Catholic School – First in State to Receive $500,000 Federal Grant

Symphony Advancement congratulates Messmer Catholic Schools on the award of a $500,000 Department of Education grant to provide after school programming to low income students in Milwaukee.

The LEADERS program is designed to supplement daytime instruction targeting transfer students and individuals with persistently low proficiency scores.  The extended day program includes tutoring, mentoring, recreational activities, student clubs and a robotics program.  Symphony Advancement assisted in the overall design of the program based on national best practices and managed the grant application process.

“Thanks to this award, Messmer will be able to offer up to 300 students the additional homework help, tutoring and support they need,” said Jeffrey Robb, Symphony Managing Director.

Messmer Catholic Schools is a pioneer in urban Catholic education.  The school officially closed in the 1990’s until parents and community members rallied showing their support, managing to reopen the school within days.  One alumnus actually mortgaged his home to ensure the school had sufficient operating cash.  Not long after reopening, Messmer became the first private religious school in the nation to accept parental vouchers.  Parental vouchers essentially offer parents a partial credit based on state tuition which parents can address to a school of their choice.  The program has been well received among low-income parents with limited educational options for their children.  Through the use of vouchers parents can elect to send their children to high performing private schools if they wish.

Opening it’s doors to serve low-income students Messmer enrollment steadily began increasing.  With one of the highest graduation rates in the state and ACT scores well above average Messmer continues to attract minority students seeking a high quality education.  Today Messmer operates three schools serving nearly 1700 students in grades K4 -12.

If your organization is interested in exploring federal funding opportunities including grants and financing please contact Symphony today.

Casting Nets Featured on EWTN’s Life On The Rock

Casting Nets Ministry an apostolate of the New Evangelization was featured on EWTN’s “Life on the Rock.”  The program explored the work of Casting Nets co-founders Chris Stewart and Tony Brandt including their summer institute, speaking series and youth ministry.

Stewart and Brandt, both former high school theology teachers recognized the need nationwide for well-formed youth ready to serve the Church.  What began as informal weekend talks to youth groups throughout the Midwest soon blossomed into a robust national ministry.  Stewart and Brandt now present at more than seventy parishes and schools every year, reaching thousands with their powerful faith sharing tips and tactics.

The summer Casting Nets Institute offers up to one practicing Catholic youth the opportunity to further hone their evangelization skills through one-on-one coaching and presentations by nationally recognized Catholic apologists.

Now working full time in the Ministry, Chris has recently completed his second book published by Our Sunday Visitor.  Symphony Advancement is proud to have assisted Tony and Chris with the establishment of their ministry as a tax exempt 501c3 organization and several appeal efforts.

If your ministry is interested in formal IRS recognition or would like assistance in preparing your annual appeal please feel free to contact us today.

Proposed Tax Bill Keeps Charitable Deductions – Saves Middle Class Families Money

The proposed 2017 tax bill keeps charitable deductions and includes several other measures business owners and nonprofits should pay close attention to. While not yet approved, draft language in the 2017 Jobs & Tax Act includes a number of measures designed to stimulate the economy, save middle class families money and ensure non-profits continue to benefit from American generosity.

Of note, the 2017 tax act:

  • Keeps the highly popular 401(k) savings plan program, allowing individuals and families to deduct pre-tax income for retirement savings.
  • The proposal doubles the standard deduction.
  • Keeps charitable deductions for qualified non-profit gifts.
  • Increases the Child tax credit to $1600. 
  • Reduces the number of tax brackets to four capping individual taxes at 39.5% for the wealthiest Americans and reducing the remaining three tax brackets.
  • Simplifies the income tax reporting process, such that most Americans will require little more than a post card to complete their annual return.
  • Maintains mortgage deductions on houses up to $1 million.

The tax act remains controversial however as it eliminates the State income tax deduction viewed as critical by big spending states like Illinois, New York and California.  Without the ability to deduct State income tax, these states will face pressure from constituents to re-evaluate government spending.