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Nancy Gugino takes reins of diocesan Foundation

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After nine years serving in various roles at the Brothers of Mercy Foundation in Clarence, Nancy Gugino comes downtown to oversee the Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo. As executive director, Gugino is responsible for the team that oversees the Upon This Rock capital campaign, awards grants, plans events, and manages the donor database.

Nancy Gugino, executive director, Foundation of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.

“There’s a lot of moving parts,” she says. “There are a lot of different people involved in different aspects of the foundation. It’s (my job) overseeing all of that.”

At Brothers of Mercy, Gugino spearheaded the first capital campaign realizing a $3 million goal. She also grew the Brothers’ largest fundraising event from $60,000 to more than $150,000 and the second largest event from $16,000 to over $45,000 in three years. Her biggest accomplishment was forming a working relationship with restaurateur Russell J. Salvatore, who provided four major gifts in three years. She took on her new role in November.

How did you find your way into this position?

“At Brothers of Mercy I was foundation director. Brothers of Mercy, compared to the Foundation, was a smaller entity. I say that only because I had to do everything. So, I did all the fundraising. I ran the capital campaign. I did all the grant writing. I did all the donor cultivation. In addition to that, I was corporate sales director as well. I carried the campus phone. Every call came to me, whether it was Independent Living, Assisted Living, Memory Care, Skilled Nursing, Rehab. All those calls were coming to me. So, in addition to running the foundation and all the different pieces of the foundation, I was also in charge of keeping all the buildings filled to capacity. It was a big job. I touched on everything there. So, now here at the Foundation, we have a person who manages grants, we have two people who manage the database. We have an events person. It’s nice that I have more of a staff to work with here and I don’t have to do all those pieces myself. There’s a lot more supports built in here. But, it’s a much bigger foundation too.”

You’ve done a lot of fundraising in your jobs. What drives you?

“I’ve been very motivated just by interacting with people and I like a challenge. When I first stepped onto the (Brothers of Mercy) foundation and the board said, ‘Where’s Brothers of Mercy’s $100,000 event?’ At that point, our biggest event was generating $50,000. I stepped in in March. Our big event was in May. And that year we made $101,000. So, I like challenges and I don’t shirk away from them.

“When the board said to me, ‘Russ Salvatore is giving ECMC $1 million. You better get in front of him because he’s exhausting his foundation.’ Nobody was able to help me open the door with him. I just worked at it and worked at it and worked at it, and Brothers of Mercy has three new buildings standing on their 126-acre campus today because of my relationship with Russell Salvatore. He funded all of those buildings.”

And he just donated how many new televisions? (Salvatore donated 60 Smart TVs to the Catholic elementary and high schools.)

“I went to see him when I stepped into my new role here, because I consulted with him about this job. We had such a nice relationship. So, shortly after I started here, we had our Catholic education fundraiser, our biggest fundraiser for the foundation for the year. I was sitting in on a committee meeting. The committee was talking about, ‘It would be great if we could get someone to donate a Smart TV that we could raffle off at this event and one school would win a Smart TV.’ I instantly thought in my mind, who’s the king of donating TVs all over Western New York. Every room in every hospital in Western New York has a TV thanks to Russell. So, we went to see him and we talked about all of his gifting in Western New York. He touched on the TVs. I said, ‘Would you consider donating a Smart TV to every Catholic school in the Diocese of Buffalo?’ He said, ‘I’ll certainly do that for you.’”

What other projects are you working on right now?

“Right now, we are moving our in-person Catholic Education gala, which was supposed to take place in January. Rich’s Atrium did not feel comfortable with us doing an in-person event because at that time Covid numbers were rising fiercely. So, I asked Laura DeMizio (events coordinator for the Foundation). I said, how would you like to move this to TV? Because that’s what we did at Brothers. When Covid hit, we had to find a new avenue to hold our event. So now instead of having an in-person event we are doing a televised event. If we were able to hold an in-person event, that would be approximately 450 people. Now by doing a televised event in prime time, we’re going to be in front of well over 6,000 viewers. We found at Brothers of Mercy, and I’m sure we’ll find the same thing here, the revenue generated by this event goes way up because you’re reaching so many more people.”

What can we expect to see?

“It’s going to be testimonials from principals, teachers, parents. It’s going to be in some way a version of the event. All of our honorees, their awards will be presented. Our raffle tickets will be pulled by Mr. Salvatore. Our scholarships will all be awarded too. Everything we would have done at the in-person gala will be done, but it will be prerecorded and people can see it on (WBBZ).”

(Members of the foundation staff taped Bishop Michael W. Fisher as he visited several schools during Catholic Schools Week.)

A lot of people get confused by this. What is the relationship between the Foundation and the diocese itself?

“The Foundation is its own distinct entity. It’s a separate corporation. There should never be any concern with what’s transpiring now with our diocese being in restructuring. A donor would never have to worry about if they gave the foundation a gift that it’s going to be taken by creditors for the bankruptcy because that can’t happen. This is its own distinct corporation. They’re totally two different entities.”

So even Upon This Rock, that money is going to what it was planned for?  “It’s designated purpose. There were different elements of Upon This Rock. Some people did a general donation. Most people had something in mind where they wanted it to go. Maybe that’s Catholic Education, maybe that’s the Mother Teresa Home, maybe that’s formation for our seminarians, our diaconate candidates, our lay ecclesial students. So, most people had their gift designated somewhere.” 

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