In keeping with its new logo of an oak sapling growing from a small acorn, the Catholic Education Foundation is starting a number of new “seed” projects to increase donations toward the funding of more tuition assistance awards for Catholic school elementary and high school students during its 25th anniversary year.

“We have a new branding campaign which is being donated to us as a gift to the foundation,” said Kathleen Anderson, CEF’s executive director. 

She noted that the foundation’s newly-formed Board of Regents and the Board of Trustees are working closely together to “help us formulate our vision for the next 25 years” building on the momentum of CEF’s last quarter century providing tuition assistance to low-income students seeking a Catholic education.

The Catholic Education Foundation, established by Cardinal Roger Mahony as a charitable trust in 1987, has grown from issuing 740 tuition awards out of a total of $500,000 in donations its first year to funding 8,400 students with $9.3 million in the 2011-12 school year. Another 8,000 students are wait-listed.

“We have launched in our 25th anniversary year a $100 million Legacy campaign led by Dick Riordan (L.A.’s former mayor) and inspired by a $12 million endowment gift from the Frank and Blanche Seaver Trust,” said Anderson, who noted that the 18-month campaign has already raised $10 million in pledged estate endowments. 

“It’s the easiest thing in the world to make a gift in your will,” she added. “It doesn’t cost you anything now, but the long-term impact is powerful.”

To balance the budget this year, she points out the foundation will have to raise $3.7 million to add to spending from its $125 million endowment to fund current CEF students. Funding all of the wait-listed students would require another $10 million in new donations. 

“CEF is interested in broadening the base of our donor pyramid,” explained Anderson. “Right now, 90 percent of our funds come from less than 10 percent of our donors who have been supporting us a long time. We need to get replacements in place.” To that end, CEF is utilizing social media to increase awareness and provide ways for people to donate online.

“Colleen Roohan, who is a trustee and on our development committee, was the one who felt that it was important to give people the option to give online and to feel they are really making a difference in the life of a person that connects with our mission as a Catholic church to help the poor and less fortunate,” said Anderson.

The “Adopt-a-Student” online option on CEF’s website,, allows donors to adopt an elementary school student for $66 a month and a high school student for $125 monthly for 12 months. The website lists Catholic schools with wait-listed CEF students, and allows donors to select where their Adopt-a-Student funds will be applied.

“As the donors become more attached to the Adopt-a-Student cause and the mission of CEF, our hope is that someday they will leave us in their wills as a Legacy donor; it’s never too early to start that process,” said Anderson, noting that the annual donor appreciation lunch will take place at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels on Feb. 29.

Other fund-raising initiatives include offering donor challenge grants to CEF-assisted schools where donors pledge to match every $1-$2 raised by school community members. In addition, CEF recipients are encouraged to contribute what they can as a way of giving back. 

“We need to get the word out about the Catholic Education Foundation --- we’re still the best kept secret in the archdiocese,” said Anderson.

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