FaithWorks at 20: a brief look back

 on November 1, 2016

Archbishop Colin Johnson has often remarked that “FaithWorks is one of the best things we do together as a diocese.” Since 1997, FaithWorks has raised more than $25 million to support life-giving ministry to people in need throughout our diocese, across Canada, and around the world.

The success of FaithWorks is the result of faith-inspired work by volunteers to raise the funds required, along with faith in the generosity of our parishes, the corporate community, foundations, and individuals to respond to the needs of people who need our help. The name FaithWorks, suggested originally by Suzanne Lawson and Ward McCance, parishioners of St. Peter, Cobourg, has certainly lived up to its promise.

Those who remember the birth pangs of FaithWorks may be surprised at its longevity. It was created to help ensure diocesan financial support for outreach ministry at a time of deep fiscal uncertainty. By the early 1990s, the level of parish assessments had become unsustainable. Deep cuts to the diocesan operating budget had decimated key areas of ministry. Outreach support provided through the fund-raising campaigns of the 1980s would run out by the end of the decade.

The problem was exacerbated in 1995, when Ontario’s “Common Sense Revolution” eliminated funding for key social services throughout the province. With the loss of government support, faith communities struggled to respond to the ever-widening gaps in the social safety net. The diocesan response was to create an annual parish appeal, the proceeds of which would protect outreach ministry from fluctuations in future budget years.

With faith in the power of the Holy Spirit to inspire abundant generosity, the first FaithWorks campaign was planned for the spring of 1997. The fundraising goal was set at $1.35 million, with a vision of 100 per cent participation by parishes. The campaign fell well short of its objectives, raising just $686,898 with only 65 per cent of parishes participating. Despite the disappointing results, faith in the potential of FaithWorks remained strong.

A speakers’ bureau, launched under the leadership of Joan Francis, a parishioner at All Saints, King City, helped to spread the good news of FaithWorks throughout the diocese. In 1998, Diocesan Council approved a measure that allowed parishes to retain 15 per cent of the funds raised through FaithWorks to support their respective local outreach ministries. In addition, each episcopal area would retain five per cent of the parish totals for area outreach.

These enhancements quickly paid off. The 1998 FaithWorks campaign raised $1,083,611, a 58 per cent increase over the previous year. Eighty per cent of parishes participated and it was becoming apparent that FaithWorks had the potential to breathe new life into diocesan outreach ministry. As FaithWorks took hold, many parishes took advantage of the campaign’s offertory envelopes to encourage giving throughout the year, while some parishes made FaithWorks an option for those who participated in the Pre-Authorized Remittance (PAR) program.

In 2004, the FaithWorks Corporate campaign was launched under the leadership of Peter Misiaszek, who had recently joined the diocese as the director of Stewardship Development. Tony Van Straubenzee, a parishioner at Christ Church, Deer Park, served as the first FaithWorks Corporate campaign chair. In its first year, FaithWorks Corporate raised $232,000 toward the campaign total and quickly became an important element of the annual campaign. A FaithWorks endowment was created in 2008 and has become a significant source of revenue that helps protect against fluctuations in campaign proceeds.

In 2003, 80 per cent of FaithWorks proceeds came from parishes. Today, parishes contribute about 60 per cent of FaithWorks revenue. Additional support is provided by corporations, foundations, individuals and income from endowed funds. In anticipation of the adverse impact that the diocese’s Our Faith-Our Hope campaign might have on annual support, the FaithWorks Allocations Committee had set aside a healthy reserve from previous years’ income and was able to provide a sustained level of funding until FaithWorks revenues normalized.

In 2015, FaithWorks raised $1.67 million, the best result in its history. It continues to provide essential operating support that allows its ministry partners to serve the needs of some of the most marginalized people in our diocese and around the world.  An ongoing process of discernment helps to ensure that FaithWorks will remain a vital, dynamic, and relevant ministry.


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