The Foundation was founded on June 13, 1990 because of a desire to prepare for the pending transfer of wealth from one generation to the next as well as an opportunity to provide an alternate source of funding for various ministries – especially educational ministries within the diocese. There was (and still is) a vital need to close the gap in the salaries of Catholic vs. public school teachers. Ongoing capital needs of the high schools and elementary schools were also original considerations. As a result, there are endowments in place for all the high schools and many elementary schools.
The founders realized that the Foundation should be established as a self-governing,separate legal entity. The charter of the Foundation is one of a public foundation with 501(c)(3) status. The first Board of Trustees – consisting entirely of laity – came into existence in 1991. It remains as such to this day.
Early on, a “Blue Ribbon Panel” fundraising effort resulted in 36 contributors who made one-time or multi-year donations. A director relied upon part-time help and volunteers. To help meet the funding needs, an annual dinner was established to provide operating capital. The first dinner was intended to build awareness and help create a core group of dinner participants for future years.
As the Foundation mission grew, endowments were initiated for Catholic Charities, Sisters of Mercy, and St. Vincent DePaul Society. There is also a Seminarian Endowment Fund created by the Knights of Columbus and some college scholarships, most notably from St. Matthew Parish in Tyrone.
The skill set and geographic reach of the board was expanded with new trustees. Within the first decade, the discovery of opportunities through experience and understanding the challenges of the Foundation were identified. Establishing critical endowments for the high schools through the diocese’s Partnership in Education campaign was seen as an important accomplishment. Future opportunities include elementary school endorsements, enlisting the support of pastors in the mission of the Foundation, and identifying tomorrow’s needs today.
The Foundation has seen significant growth in recent years as more parishes entrusted the Foundation with permanent Cemetery Perpetual Care Endowment Funds. The diocese’s cemetery handbook prohibits the spending assets of a cemetery’s Permanent Care Fund, requiring the assets to be invested by the diocese’s Mutual Aid Plan or the Independent Catholic Foundation. Because our rate of return has historically outpaced the MAP, each cemetery with a Foundation endowment receives additional support for its separate General Maintenance Fund.
In November 2008, after many years of contracting with the diocese for administrative services, the Foundation Trustees hired Bill Hiergeist as full-time Executive Director. Since then, Bill has (1) overseen two office moves, (2) a 57% growth in the number of endowments, and (3) a 123% growth in the Foundation’s assets to its current $31 million. In response to the Trustees’ visionary strategic plan, and to assist Bill with outreach initiatives, Chris Ringkamp joined the team as the Director of Mission Advancement in April 2017.
The future history of the Independent Catholic Foundation continues to be written by faithful Catholics who remember their parishes, schools and ministries with legacy gifts destined for existing or new permanent endowments.