Voice of the Faithful facing financial, membership crises
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (CNS) – Voice of the Faithful, the church reform movement begun in 2002 in reaction to the nationwide clergy abuse scandal in the Catholic Church, is now in a financial and organizational crisis, according to a report recently posted on its Web site.
Twenty-two people, including officers of Voice of the Faithful and members of its National Representative Council from across the United States, met in the Boston area April 27-29 for its semi-annual gathering. Among the attendees were Bill Casey, who chairs the organization's board of trustees, and Mark Mullaney, interim executive director.
According to an account of the meeting posted on the organization's Web site at www.votf.org, "Both Bill Casey and Mark Mullaney described the financial shortfall VOTF will face in the coming months. Although the number of individual contributors has increased, in the past year or so the number of major donors has declined. VOTF must reverse this trend to erase a projected $100,000 deficit in the next fiscal year."
Council members discussed a variety of strategies to bolster the organization's finances, including charging membership dues and hiring a development director who "can focus entirely on bringing in major donors, obtaining foundation grants and donations, and increasing the level of giving from both," according to the notes.
Voice of the Faithful, based in Newton, Mass., has been without a permanent executive director since Jan. 19, when Ray Joyce left the position after 20 months of service. Joyce himself replaced Steve Kreuger, who held the position from 2002 to September 2004.
Joyce's arrival in May 2005 occurred as part of a reorganization in which the group changed many of its directors and established an advisory council to strengthen its ties to local affiliates across the country.
Eight months later, the group laid off its two part-time office workers, citing "financial and program changes." However, the changes apparently have not been enough to address Voice of the Faithful's deteriorating finances.
Until 2006, the group reported relatively stable levels of contributions of around $600,000 each year. It rose to $661,774 for the year ending May 31, 2006.
Gifts to the group for the seven-month period from June to December 2006, the last period posted on the Internet, totaled $333,438.
During the past five years, Voice of the Faithful has spent rising amounts to solicit contributions. It reported $64,224 in fundraising expenses in 2003, $111,089 for 2004, $151,549 for 2005 and $143,603 in 2006.
It reported $133,261 in development expenses for the first seven months of its current fiscal year.
John Moynihan, spokesman for Voice of the Faithful, told The Catholic Observer, the official newspaper of the Diocese of Springfield, May 17 that "the problem is being solved" through increasing development efforts. He said attention to the group's major donors has been neglected in the past, a situation which he said should be corrected when the organization hires a part-time development director.
Moynihan likened what has happened to a "Katrina effect."
"When the (priest misconduct) problem hit there were lots of people willing to throw money at the problem," he said, comparing the flurry of interest in Voice of the Faithful after the revelations of sexual abuse by clergy to the outpouring of relief efforts immediately after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005.
Concerns about the future of the national organization extend to other matters, according to the notes included in the May edition of the group's In the Vineyard newsletter.
"In addition to the financial crisis facing VOTF, Bill Casey identified a crisis in leadership. Evidence of this comes from the low response rates (a range of 1 percent to 5 percent) when members are asked for input on proposals," it said.
The notes from the recent national advisory meeting stated: "VOTF as a whole has difficulty in reaching closure on decisions, Bill said, as well as difficulty in respecting others' positions. In the past few years, rather than leading, many have simply been engaged in fighting about leadership."
Critics of Voice of the Faithful have questioned the claim in its 2006 annual report that it has "more than 35,000 registered members in all 50 U.S. states and 37 countries worldwide."
Moynihan told The Catholic Observer that one becomes a member "if they hit the 'join' button" on the group's Web site, make a donation or join a local affiliate." The "join" option on www.votf.org requires only that an individual provide a first name, last name and zip code and state that he or she is at least 13 years old.
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Copyright (c) 2007 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops
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