Prioritizing Passion and Innovation - An Interview with Juliette Picciano
In this episode, Andrew visits with Juliette Picciano, former director of the Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal for the Archdiocese of New York and current president of Cathedral High School in New York. (Juliette changed positions between when this podcast was recorded and when it was published!) Andrew and Juliette chat about Juliette’s work on the Cardinal’s Appeal and how her fundraising methods successfully adapted to the pandemic. The two also discuss trends in Catholic giving, and they highlight Juliette’s unique and successful hiring strategy.
Juliette is a graduate of Yale Divinity School, and when she applied for her first teaching job, she ended up working in the school’s admissions department. Juliette shares a touching story about the formational moment in which she decides to pursue a career in fundraising. After working in a variety of development positions for the Archdiocese of New York, Juliette became Director of the Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal.
The Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal
Juliette shares details of the Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal. The Appeal highlights the vision of the bishop, and it is the primary funding vehicle for all diocesan pastoral, educational, and charitable outreach. The Appeal’s current annual goal is $21 million per year.
Fundraising in a Pandemic
Andrew and Juliette discuss the challenges fundraising professionals faced in the spring of 2020. Juliette speaks about how her team had to pivot and change from visits and mailings to phone calls, websites, and digital media. The two also discuss what the Catholic fundraising environment looks like now that the pandemic is (hopefully!) ending and how the leaders who continued to reach out and speak about the need for funds during the pandemic were the ones to recover most quickly.
Hire For Passion; Train For Skill
The Cardinal’s Appeal team has seen quite a bit of turnover in the past decade, and Juliette shares how their innovative hiring strategies led to current success. Over the years, the diocesan hiring team became more intentional and strategic in their employee selection process. Instead of hiring candidates strictly for their fundraising skills, the diocese decided to hire employees who were smart, articulate, and passionate about their Catholic faith. The Appeal’s office wanted teachable employees who could easily share with donors their love for the mission and vision of the Catholic Church. This hiring method requires extensive and prolonged training, but the team firmly stands by this unique practice.
- If you could fundraise for any organization or cause at any time in history, what would it be?
- Not exactly a cause per se, but I would love to teach people about biblical stewardship. I’d love to teach people how to tithe.
- John D. Rockefeller!
- Yes, I think so. It’s not a question of resources. It’s a question of if and how people are inspired to give.
- Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Wanting to be perfect can be an impediment to action. Don’t be afraid to take risks!
- Tina Alonso, former executive director of development for the Archdiocese of New York: She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.
- My husband: He’s a great sounding board and a wellspring of ideas. He encourages me to take risks.
- Priests from the Diocese of Wichita (Kansas): Priests I knew in Wichita deeply shaped how I think about faith and money and the spirituality of stewardship.
- I was the school mascot in both high school and college. It was really, really fun!
- The Confessions of St. Augustine
If you would like to learn more about Cardinal’s Annual Stewardship Appeal for the Archdiocese of New York, check out their website at https://cardinalsappeal.org/.
First, it was really great to learn about the breadth of impact that a bishop’s appeal has on a diocese. Juliette mentioned that a full third of the parishes in her archdiocese need additional funding just to stay open and another third can pay the bills as long as the roof doesn't cave in. That was really helpful for me. And, I would venture to say that probably most other dioceses and archdioceses in the country are in the same boat. Not to mention the other programs like the suicide prevention hotline that the appeal supports. It definitely gave me a new appreciation for a bishop's appeal and will be much more mindful of that when our diocese is doing their annual appeal.
Second, what a phenomenal effort that the Cardinal’s Appeal team put forth when the pandemic hit. Calling 11,000 parishioners is no small task. It made me think about how important it is to be nimble and creative as fundraisers, regardless of what the situation is. It shouldn't take a pandemic to force us all to be innovative and think of how we can adjust our strategies to be more successful. In church work, and in the nonprofit world in general, we are constantly asked to wear a number of hats and keep many, many programs running at the same time. Those tasks often take all of our mental energy, and it leaves our ability to brainstorm set off to the side. But even dedicating 10 minutes a day or one hour a week to creative thinking will allow any nonprofit the chance to take their work to the next level.
And third, it should not be a novel concept that hiring people committed to the faith is a solid strategy to raise more money. Unfortunately, we can often get caught up in the numbers of certain fundraisers and make the wrong hire. As Juliette said, the best plan for any ministry or nonprofit is to hire for passion and then train for skill. Do this and you too can build a team of amazing fundraisers just like the Archdiocese has been able to do.
Finally, if this episode is your introduction to the Petrus Development Show, I encourage you to go back and listen to old episodes. My guests over the years have provided some amazing insights and moments of inspiration and you really can't go wrong with any episode. Also, if you like stories of amazing donors, check out our other show, Holy Donors. We tell stories of radical generosity that have changed the world. For example, we have discussed Danny Thomas, the founder of St. Jude’s Children Research Hospital; St. Katharine Drexel, the patron saint of philanthropists; Babe Ruth, the sultan of swat, and a number of other fantastic people who you may not know. Check out the Holy Donors podcast at holydonors.com for more info.
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