Thursday, January 20, 2011

Name change of Catholic Aid Association reflects Catholic organization’s roots, mission; Now it's Catholic United Financial

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It's new name reflects what was known as "Catholic Aid’s" roots and mission


Mike McGovern



What’s in a name? Plenty, say people at Catholic United Financial in Arden Hills.

That’s why the fraternal life insurance company, which started in 1878, recently chose to change the name it held for more than 80 years: Catholic Aid Association.

The new name took effect Jan. 1, and the change is the result of extensive research, said president Mike Mc­Govern, who be­came a member of the organization short­ly after he was born.

The non-profit surveyed both members and non-members to help understand their perceptions of Catholic Aid Association, which offers life insurance and financial products like annuities and IRAs to members in Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin.

“Most non-members had no clue who we were,” McGovern said. “The biggest confusion was that most people thought we were Catholic Charities. We still, to this day, get continual calls every day [from people trying to contact Catholic Charities]. I joke that I think half my family still thinks I work for Catholic Charities.”

[And don't call us "CUF", he admonished!]

Helping the church

McGovern and others believe the word “aid” caused much of the confusion. Back in the 1920s, when the organization became Catholic Aid Association, the name was patterned after the many mutual aid societies that existed at the time.

These organizations provided mutual benefits, such as aid and/or insurance, to members. Catholic Aid reached beyond individuals to help the local Catholic Church. Today, Catholic United offers fundraisers, youth events and scholarships, and matching grant programs for Catholic parishes, schools and religious education programs.

“Over the years, we have substantially supported the St. Paul Seminary,” McGovern said. “A couple years ago, we gave them a grant for $100,000. We’ve supported NET Ministries with some significant gifts, we’ve supported St. Paul’s Outreach.

“What makes us unique is that, because we’re a nonprofit and we’ve been a nonprofit since our beginning, the money that would have gone to taxes and to the shareholders goes back to the members in the form of benefits, charity and the workings of the association, such as vocations and Catholic education.”

Important part of history

The easiest part of the name change was keeping the word “Catholic” as the first word in the new name.

The organization was founded on its Catholic identity, and McGovern said that has been at the heart of its existence since the beginning, when it was called The Mutual Life Insurance Association of the German Roman Catholic Benevolent Societies of Minnesota.

The new name marks the fourth time the organization has updated its name.

“We knew that we wanted to keep ‘Catholic’ in our new name,” McGovern said. “It’s a critical part of our history, and we were not going to waver from that in any way. But, at the same time, we needed to let people know that we are a financial institution, that we sell insurance and financial products and we are still definitely involved very closely with our church, and we are more than just aid.”

Catholic United is about to embark upon its biggest fundraiser of the year — the Catholic Schools Raffle. It runs from Jan. 24 to March 4.

The first raffle, held in 2009, raised more than $128,000 for Catholic schools in Minnesota and South Dakota. This year, the raffle has opened up to twice as many schools, with a fundraising goal of $250,000. Participating Catholic schools will receive all of the money from raffle ticket sales.

The raffle is one example of how the company has continued to grow, even in a slow economy. Originally, Catholic United had 10 councils and 485 members. Now, there are more than 74,000 members and 160 active councils.

“We grow every year,” McGovern said. “We added several new councils this year. We are starting a new one in Fargo in February.

“At the end of the first year of existence, they had somewhere in the range of $637 in assets. Today, we have $670 million in assets.”

For more information about Catholic United Financial, visit www.catholicaid.com . Catholic Spirit

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