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Innovation Challenge - Interview with Jason Shanks

In this episode, Andrew visits with Jason Shanks, President of Our Sunday Visitor Institute. Andrew and Jason discuss his personal and professional background and the path that brought him to Our Sunday Visitor. They also discuss how OSV is taking steps to bring innovation and growth into fundraising. They discuss the OSV Challenge and the new ideas that are coming from the endeavor.

Show Notes:

Andrew and Jason met in Ohio years ago when, for them, fundraising started with bingo!



Jason is a convert to the Catholic Church. He went to Miami University in Oxford, Ohio where he studied Education and Political Science. He converted from Campus Crusade for Christ in college to Catholicism and attended RCIA after graduation.  In his early professional years, Jason had a variety of jobs in ministry, and he even spent a year in seminary discerning the priesthood.  He left the seminary, earned a Master's degree in Non-Profit Administration at the University of Notre Dame, Mendoza School of Business, and eventually went to work for the Archdiocese of Detroit.


For the past 2.5 years, Jason has been with the OSV Institute which is the philanthropic branch of OSV (Our Sunday Visitor). 


Our Sunday Visitor (OSV):

OSV looks at the Church's largest needs and tries to determine how can we measure the impact of whether or not a specific “thing” is working. Is the funding being use for the project achieving the desired results? 

OSV has 3 current giving focuses:

- Unaffiliated Millennials

- Parent Project

- Hispanic Experience


Each of these areas will receive $1 million over a period of time.  Through this current giving, OSV notices that there is a crisis of innovation in the Church. To address that crisis, OSV decides  there should be a seat at the table of ministry for the fundraising team/individual. This team brings a different perspective to the discussino and might be able to ask the hard questions in ministry.


OSV asserts that one of the biggest problems is that people don’t fully understand the problem. Leaders need to fully understand the problem in order to address it properly. OSV now asks for business plans with grant requests. They want to be able to fund the project and then duplicate elsewhere.


OSV Challenge:

The OSV Challenge strives to be a catalyst of innovation.  The hope is that this challenge brings growth and will spur new thinking.


From the challenge, OSV is able to note important themes in ministry.  One particular theme is the desire for community.  


OSV also wonders how AI will change fundraising and how can we, as fundraising professionals, can innovate and integrate  AI into fundraising.  Questions also come up about how OSV can use all of the  data they have collected over that last 100 years.



Jason and Melissa have been married for 16 years and they live in Ft. Wayne, Indiana. They have 5 children ages 11 to 2, Nora, Xavier, Lyla, Luke and Ephram.  They love family nights and movie nights and exploring outdoors.


One challenge is being a Catholic Dad and Husband and creating a Catholic home without having had an example growing up. 


As a history teacher, he would teach backwards so that the students could see that history is relevant and that this builds on that.


How to contact Jason:


Book Recommendations:

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek

Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets by Al Ramadan

New to Big: How Companies Can Create Like Entrepreneurs, Invest Like VCs and Install a Permanent Operating System for Growth by David Kidder


Lightning Round:

  1. If you could fundraise for any organization or cause at any time in history, what would it be?  I would honestly want to stay with the Catholic Church or a Catholic entity, regardless of who or when.

  2. If you could get a donor meeting with anyone living or dead, who would it be?  Someone who incites ideas like Simon Sinek or Bob Igor of Disney. Also Archbishop Knowles in 1912.

  3. Is there enough money out there for every organization that's doing good work? Yes. There is a scarcity mindset right now and we need to change that to be a growth mindset.

  4. What is one piece of advice that you would give your past self?  I wish I would have become Catholic sooner. I would have liked to have been able to have had conversations with high school friends about the Catholic faith.

  5. Who are 3 people who have most influenced you professionally?  
    • A priest at St. Mary’s for his prayerfulness
    • A priest who I admired for his welcoming attitude and how he valued hospitality
    • All the people who took a chance and believed in me. My one recommendation is to have professional friendships with people of like mind who can challenge and support you.

  6. Would you do it all over again? Yes, I’d say to calm down a little bit but to also enjoy it. 


Andrew’s Takeaways:

OSV is willing to look at how to do it better and not be trapped in “turfism”


Development teams are able to provide a feedback loop to the ministry


Measurement impact is so important. You need to be able to show that what you are doing worked not just that you did it.


Connection is one of the best things that comes out of conferences.


Everyone needs a Barnabas and a Timothy. Someone to be mentored by and then someone to mentor.


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