As many of you probably recall, when I was first approached about taking on the role of DignityUSA President, I had many concerns. The organization was facing enormous financial and leadership challenges, membership was declining, and it was unclear what Dignity’s role should be. I questioned whether I was the person best suited to lead our organization’s response to these challenges, and was unsure about the level of commitment remaining among our members.
When I questioned you about these challenges, many of you responded with promises of support, by coming forward to serve and with your prayers. All of this has come together to build a focused, effective, and visionary team. Now, one year into my term of office, it feels appropriate to give you a report on what we’ve accomplished to October 2008.
- Raised $95,000 from members to hire two very capable people to staff our new national office: Marianne Duddy-Burke and Peggy Burns
- Relocated our national office from Washington DC to Boston, demonstrating our ability to move operations to where the talent resides
- Resolved problems with our new membership processing, including lack of timely membership renewal notices, donor acknowledgments, and credit card processing
- Worked with numerous Chapters to restore accuracy of member rosters
- Thanks to a few generous estates and increased membership donations, we ended the fiscal year significantly in the black, allowing us to begin rebuilding our reserves
- Timely publication and dissemination of the weekly Breath of the Spirit, monthly Dignity Dateline and the QV: Quarterly Voice
- Secured a $20,000 grant from the Arcus Foundation to support our actions during the April 2008 Papal visit
- Completed a contested election for new board members
- Completely overhauled the DignityUSA website, adding new functionality and features to position us for future growth and to support Chapter communications
- Developed a detailed marketing strategy to promote our 40th Anniversary Convention and growth in membership among women and youth
Being the Voice for LGBT Catholics
- Dignity leaders were widely quoted in national and international media during the April 2008 Papal visit
- Created two brochures to help Catholics voice their support for marriage equality to legislators and to members of their community
- Mobilized Catholics to stand against anti-gay ballot initiatives in California and Florida
Chapter and Member Services
- Initiated quarterly conference calls between Chapter and National leaders to improve communications
- Held National Board of Directors meetings in Washington DC, Boston, Denver and Chicago to enhance operational knowledge and communications in those cities
- Provided free media training from GLAAD (Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) for all Chapter leaders
- Board members and staff visited over a dozen Chapters
- Support for Chapter membership drives and outreach efforts
- Timely resolution of individual member complaints
I see these accomplishments as signs of Grace. We have been gifted with generous contributions of time, talent and treasure by our members. Some examples:
- Several significant estate gifts from deceased members whose legacy will be the financial stabilization of Dignity
- The considerable talent and passion of our Executive Director, Marianne Duddy-Burke and Operations Manager, Peggy Burns
- The competent talent of the other executive officers: Lourdes, Lewis and Chris — each covering their respective base well
- The prayers and hands-on labor of many members who followed through with their offers to help with the work of the Board
- A talented and committed group of people on our national Board, building on a solid foundation left by my predecessors
I have had the opportunity to visit numerous Chapters this past year, reminding me of the wide diversity of our communities, and the challenge of leading that bundle of diverse traditions, convictions and history into a new future. Our future path is not clear to me yet. What is clear is that there is a lot of energy in this organization. The Spirit is not done with us. There is much work to do. We’ve got to ask a lot of questions and listen keenly to discern the future path.
We start our second year focused on the 40th anniversary of DignityUSA. We are planning quite an event in San Francisco — recalling just how far we have come, and laying out a vision for the future. Please make Convention 2009 reservations soon. Convention registration details are scheduled to be released in January 2009.
Until we see you in San Francisco, I ask you for your continued prayers, charity and financial support as all the volunteers serving on your national Board work to discern our future path.
A Thanksgiving Message
Thanksgiving Day 2008 rapidly approaches. Let us be thankful for God’s love and providential care. Let us be mindful and appreciative of the working of the Holy Spirit in our midst, and pray for continued guidance and blessings.
I am extremely grateful for the love and support the members of the national Board, staff, associates, allies, friends and national membership have accorded me personally and to DignityUSA.
On behalf of the national Board, staff and associates of DignityUSA, I wish you and yours a Blessed Thanksgiving in safety, peace, love, happiness and fellowship.