Building a Community and Loyalty is Key to Developing a Fundraising Plan, School Says

    Fundraising efforts take vision, a strong team of committed players and a wide array of efforts to make a project of a significant size and scope possible. It’s a challenge for any organization, large or small.

    Austin Catholic High School is in the midst of such a fundraising campaign, and school officials are coming at the million-dollar project with drive and passion. Along the way, Principal Janel Coppens says the school has learned many lessons and gained new perspective on how to gain public trust and attention.

    The board of directors for the rapidly-growing Austin Catholic High School in March announced the tip-off of a $6.5 million fundraising campaign to expand the school’s gymnasium, build a permanent chapel and renovate and upgrade science labs. The gymnasium project as part of an overall $12 million Together We Can fundraising initiative will be the Dave DeBusschere Center for Athletics, named in honor of the late Austin Catholic High School student-athlete.

    Building Loyalty
    Born in Detroit, DeBusschere gained early fame by leading his prep team to the 1958 MHSAA State Boys’ Basketball Championship 60 years ago , then excelled in baseball and basketball at the University of Detroit, pitched for the Chicago White Sox, was a player-coach for the Detroit Pistons and later won two NBA Championships with the New York Knicks, all while wearing uniform number 22.

    From an inaugural class of seven students in 2011 in a rented, temporary building to a current enrollment of nearly 100 in a permanent location, the co-ed Austin Catholic High School has filled an important need for families seeking an educational experience centered on faith for their children in Northern Macomb County. Austin boasts a 100 percent graduation rate and all students have been accepted at various college and universities and have been awarded more than $1 million in academic scholarships.

    So how does Austin hope to raise the money and awareness? Here are some of the things the high school is doing to make its expansions possible:

    • Treating the school like a start-up business rather than an educational institution alone. Because the school is independent in terms of fundraising efforts from the local archdiocese, Austin has developed relationship with families, businesses and other benefactors, Coppens says. Strong alumni development also has been key.

    • Finding invested investors. The campaign is a dual effort by the school and its administration as well as its board and a few devoted Macomb County businessmen, and a committed group of alums (most are businessmen) from the former all boys’ Austin Prep HS that operated on Detroit’s east side from 1956-1978.

    • Looking for creative ways to fund raise. Opportunities to support the Austin Catholic expansion project include a range of naming opportunities from fitness rooms and galleries to showcases and individual lockers.

    • Developing a website, video and related materials. Students have gotten involved in the project, creating supporting documents and films to help with the fundraising efforts, Coppens says. Because Austin students come from so many local communities, the school makes a strong effort to get to know each one and develop a community – and the students feel that connection and want to help out, she notes.

    Ground-breaking for the Austin Catholic expansions is expected in 2018 followed by construction with a stated goal of all expanded facilities, including the DeBusschere Center for Athletics, to conclude in the Fall of the 2018-2019 academic year. Austin Catholic previously raised $3.8 million during a silent phase of the Together We Can campaign to fund the move into the current school building and adjacent land.