Three years later, Joy of Giving continues to gain momentum, make an impact
March 30, 2023
Like many people, Katie and Paul Watson do much of their charitable giving toward the end of the year. For the past few years, however, the annual Archdiocese of Omaha-sponsored Joy of Giving has shown the couple that giving has no season.
“I think the end of the year is when we’re naturally geared toward giving and buying gifts,” said Katie Watson, whose family belong to St. Robert Bellarmine in Omaha. “But Joy of Giving reminds us to start earlier in the year.”
“Around Lent, when I am concentrating more on interior sacrifices, Joy of Giving sort of gets me out of myself and thinking about other people. God has blessed us so we can meet someone else’s needs, which gives me joy. The thanks all go to God.”
In 2022, the event helped 130 parishes, schools, ministries and organizations raise almost $700,000 from 1,846 donors. This year’s Joy of Giving is Wednesday, April 26. More information can be found at https://omaha.igivecatholictogether.org.
Most people who participate in Joy of Giving come back year after year to support their favorite Catholic causes. One such person (who asked that his name not be used) said he participated in Joy of Giving last year and plans to do so again this year. He believes days like this help build a culture of gratitude.
Joy of Giving offers the chance to amplify the gifts he could otherwise quietly place into the collection basket, he said.
“The more excitement that we can create around giving helps people discover the fulfillment that generosity brings,” he said.
While Joy of Giving is a fun and satisfying way for people to contribute to Catholic organizations close to their hearts, those contributions seriously impact an organization’s ability to fulfill its mission.
During last year’s Joy of Giving, the Father Flanagan League raised about $77,000 toward its documentary on Father Edward J. Flanagan, founder of Boys Town, and his cause for sainthood.
The mission of the Father Flanagan League is “to educate and inform all people of the heroic virtue and sanctity of Father Flanagan’s life and his mission as mentor and protector of youth, and spread devotion of his example throughout the world.”
That so many people came out and supported the Father Flanagan League through Joy of Giving comes as no surprise to Mike Jedlicka, the league’s treasurer. He believes there is something special about the people of northeast Nebraska that makes Joy of Giving particularly impactful.
“I think we’re all strong Catholics throughout the archdiocese,” Jedlicka said. “We know that it’s far better to give than to receive. It’s something we’ve grown up with. It’s an old adage, but there’s so much truth to it.”
The Father Flanagan League depended entirely on fundraising to create the documentary, which is scheduled to be released later this summer. It previously raised money through Omaha Gives, a 24-hour online giving event sponsored by the Omaha Community Foundation (OCF). However, the last Omaha Gives was held in 2019. OCF transitioned eligible nonprofits to SHARE Omaha’s Do Good Days the following year. SHARE Omaha does not allow organizations to participate in Do Good Days if they are “a house of worship, school or club,” according to its website.
Jedlicka was disappointed that the Father Flanagan League could not participate because he liked an annual event to build excitement around, but galas and fundraisers involved too much overhead. In 2020, his prayers were answered when the archdiocese sponsored its first Joy of Giving.
Joy of Giving builds awareness and financially supports the outstanding work of parishes, schools, Catholic ministries and organizations across the archdiocese’s 23 counties. It also has a service component. For example, students at some Catholic grade schools write letters to residents of nursing homes. Other Catholic organizations send employees to spend the day Joy of Giving is held working at food banks, homeless shelters or pregnancy centers.
The 24-hour online giving event creates excitement through challenges, matching gifts, prizes and other incentives to encourage donors to support their favorite Catholic organizations throughout the day. Each organization has a webpage and is encouraged to build awareness through things like social media and word of mouth. In the past, the Father Flanagan League has purchased a full-page ad in the Omaha World-Herald.
“I think raising money during the Joy Giving campaign is an opportunity for people to help you with a monetary donation, but the other reason – and I think it’s equally as important as the money – you become known,” Jedlicka said.
He said that even if people don’t give to your organization, just by logging onto the Joy of Giving website, they become aware of organizations that need support.
“Many Catholics aren’t aware of what is happening in other parts of the archdiocese,” said Josh Pfeifer, development associate at the archdiocese who helps manage Joy of Giving, including assisting parishes with building webpages and more.
“By looking at the many organizations participating in Joy of Giving, they realize all the extraordinary work being done, much of it far beyond the walls of a school or parish and into the wider communities,” he said. “Joy of Giving is one of the many ways we live out our mission of becoming One Church.”