In the early 1980s, canvassers go door-to-door to raise funds for ShareLife. The charitable fundraising arm of the Toronto archdiocese wants more lay participation for next year’s campaign. Photo courtesy of ShareLife

ShareLife's future plan to include more laity involvement

By 
  • October 7, 2016

TORONTO – ShareLife is going back to its roots with a plan that taps into past strategies to encourage more involvement at the parish level.

After much thought about its future, and falling $900,000 short of its Parish Campaign goal in 2016, ShareLife management concluded that a way to improve the results of its annual appeal is to revive one of the original strategies of ShareLife founders. During ShareLife’s early years many parish volunteers actively participated to raise funds and awareness of ShareLife and the many agencies it supports.

“We want to have more people involved, more laity involved, and have people doing things like evangelizing the ShareLife message in their parish,” said ShareLife executive director Arthur Peters. “When ShareLife first started as a campaign in 1976 the involvement of the laity and the role of those individuals was very important. We want to go back to that.”

ShareLife has set a 2017 goal of raising $13 million, up slightly from $12.95 million from the past two years. In subsequent years, the goal will continue to rise, reaching $15 million in 2019, said Peters.

Along with increasing the goal, Peters said allocations have been increased for a number of the 42 agencies ShareLife financially supports. The additional funds are intended to help agencies improve existing programs and in some cases introduce new programs aimed at seniors, immigrants and refugees, demographic groups on the rise in Canada.

During ShareLife’s early years many parish volunteers were enlisted to canvass neighbourhoods to raise funds and awareness of ShareLife and its member agencies. They often went door to door to deliver the ShareLife message in person.

“My parents did it and I can remember being in the car with them going to ask people to support the ShareLife Campaign,” Peters said.

In 1992, however, ShareLife starting using direct mail as a primary fundraising vehicle. An unintended consequence of that was that “it seemed to de-emphasize the role of the parish’s laity,” Peters said.

“But we believe that there is still an important role for the laity to play.”

That role will include forming parish committees responsible for communicating with local ShareLife agencies, booking guest speakers for the parish and organizing fund-raising events.

“The event doesn’t have to be a six-month gala,” said Peters. “It can be something as simple as a pancake breakfast on Pancake (Shrove) Tuesday.”

These committees will be able to turn to ShareLife for direction and support.

“We’re going to be helping to build committees in parishes,” said Peters. “We’ll work with parishes to deliver the message of ShareLife that will encourage parishioners to respond. We want all parishioners to support the campaign to the best of their ability.”

With the 2016 ShareLife Parish Campaign falling short of its goal, ShareLife has been forced to tap into its reserves to ensure its agencies receive their budgeted allocation.

“We’ll use our resources to fund that (shortfall) this year but that is not something that we can do on an ongoing basis,” Peters said.

Part of the shortfall can be attributed to many parishioners redirecting donations to the Archdiocese of Toronto’s Family of Faith capital campaign, something Peters said was expected based on the experience of other dioceses that ran similar campaigns.

With demands greater than ever in the fundraising sector, Peters said that winning back donor dollars requires that ShareLife win back the hearts of parishioners.

“The perception of ShareLife has gone from a campaign that supports agencies and brings out the mission work of the Church to ‘it’s a second collection,’ ” he said. “We are looking at presenting to our parishioners and the greater community that support the ShareLife Campaign that it is more than just a collection — it is the mission work of the Church. When you make a contribution to the campaign you are helping to put the Gospel values into action.”

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