Diocesan News

Chairman leaves Catholic Foundation primed for growth

Story by S.L. Hansen 

(SNR) - After serving on the Catholic Foundation’s board of directors for two consecutive terms and leading the board as chairman for the last two years, Scott Gubbels is stepping down.

“The way the board is set up, you can serve up to two three-year terms,” Gubbels said. “My six years comes up at the May meeting.”

A member of St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln, he was the first lay chairman of the board for this organization, which provides financial stability, development and charitable giving support to Catholic parishes, schools, organizations and individuals throughout the Diocese of Lincoln.

When the Catholic Foundation was created, the Bishop of Lincoln served as the chairman of the board. However, the bishop is now an ex-officio board member.

“Bishop [James] Conley felt strongly that we needed to segregate the Foundation from the Diocese,” Gubbels explained. “I think ‘huge kudos to the bishop,’ to realize that we may be better structured if he stepped down [as chairman].”

With a great deal of financial acumen – he leads the corporate tax group for Nelnet, a student loan company – and plenty of experience on the board, Gubbels was elected to serve as the first lay chairperson.

“I had a passion to see the Foundation continue to thrive and prosper,” he said.

His responsibilities have included leading board meetings, hiring and providing guidance to the Foundation’s executive director, Chris Raun, and working with Raun on the strategic plan and vision for the future.

Part of the Foundation’s strategic plan is educating laypersons about the Foundation and how it exists to serve every Catholic individual, parish, school and organization in the diocese.

“People’s perception was that this was a vehicle to be used only upon somebody’s passing, rather than something that can be used during a person’s lifetime for tax advantages and charitable giving,” Gubbels said.

Raun and the Foundation’s gift planning officer, Les Mach, have made great strides in helping people understand that the Catholic Foundation is available to them at any time. They also want people to know that the Foundation is truly a diocesan-wide endeavor.

“We have 100-plus funds, and that money is going back to support religious sisters, retired priests, each school, and parishes across the diocese,” said Gubbels.

The board of directors includes several subcommittees. An investment committee controls, monitors and supervises the Foundation’s investment managers.

“We’re trying to ensure that we’re preserving and growing the assets of the foundation in a responsible manner, making sure [the investments] also comply with the Catholic Faith,” Gubbels said.

As anybody who has tried to manage a personal investment account knows, it’s getting harder and harder to find options that match Catholic values.

“It is challenging,” admitted Gubbels.

Fortunately, the Catholic Foundation works with a company to screen all investments and potential investments according to parameters provided to them. Each investment is monitored to make sure it hasn’t become morally problematic.

If the screening company finds that a particular investment is no longer compliant, it is rapidly removed from the Foundation’s portfolio.

Gubbels assured that even with strict moral standards, the investments of the Catholic Foundation are performing admirably.

“On a quarterly basis, we are comparing the performance of our portfolio to other benchmarks, and we are very competitive,” he said. “Just in the last two years, we’ve grown the foundation by 6%. For the last few years, we’ve given out more than $2 million per year to the beneficiaries.”

He continued, “That’s a lot of generosity from a lot of people.”

The Catholic Foundation is a great service for laypersons all across the diocese who want to invest, save for the future, or leave something behind when they die. Raun and Mach are available to help create a custom solution.

Another one of Gubbels’ goals was to increase diversity in the board geographically – tapping board members from parishes all across southern Nebraska – as well as bringing on people in different age groups, different ethnicities, and different professional backgrounds. 

“Some of our board members help grow the network of relations. Others have expertise in fundraising or investments, or other attributes,” Gubbels said.

Under Gubbels’ leadership, the Catholic Foundation also recently made a significant change: It will now be able to receive and hold real estate, including farmland and urban properties that suit the Foundation’s standards.

“I think this is exciting,” he said. “Up until a month ago we could only accept cash, stocks or grain.”

Gubbels will be succeeded by Walt Zink, who also happens to belong to St. Joseph Parish in Lincoln. The retired attorney was elected at the February board meeting.

Though he has reached his term limit, Gubbels remains an enthusiastic supporter of the Catholic Foundation.

“This is a financial and tax-efficient vehicle that can be used to enrich people’s lives according to the faith, both during and after one’s lifetime,” he said.

To learn more about charitable giving and financial planning through the Catholic Foundation, contact Chris Raun at 402-488-2142, Ext. 105 or Les Mach at 402-443-6180.

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