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Development group shares best practices

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Experience and advice found in a regional group of development directors who serve Catholic schools and parishes were a God-send to Deb and Kyle Warren.

With little experience in the field, they took the development helm seven years ago at Pope John XXIII Catholic High School in Elgin. Very quickly they turned to the Nebraska Regional Development Directors, a grassroots group of about 32 representatives from 18 Catholic parishes and schools of varying sizes in Nebraska and Kansas.

"There are just a lot of issues you can't learn by going to training, you just learn by jumping in and these people have been great resources in that respect," Deb Warren said.

The group shares best practices to help develop their schools and parishes, she said.

"You can call them with delicate issues and they'll handle that sensitively and they're always willing to share," Deb Warren said. "There's no pride of ownership. We try to just help one another out."

Members get together twice a year to discuss such things as capital campaigns, gifts of commodities such as grain sales, estate gifts, endowments, marketing, dinner auctions and donor recognition. They collect agenda topics through email ahead of time, take turns playing host and connect with each other by phone and email throughout the year.

Gary Schmidt, development director for St. Patrick Parish and Archbishop Bergan Catholic Schools, both in Fremont, founded the group about 20 years ago with Roy DeMars, development director for Hastings Catholic Schools in Hastings. At the time, Schmidt was administrator at Archbishop Bergan and in charge of development. He said he found bi-annual archdiocesan development meetings once held in Omaha were helpful, but he wanted to hear more from his peers in the rural communities. He wrote letters to development directors within a 75-mile radius asking if they'd be interested in starting a development group, word got out and the group grew across the state and into Kansas.

"We just want to share success that might help," Schmidt said. "You pool the ideas and what's been successful and what's working for others, and you take that home and learn from it."

Shannan Brommer, director of the Archdiocese of Omaha Stewardship and Development Office, said she thinks it's great that development directors from Catholic parishes and schools are using the Nebraska Regional Development Directors group as a way to stay in touch and share ideas with each other on a regular basis.

While the regular archdiocesan development meetings stopped several years ago, Brommer, who started in her position last August, said over the last few months she has met with Schmidt and other area stewardship and development directors and volunteers at archdiocesan schools and parishes and is forming a plan to provide support and educational programming for them.

ARCHDIOCESAN MEMBERS

Cedar County Catholic schools and parishes, Hartington; Holy Cross Parish, Omaha; St. Francis Catholic Schools, Humphrey; Mount Michael Benedictine High School, Elkhorn; Norfolk Catholic High School; Roncalli Catholic High School, Omaha; Pope John XXIII Catholic High School, Elgin; Scotus Central Catholic High School, Columbus; St. Mary School, O'Neill; St. Patrick Parish/Archbishop Bergan Catholic School, Fremont; and St. Pius X/St. Leo School, Omaha

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