C&F opens Center for Church Managment

Oscar Abello

The College of Commerce and Finance gathered along with colleagues and peers from all areas of the University in the Villanova Room to celebrate the opening of the C&F’s Center for the Study of Church Management last Wednesday.

The center is the result of efforts led by Dr. Charles Zech of the Department of Economics, the director of the new center.

“Villanova University’s College of Commerce and Finance is uniquely positioned to become a ‘first mover’ in the study and application of sound business methods to Church decision making through the establishment of its Center for the Study of Church Management,” Zech said in his opening message for the center.

“While concerned with all aspects of church management, the Center will initially focus on the areas of church finances, human resource issues and church governance structures. We welcome members of other faiths and encourage them to join us in our common commitment to improving the stewardship of church resources through better church management at all levels.”

Under the guidance of Zech, the center hit the ground running with a program in place for July 9-14 that will offer participants a certification in church management. A graduate degree program is being planned and a “Best Practices in Church Management” newsletter is being compiled.

“Dr. Zech is a nationally recognized expert in the field of church management. This Center fills an important niche by offering a place where key issues can be discussed and developed. Villanova is leading the way with the inauguration of this center,” colleague and Dept. of Economics Chairperson Dr. Peter Zaleski said.

The center is composed of a Programs Committee with ten members from faculty, administration and the Philadelphia Archdiocese, in addition to a National Advisory Board of nineteen members from across the country featuring CEOs and other business executives along with college professors and prominent Catholic Church leaders. Richard Burke, President of Catholic School Management, will chair the National Advisory Board.

Dr. James Danko, Dean of the College of Commerce and Finance, spoke briefly at the evening celebration.

“Our Center for the Study of Church Management is the first of its kind in the world,” Danko said. “The reason that this center was created – to provide education and research on business practices to support Catholic Church leaders – is at the heart of who we are as an Augustinian institution.” Danko also took a few minutes out of his schedule to speak with The Villanovan about the need for the center and role of the School of Commerce and Finance in the Augustinian mission.

The demand for the study of church management has grown recently in light of the fact that church giving has largely declined. Better management is necessary as resources become more scarce and churches continue to serve as an avenue for philanthropic giving. Additionally, effectively running the resources of a parish using proven business methods is attractive to potential new donors.

“I think that this center is a great intersection of Villanova’s Augustinian tradition and our strength in providing a strong business education,” Danko said. “When you look at some of these church organizations, there is definitely a need for smarter management and better focus toward the goals they wish to accomplish. For them to be effective doing that, it would benefit them greatly to have a solid grounding in business practices, and the center is a great opportunity for us to provide that for them.”

“What the College of Commerce and Finance brings to the table is a strong understanding of business practices, and someone like Chuck Zech with a strong background in business practices and a deep passion for the spiritual side of life, coming together to provide a place for churches to understand smart, effective business practices as crucial to their mission,” he added.

Within the nonprofit world, giving is on the rise, a testament to the fact that the number of billionaires has risen from 423 in 1996, to 691 as of 2005, according to The Economist’s recent Survey of Wealth and Philanthropy. Another study conducted by Johns Hopkins University found that philanthropic giving as compared to total earned income in the United States was approximately 1.7 percent. Considering that American total earned income is about $12 trillion, even that small percentage is a very high dollar amount. Relatively speaking, America on average does in fact give a larger percentage of its GDP to philanthropic giving.

In dollar amounts, the Giving USA Foundation found that since 1996, the annual growth in giving has on average accelerated as well.

As the giving increases due to the recent rapid proliferation of billionaires and millionaires, philanthropists are also calling for better management of resources doled out to nonprofit organizations. There is a growing movement of applying effective business practices to organizations not traditionally seen as a business, in order to produce better results and increase productivity for each dollar donated.

“Many thanks to Chuck Zech, who has worked tremendously hard to bring this center from an idea into a reality,” Danko said.

“Our goal as a business school is not just to provide outstanding business educations, it is to provide business education in keeping with the moral vision and teachings of St. Augustine. Through the Center we can reach out to the Catholic Church community and provide business leadership and education in the management of financial and human resources that will serve to strengthen our churches and thereby have a positive impact on society.”