Preparing for The Pope: Raising The Big Bucks

Organizers for next year's World Meeting of Families in Philadelphia publicly start their fundraising efforts

Tell an entrepreneur that they can be a part of a $100-million dollar venture that may give them exposure to at least a million people?

That's enough to get them in the door, and so it was for Bob Moul.

"I got a very nice and kind letter inviting me to this event. I really don't know what to expect, so I'm here to listen and learn more than anything," said Moul, who runs a tech start-up company called Artisan Mobile, based in Old City, Philadelphia.

So Tuesday, a tad after 7 in the morning, Moul found himself in a room full of the city's business elite, all assembled at the Union League for a power breakfast with the papal dream team -- the organizers for the 2015 World Meeting of Families (WMOF).

The goal was simple but critical: to influence. The WMOF organizing team had an hour of precious time with some of the deepest pockets in the region -- people who also have a financial stake in the community.  They needed to get them excited enough to help pay for perhaps the biggest event ever hosted in the City of Philadelphia.

One by one, the front folks took the podium, covering areas of education and persuasion. They recapped the recent planning trip at the Vatican and outlined what to expect during the World Meeting of Families, which begins Sept. 22, 2015.


Donna Crilley Farrell, Executive Director for the WMOF:

"To give you a sense of how significant an event it will be for Philadelphia, there will be more than 150 countries represented...We expect 15,000 to 20,000 delegates for the convention. More than a million, maybe two million attendees expected for these events. Five thousand to 7,000 media members (including 2,000 international media members). Up to 7,000 volunteers needed."

"It's a very significant undertaking, but also an extraordinary opportunity," Farrell said.


Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput, who is leading the WMOF effort:

"Our ability to deliver the World Meeting of Families is truly about the gathering and support of many. And that's why we've asked you to be here today. . . We have many needs."

Time. Talent. Fortunes.


Governor Tom Corbett, Honorary Co-Chair. Catholic school boy:

"It doesn't matter what creed, what politics, what nationality, what race. He [Pope Francis] is a leader of people who has demonstrated his compassion, his wisdom, his spiritual leadership..." "We need the help of every citizen, especially in the business community. Please consider." "I think it's a wonderful opportunity for us to show our best side."


Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, Honorary Co-Chair. St. Joes' Prep alum:

"Great efforts don't just happen. They happen because of a lot of great people." "This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience." "The focus of course is on families and the complexities of the family life."

P.S. THE POPE LIKES US. "Pope Francis was in no rush. There was no hurry. There were 100K people out in the square in the rain. No one moved. He spent personal time looking you in the eye and talking to you." "This is a singular and spectacular moment for Philadelphia and the world."


Dan Hilferty, CEO Independence Blue Cross and delegate for WMOF. St. Joe's Univ. alum:

"What I'm here to do is close and ask you for your hope. To ask you for your help and your hope." "Regardless of whether it's your time, your talent or your fortune, we need your help." "We will be in touch. We just task you to please take our call. Please agree to meet with us. Please agree to have an open mind."

The WMOF delegates say they still don't have an actual number on how much it will cost to host the event. Estimates have ranged from $15 million to upwards of $50 million. But the economic impact numbers are out there: approximately $100 million.

It was a lot to digest in a short amount of time, but Moul liked what he heard.

"I was impressed at how transparent they were about the cost that it's going to take to put this on, but also the economic benefit it will bring to the city," Moul said, wondering aloud how he might be able to both help and to benefit.

"I think it will be a daunting task, but the sense I get is that not only us, but I think the whole community is eager to get involved. I think it could be transformational, and I think everybody recognizes that in order to make that happen, you know, you've got to make the investment as well."

Some big companies have already committed to donating money, although they're not ready at this point to be named publicly. But for start-ups, the help may have to be in time or talent because they're still chasing their fortunes. Moul, who was recognized as the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce's Small Business Person of the Year, also chairs Philly's Startup Leadership group.

"I think companies like mine and others in the startup community could volunteer in other ways to help with the logistical challenges, maybe the technological aspects of an event like this," Moul said. "I think we're all still kind of getting our heads around, 'What is this really going to look like,' but when you hear the estimates of $100 million of economic impact to the city, I think that can only be good news to the city. How that ends up translating down into the small businesses, especially on the tech side, we'll see."

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