By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — For the past 28 years, Andy Gaertner has been involved in working for the Catholic Church one way or another. He’s had experience with capital
campaigns, planned giving, coordinating annual funds, financial management, volunteer management and grant writing.
Gaertner says working for the church has been very rewarding. That’s why he accepted the position of director of development for the Diocese of Davenport, where he began work June 27. He will transition into the position with the help of the retiring director, Sister Laura Goedken, OP.
The two have met several times at various meetings and that’s how Gaertner learned about the position in the Davenport Diocese. He said the location is great because it is between the areas where he and his wife grew up. He is from the Milwaukee area and his wife, Vicki, is from the Des Moines area. They have a 22-year-old son, Sam.
For the past four years, Gaertner has done consulting work that involved a “tremendous amount of travel to Oregon, Tennessee and more. All that travel every week gets tiresome.” He said he enjoys working with donors and parishes directly, “which is something I miss and want to do again.” Being on the road, he didn’t get to develop as many relationships with donors as he would like.
“I am very pleased the diocese hired Andy. He comes to us with great experience in two dioceses as director of development,” said Sr. Goedken. “He also has had experience in capital campaigns and in promoting stewardship.”
Getting into fundraising happened by accident, Gaertner said. When he graduated from college, he had a degree in communication arts. “There were no degrees for fundraising when I went to college. It’s a field that has developed over the last 10-20 years.”
His first campaign was for a counseling service in Chicago. Since then he has worked for Dowling Catholic High School in West Des Moines, the Diocese of Nashville, the Dominican campus, Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., and others.
The biggest challenge of his career, he said, was a debt reduction project for the Diocese of La Crosse. “There was tremendous debt at the diocesan level. They had a new bishop. We needed a way to get on good financial ground.” He said parishes were not aware of the amount of debt. “Debt reduction is not the most attractive way to raise money.” But it was something that had to be done so the diocese could move forward.
The campaign raised $51.1 million, exceeding the $50 million needed. The 70 Catholic schools worked to generate third-source funding opportunities and Catholic Charities expanded its revenue sources.
No matter the reason for raising money, Gaertner said success is due to listening to people’s concerns and finding a way to match what they feel strongly about. “If you listen to them, they are generous. With God, all things are possible and I really feel strongly about this.
“There is no magic bullet” to getting money. “Tell your story. Listen. Put together what you have and help the donors understand the need.”
Regarding grant writing, he offered this advice to entities: “If you just write a grant and they don’t know you, there is less of a chance of receiving a grant. Cultivate a relationship. Most foundations want to give their money away. Come in with a strong plan and get to know them and you should be alright.”
Gaertner has a goal of getting out and meeting each pastor and visiting each parish. “I want to learn about the diocese and have a better understanding of this diocese.”