!”). Once the restoration was done, ISPD was invited back a couple of years later to complete the capital campaign to build the school.

We have worked with a lot of outstanding capital campaign chairs through the years; however, Lelia and Mac were exceptional. When Lelia contacted me a few years later and asked if I would write a letter of recommendation for her (she was applying to be the president of St. Ursula Academy in Cincinnati, OH) it was a no-brainer. Lelia is a self-started; a dynamic leader who gathers people and instills confidence in those with whom she associates.

St. Ursula Academy, which was founded in 1910 by Mother Fidelis Coleman and Mother Baptista Fraener, opened its doors on September 17th with 63 students from K-12th grades. A year later in 1911, the school moved to its current location at 1339 East McMillan Street. For over 100 years, girls have come from across the Greater Cincinnati area to receive an education rooted in Ursuline values. The neighborhood provides St. Ursula students with its unique “neighborhood classroom” rich in cultural attractions within walking distance and the downtown area within a five-minute drive.

During the 2012-13 school year, Lelia and the board of St. Ursula Academy, invited ISPD to come and work with the school to create a new Long-Range, Strategic Plan. Hundreds of people were involved in the planning workshops, and to culminate the process we held a two-day Convocation and invited numerous people from throughout the community. The most amazing thing happened at St. Ursula Academy. With the Convocation starting at 3:00 PM on Friday and nine Planning Area Teams meeting for over four hours, we convened on Saturday morning from 8:30 AM to 12 Noon. There were more people there the second day than the first! All of this was a testament to the leadership that Lelia Kramer and the board exhibited. We presented the Final Pan in May 2013.

After implementation was underway, and the Plan was making a difference, the board decided to move forward on a Financial Feasibility Study. The school was testing the marketplace to see how much support they could get for projects worth $8 million – all growing out of the Long-Range Strategic Plan. ISPD projected that St. Ursula Academy could raise between $6.0 — $6.5 million, and that is exactly what they did. Through Lelia’s leadership, the campaign was a huge success.

Throughout the strategic plan process, the Financial Feasibility Study, and the capital campaign, one thing was clear: St. Ursula Academy was an all-girls school that was on the move, with outstanding leadership from the president and with a board that strongly believed in the value of an Ursuline education.

After 35 years, ISPD has had the opportunity to work with all kinds of leaders. The most successful consults have been with those schools, parishes, and (arch)dioceses where the leaders listened, and they worked collaboratively to accomplish tasks. They checked their ego at the door and expected us to do the same. What resulted was a partnership where the mission was the most important focus point. St. Ursula Academy was such a school; it is no surprise that the school continues to strive today.

Scecina Memorial High School; Indianapolis, IN

I met Joe Therber at the NCEA Convention in New Orleans, LA in 2011. I was giving a presentation on “Customer Service in Catholic Schools.” Back then, this was a new topic and kind of scary for many Catholic school leaders. Joe was a somewhat new president at Scecina Memorial High School in Indianapolis, IN (he began in October 2008). Shortly after the convention, Joe invited me to do a workshop for the administrators and teachers of the Eastside Deanery Schools – at Holy Spirit Catholic Church and School in Indy. The topic was “Hospitality and Customer Service in a Catholic School.” I remember that workshop; I remember the people and how receptive they were as I told my story of how I became involved in this ministry. I thanked Joe for the opportunity, and that workshop was the beginning of a long relationship with Scecina Memorial High School, Joe Therber, and the board – one which still continues today.

Scecina is named after Father Thomas Scecina who was a priest with the Archdiocese of Indianapolis, a man who served God and country as a military chaplain during World War II before perishing at sea with other U.S. prisoners of war in 1944. The school opened in September of 1953 with 128 freshman girls and 127 freshman boys, under Father Harry Hoover, the founding principal who had overseen the construction of the school.

I remember that when Joe took over, the school was challenged; there was a good number of competitive schools; enrollment was not robust; advancement had not yet engaged the strong alumni base of Scecina; there was not a Strategic Growth Plan that was relevant; and there was foundational work that needed to be completed by the president and the board in order for Scecina to flourish and not just try and survive.

ISPD was hired by the board to conduct a Strategic Growth Plan, help revamp the Advancement efforts – which all led to a successful $6+ million capital campaign which was conducted in the middle of Covid.

Under the leadership of Joe Therber and the board, Scecina Memorial High School has enjoyed a decade of immense growth. Inspired by Gospel values, the educators, administrators, and support staff deeply care for and support every student in this diverse and gifted community. Enrollment has grown 22 percent through continual program growth and improvements, outstanding relationships with East Deanery parish and school leaders, and an international student program.

During the past decade, Scecina has initiated or substantially expanded the following supports and services that benefit our students: Instructional coaching for teachers, student counseling services, biomedical sciences curriculum, classes for English Language Learners, music and performing arts classes, school-wide 1:1 technology initiative, study skills classes, accommodations for students who have individual service plans, and campus ministry offerings.

Extra-curricular offerings in interscholastic athletics, clubs, activities, and the arts continue to provide vast opportunities for students to develop interpersonal and leadership skills while expanding their self-understanding, perseverance, goal-setting habits, and resilience in the face of success and adversity.

The most significant community-wide accomplishment during this decade has been a dramatic transformation of the Scecina campus, both inside and outside the school building. Alumni and friends have invested $20 million during the past decade to renovate and expand the campus while continuing to make a Scecina education affordable and accessible for a diverse and gifted community of students. In addition to these accomplishments, Scecina has operated in the black for 15 consecutive years.

The Scecina Board of Directors and Archdiocese of Indianapolis continue to forge a strong partnership with an equally bright future in store for current and future generations of Scecina students.

When asked why some Catholic schools excel and some just barely get by, we always answer, “It is because of two words: Leadership and Attitude.” Through outstanding leadership and an attitude that says, “We are here to stay,” Scecina Memorial High School stands as a beacon of light for many Catholic schools who continually overcome the odds to prevail and not just survive.

This newsletter was written by ISPD president Frank Donaldson. Join us each month as one of the ISPD associates shares her/his thoughts on how to grow your Operational Vitality efforts.

ISPD: We stand ready to partner with you and your parish and/or school leaders in creating that new strategic growth plan, in conducting a feasibility study and capital campaign, in enhancing your enrollment management efforts, in assessing your development/advancement processes, in creating that written strategic plan for development/advancement/stewardship, in working with you to build the people base in your parish, and much more.

Please join us this summer (June 18 – 20) at the New Orleans Riverside Hilton as ISPD celebrates our 35th anniversary with our annual Development School. This year’s theme: Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. Visit ispdconsulting.com for more information.

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