Virginian David Savage thought he’d become a broadcast journalist. Instead, he landed in direct marketing, arriving in the region over 25 years ago and pitching everything from fitness equipment to software for monitoring children’s internet use. One would assume the Phoenixville resident’s business acumen and active volunteerism in the Roman Catholic Church have prepared him for his latest job as executive director of the Papal Foundation, an international outreach of Pope Francis headquartered in Chester.
MLT: What can you tell us about the foundation?
DS: Since 1988, it’s distributed $190 million in grants and scholarships in 121 developing nations—mostly for infrastructure, building hospitals, churches and schools, but also in humanitarian aid (including $1.8 million in COVID-19 relief). A recent $45,000 grant built housing for 30 families in El Salvador City, Philippines, after a request from the Hijas de Jesús Sisters. We’re expecting a request from the Mother Teresa-founded Missionaries of Charity in Haiti (following the August earthquake). I’m amazed at the breadth of help the foundation offers.
MLT: The foundation has never had an executive director. Do you have a vision, or were you hired to fulfill one?
DS: The main goal is to raise the profile of the foundation. In the Catholic Church, it’s not a secret. But still, most aren’t aware of the good work it does. There’s been a lot of volunteer leadership, but the staff is small—just four folks—so we’d like to go to the next level of success. Last year, we distributed almost $10 million, but we want do $20 million, which means raising more money. And if we’re to raise money, more people need to know about us. The vision is to distribute a billion dollars in the next seven years or so—an ambitious goal, but I’m Catholic, so I believe in the Holy Spirit doing great work. To me, we have a great story to tell, and so much of fundraising is storytelling.
MLT: Any personal flesh and blood in this?
DS: The Roman Catholic Church is a universal church. I may go to a church in Paoli (St. Norbert), but it’s connected to the world church, and sharing financially is a way to help answer a calling.