Religious Retirement Office
Vol. 13, No. 2
NRRO and SOAR!: Working for Retired Religious
The National Religious Retirement Office and Support Our Aging Religious! (SOAR!) are both dedicated to advancing the cause of retired religious in the United States. While these two national organizations have similar missions, their daily objectives differ a great deal. SOAR! strives to address the immediate and, often, physical needs of retired religious. NRRO, on the other hand, focuses on two main areas:
- helping religious institutes build funds to pay for the long-term needs of their retired and infirm members, and
- assisting religious institutes in planning for a viable future.
NRRO's primary responsibility is to design and coordinate the Retirement Fund for Religious (RFR) annual appeal through a national collection taken up once a year in the parishes. NRRO is also in charge of distributing the associated donations to religious institutes through its grant programs. Since 1988, NRRO has distributed more than $313 million to religious institutes of men and women.
NRRO offers four grant programs. Ninety percent of funds contributed to the RFR are distributed through the Basic Grant program. The purpose of the basic grant is to assist in enhancing community support funds which are now and will be the funding source for ongoing retirement costs. Three additional grant programs, the Special Assistance Grant, the Supplemental Grant and the Supplemental Identified Need Grant (SING), are designed to meet the specific planning needs of religious institutes.
In addition to the grant programs, NRRO offers a variety of services that assist religious institutes with various aspects of financial planning and forecasting. The Retirement Needs Analysis is available to calculate an institute's retirement needs based on demographics, current cost of care, and assets available for retirement. The cash flow projection helps to estimate the financial position of the religious institute based on current income and expense activity, as well as identified trends. Moreover, NRRO provides various data that helps religious institutes track retirement related trends and statistics. Perhaps most importantly, trained treasurers of religious orders serve as volunteer financial consultants and work with other religious congregations to provide expertise, ideas and recommendations on retirement issues.
Like NRRO, Support Our Aging Religious!, which celebrates its fifteenth anniversary this year, was created in response to the growing financial burden facing many religious institutes. In July 1986, a group of about 150 lay persons gathered to discuss the problem. They were troubled by a Wall Street Journal article detailing the retirement crisis. At this meeting, it was decided that if the group could raise sufficient funds to support the first year of operation, they would establish a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the immediate needs of retired religious. The group was indeed successful. In December 1986, Rita Hoffbauer was hired as Executive Director, and SOAR! opened its doors in January 1987.
SOAR! is a non-profit organization committed to ensuring financial stability and secure futures for elderly and frail members of Catholic religious institutes in the United States. SOAR!'s grant programs furnish religious institutes with funding to support the immediate and pressing needs of their retired members. SOAR! grants are divided into four main areas: 1) adequate and safe housing for retirement, 2) therapeutic and medical equipment, 3) emergency needs, and 4) seed money for special projects that directly benefit retired religious. Examples of these grants include support for bathroom and infirmary renovations, nurse call/alert systems, and hospital beds.
Funding for SOAR! comes through a variety of sources. Primary support is raised through direct mail fund raisers to both established and new donors. Additionally, SOAR! works with volunteers in five cities to host fund-raising dinners. Their most recent dinner in Los Angeles, for example, grossed over $317,000. Since 1987, SOAR! has distributed more than four million dollars through over three hundred grants to support the emergency needs of retired religious in forty-two states.
SOAR!'s efforts for retired religious do not end with grants. They also work to educate the public about the needs of retired religious through a variety of channels, including a semi-annual newsletter, presentations to groups and organizations, promotional materials, articles in various publications, and radio and television appearances. Networking is another vital aspect of the SOAR! mission. SOAR! works at the national and local levels to develop networks of volunteers committed to responding to the needs of retired religious.
In summary, it can probably best be stated that SOAR! works to meet the day to day needs of retired religious, while NRRO strives to help religious institutes develop retirement funding and planning to meet the needs of their members for years to come. For the nation's retired religious, both missions are vitally important. Together, NRRO and SOAR! are helping to secure stable financial futures and peace of mind for the countless women and men religious who have given so much to the Catholic Church in the United States.
Message from the Director
After several starts and stops, spring has finally and joyfully arrived in Washington. The hope inspired by Easter and Christ's resurrection can be felt all around us. Certainly in the National Religious Retirement Office, we have much reason to be hopeful. Once again this year, the Retirement Fund for Religious campaign has exceeded all expectations and raised a record $32.6 million. This is a great cause for hope for the nation's approximately 52,000 retired religious and for all members of religious congregations who experience this generosity as a powerful manifestation of the love and esteem in which they are held.
It is also an uplifting and energizing message for those of us who work at NRRO. The success of this year's campaign not only makes it possible for us to increase our grants and financial services, but it also energizes our daily efforts. Of course, the annual RFR appeal could not happen without the dedication of the vicars and diocesan coordinators who work tirelessly to publicize and organize the campaign at the local level. We are also grateful to the archbishops, bishops and pastors who promote the collection in their dioceses and churches and to the countless religious who speak on behalf of the RFR each year. Finally, our profound thanks go to the donors who generously support the campaign and make the work of NRRO possible.
Yes, we definitely have reason to be hopeful. Since 1988, the RFR has raised $351,183,815. In addition to using our grants to help religious institutes establish basic retirement strategies, funds from the annual appeal have also enabled numerous communities to tackle retirement challenges in new ways. Collaboration between and among religious institutes has led to innovative solutions to caring for retired and infirm members, including joining forces to build and renovate skilled care facilities. And the Special Identified Needs Grant has enabled NRRO to begin to identify and assist those institutes with the greatest needs. To be sure, there is much work to do between now and 2007 when the collection will conclude, but we certainly have come a long way. Together, and with God's help, we can accomplish even more in the coming years. "Trusting in Him who can go with me, and remain with you, and be everywhere for good, let us confidently hope that all will yet be well." (Abraham Lincoln, Farewell Address, Springfield, Illinois, February 11, 1861.)
May God bless you and yours abundantly.
Sister Andrée Fries
3211 Fourth Street, NE
Washington, DC 20017-1194
Project Director for Retirement Services
Basic Grants for 2001 to be Awarded at a Record Level!
Brother John T. Patzwall, FSC
On May 30th, the Management Board will meet to approve the National Religious Retirement Office's recommendation to distribute a record $27,500,000 as Basic Grants to 495 religious institutes of men and women. These grants are made possible by the continued generosity of the contributors to the Retirement Fund for Religious collection. This disbursement will bring the total amount awarded as Basic Grants to $310,932,196 since the beginning of the national collection thirteen years ago. The total of all grants distributed since 1989 (Basic, Special Assistance, Supplemental and SING) is over $340,000,000. That represents ninety-seven percent of the more than $350,000,000 contributed through what has annually been the most successful appeal for the Catholic Church in the United States!
The Basic Grants are awarded on the basis of relative need which is calculated by our formula based on the national weighted average cost of care and the adjusted assets the institutes have reported in their Statement of Financial Position as available for their retirement needs. The national weighted average cost of care calculated this year amounts to $23,867, which is about seven percent more than last year's average of $22,254. The awards range from $1,000 to $940,000, which is being awarded to the institute with the most demonstrable need. Eighty of the institutes will receive grants in excess of $100,000.
The average 2001 Basic Grant is approximately 9.8 percent higher than last year and amounts to $55,555 per institute or $1,032 per member over the age of seventy. The 693 institutes which shared their December 31, 2000 census data reported a total of 40,694 religious men and women age seventy or older.
The average Social Security benefit for a retired religious at 12/31/00 was $3,505 compared to approximately $9,792 for the average US beneficiary. Since the cost of care is $23,867, after the grant and Social Security benefits are deducted, the institutes on average have to cover $19,687 from their own resources.
Additional statistical analysis will be done during the next several months and will be shared with the institutes and the readers of this newsletter as appropriate. Special thanks are offered to the 165 religious institutes who shared their statistical data by returning the eligibility forms, but did not request a grant this year! They help us get a more complete picture of the retirement status of the religious in the United States, and they make more resources available for those with greater needs.
Please send changes in congregational leadership, as well as in addresses, phone or e-mail, to NRRO c/o Jean Smith so that we can keep our records and mailing lists up to date. Thank You!
RFR Scheduled Collection Dates
The Retirement Fund for Religious (RFR) annual appeal is collected each year on the second Sunday of December. Scheduled collection dates through 2007 are as follows:
December 8-9, 2001
December 7-8, 2002
December 13-14, 2003
December 11-12, 2004
December 10-11, 2005
December 9-10, 2006
December 8-9, 2007
Show Me MORE Than The Money
Sister Janice Bader, CPPS
"Show me the money!" At times, the National Religious Retirement Office may seem a bit Jerry Maguireish, both to the donors who support our work and to the religious institutes who complete the detailed financial reporting required in the Basic Grant application. But, thanks to the generosity of our benefactors, NRRO has been able to "show the money" to more than eight hundred religious institutes over the past twelve years. However, NRRO is more than a conduit of money. Since its inception, retirement planning and consulting services have been a critical part of the NRRO mission.
An article in the September/October 2000 issue of Foundation News and Commentary noted that "there's a renewed interest in how foundations can help nonprofit organizations better manage themselves." It went on to point out that "for all the buzz we've heard about ‘capacity building' and supporting nonprofit ‘infrastructure,' . . . technical assistance to nonprofit organizations remains extremely underfunded. The Foundation Center's Foundation Giving reported that between 1992 and 1997, grants made expressly for technical assistance remained relatively consistent at less than 1 percent of all grantmaking for the year." 1
Unlike other grantmaking organizations, NRRO consistently has allocated 10% of the annual grant monies to planning and technical assistance through the Supplemental, SING, and Special Assistance Grant Programs. In 1998, NRRO further demonstrated its commitment to this aspect of its mission by adding a staff member with the specific task of strengthening the retirement planning component. Why? Because even though funds from the annual collection are tremendously helpful to religious institutes, they are not the total answer. The Basic Grants distributed in June 2000 averaged $600 for each religious over the age of seventy, while the cost of care averaged over $22,000 per person. NRRO realizes that handson help can leverage these funds for a much more lasting and far-reaching effect than simply ‘showing the money.'
NRRO continues to urge religious institutes to engage in comprehensive planning and encourages them to contact our office if they need assistance. We will do our best to show more than the money.
1 Lee Draper, "How to ‘Do' Capacity Building." Foundation News and Commentary, September/October 2000, p. 33.
New Associate Director for NATRI
On April 4, 2001, Lorelle Elcock, OP, joined the National Association of Treasurers of Religious Institutes (NATRI) as its new Associate Director. Sr. Elcock, a Dominican Sister of Hope from Ossining, NY, holds a Ph.D. in Administrative Systems from Union University in Schnectady, NY. She has served as Treasurer General for the Dominicans of Newburgh, NY, and was Planning Director (1990-1995) for the consolidation of three Dominican congregations based in New York and Massachusetts. Sr. Elcock's most recent work has involved coordinating an environment project for her congregation and providing planning and management consultation services. NRRO welcomes Lorelle and looks forward to working with her.
If you would like to make a bequest or restricted gift to the National Religious Retirement Office, the following information should be used:
To the United States Catholic Conference Incorporated, for the exclusive purpose of assisting Roman Catholic religious orders in the United States to provide for the retirement needs of their elderly members.