Survey Results

Below are the results of the March/April 2019 parish survey. A paper copy was distributed at all Masses the weekend of May 4 -5, 2019.

Committed Volunteers Reached Out to Parishioners

  • There are 369 registered households in the parish.  Of these, 40 are marked “Do Not Solicit” due to pastoral reasons, leaving 329 included in the survey.
  • Over 30 parishioners agreed to help with the survey. They selected names they wished to visit, and reached out to about 2/3 of parishioners.
  • The remaining 1/3 had a parish survey mailed to them on 3/27/19.

Participation was Very Good

  • Of the 214 households assigned to a volunteers, 170 participated in the survey (nearly 80%).
  • Of the 116 households that received a survey in the mail, 16 replied (14%).
  • A total of 186 households participated in the survey, enough to give the pastor and Parish Council a clear understanding of parishioner sentiment.

Questions and Responses

“Are we on the right track with the plans outlined in the Project Overview?”

Answer Right Track? % of 186 Respondents
Yes
118
63.4%
Unsure
45
24.2%
No
8
4.3%
Did not answer
15
8.1%
Totals
186
100.0%

“Would you be willing to support a fund drive?”

Answer Will Support? % of 186 Respondents
Yes
132
71.0%
Unsure
28
15.1%
No
12
6.5%
Did not answer
14
7.5%
Totals
186
100.0%

“When we begin the fund drive, would you be willing to host a gathering or visit other families?”

Answer Will Help? % of 186 Respondents
Yes
5
2.7%
Unsure
18
9.7%
No
136
73.1%
Did not answer
27
14.5%
Totals
186
100.0%

Gift Estimates              

Answer Right Track? Gift Estimate Notes / Commentary
Yes
118
$336,935
Of the 118 who said YES, the project was on the right track, 80 took the additional
step of estimating a gift. Estimates from these 80 households totaled $336,935.
Unsure
45
$152,700
Of the 45 who said they were UNSURE if the project was on the right track, 20 took
the additional step of estimating a gift. Estimates from these 20 households totaled $152,700
No
8
$19,600
Despite feeling the project wasn’t on the right track, 4 estimated gifts totaling $19,600
Did not answer
15
$11,000
3 of the 15 estimated gifts totaling $11,000.
Totals
186
$520,235
Altogether, 107 households estimated gifts totaling $520,235.

Commentary Mr. Jeffrey shared with the Parish Council on April 23: “In every survey there are people who participate and are inclined to support, but do not want to estimate their gift just yet.  For example, 118 families said the projects were “on the right track” but only 80 estimated a gift amount.  Typically, when the campaign is launched nearly all will eventually make a gift or pledge. Therefore, I consider the $520,235 total above to be a ‘base-line’ amount, and feel confident that a goal of $600,000 is attainable.”

Parishioner Comments

What we heard: Caring for our historic church has to be the #1 priority.

Response: The Parish Council agrees, approving a grant application to the Catholic Extension Society. 

Notes from Mr. Jeffrey. “As the surveys began to come in, I could see that the first concern was for the church structure itself.  So after talking with Fr. Phil, I called the Catholic Extension Society (CES) to inquire about the possibility of a grant for tuck pointing the church.  They were open to accepting our application, but mentioned that the deadline was May 1 and the local bishop must approve the application.  I called the diocese, and though it was Holy Week, Bishop Folda kindly responded with a written endorsement that same day.  I then worked with Marian Hoffarth to prepare the application and financial documents.  At their April 23 meeting, the Parish Council approved a motion to request $80,000 for church tuck pointing. The next day I submitted the application.  I believe CES makes their grant decisions in June, so I will keep you posted.” UPDATE 5/7/19 The Catholic Extension Society will make their decision in July 2019.

What we heard: Some people want to be able to earmark their gifts for a particular area.

Response: The Parish Council wants to give parishioners that option. 

At their April 23 meeting, the Parish Council approved a motion to launch a Capital Campaign with a base goal of $600,000 and give parishioners an option to designate their gift to one of three areas: A) Where capital needs are the greatest, B) Church and fellowship hall repairs C) For school repairs. 

What we heard: There are concerns about the cost of maintaining a PK – 8 Catholic school.

Response: The Parish Council agreed to seek ‘outside support’ to supplement the upkeep of school buildings.

The Hommerding grant program is administered by the Diocese of Fargo and structured as a “dollar for dollar” matching gift.  The Parish Council approved a motion to apply for a $100,000 Hommerding Matching Grant for all unrestricted campaign gifts and those earmarked for school repairs. 

Notes from Mr. Jeffrey. “I have had a conversation with Mr. Scott Hoselton, Finance Manager at the Diocese and informed him that St. Alphonsus will be making an application.  There is no specific deadline; we have applied and to get an answer within a few weeks.  In addition, I have had good luck with the Raskob Foundation in Delaware.  They are dedicated to Catholic causes.  Their submission period is June 1 – 28 and they typically award $10,000 – $15,000.  Further, I have worked in Catholic schools since 1986 and have seen a number of ways to increase enrollment, tuition, and gift dollars.  I would be happy to meet with the school and foundation boards to share insights.”

What we heard: We need to keep on top of major maintenance.

Response: The Parish Council will establish a reserve fund specifically for major maintenance.

A number of people suggested that if we did major maintenance on a regular schedule, it wouldn’t accumulate to create such a large need.  Recognizing the necessity for a special fund for big-ticket capital items, the Parish Council approved a motion that any capital campaign funds raised beyond the $600,000 would be put into a reserve account for capital improvements. 

What we heard: When it comes to the Rectory, many people feel a new structure would be the best long-term value.

Commentary from Mr. Jeffrey: “Some people are fond of older buildings, and expressed hope that the existing rectory could be updated at a reasonable cost.  Others felt new construction, or perhaps a pre-fab would be a better long-term value.  Having said that, from the comments I get the sense that many people don’t realize the average cost of a new house is close to $150 per square foot.  Thus an average 2000 square foot house would be somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000. 

Therein lies the difficulty.  From the survey, I think it is possible to reach $600,000, even higher if we get the grants mentioned above.  But if a new rectory was added to the current list of projects it would push the campaign goal to $900,000.  I suggested to the Parish Council that it would require several very large gifts to add another $300,000 to the bottom line.  At that point Fr. Phil reminded the Council that the Rectory, though dated, is certainly comfortable enough and can wait.  That prompted Corey Stremick to make a motion that campaign funds beyond $600,000 be earmarked for capital improvements.  The Council saw that as a way to hopefully provide ‘seed money’ for the rectory.”

What we heard: Many people prefer to give a lump sum rather than pledging.

How parishioners give is up to them.  Some people prefer a single lump sum, others a monthly payment plan.  The chart of monthly giving was included in survey materials as a planning tool.  We wanted to point out that for working families, even a modest monthly gift has a big impact over time.

What we heard: We need to explain parish finances, especially the financial relationship between St. Alphonsus and the Diocese of Fargo.

The comments included questions about parish finances, where we do our banking, and the purpose of the parish and school endowments.

  • Immediate Needs.  The parish has checking and savings accounts in Langdon banks to pay bills.
  • Needs Beyond 30 – 90 days.  For reserves, we have an account with the Catholic Church Deposit and Loan Fund of Eastern North Dakota.  It is a legal entity separate from the Diocese of Fargo. It is operated as a savings and loan (or credit union) for Catholic entities in the Fargo diocese. All deposits are separately accounted for and remain the property of the parish. Deposits pay a fixed rate adjusted quarterly. Deposits and withdrawals are available at all times.  If additional money is needed, parishes may borrow money from the Deposit and Loan Fund for capital projects.  The organization is audited by Eide Bailly.
  • Long Term.  The Catholic Development Foundation is used for funds referred to as “permanently restricted” or “endowed.”  The use of principle is not allowed; only the Spendable Earnings distributions can be used.  St. Alphonsus has a parish endowment valued at $1,444,263 as of 4/30/19. The school endowment was valued at $1,838,993 as of 12/31/18.  These two funds were established to provide supplemental income to the parish and school.   
  • More information regarding finances will be forthcoming.