Cristo Rey Boston High School Students Earn Spots at Top Colleges with Success in the Classroom and Workplace

On May 24, 2017, Cristo Rey Boston celebrated its seventh annual Academic Signing Day to honor its top students from the Class of 2017 as well as present a special award to Cristo Rey Boston Board Chair Thomas P. O’Neill III, founder and chief executive officer of O’Neill and Associates. The event plays on the idea of National Signing Day for high school athletes with the top students at Cristo Rey Boston revealing their college choices for the first time as they don the hat that represents the school of their dreams. For the last seven years, 100% of Cristo Rey Boston’s graduates have been accepted to four-year colleges.

Tom O’Neill’s connection to Cristo Rey Boston runs deep. He has served as chairman of Cristo Rey Boston’s Board of Trustees for more than two decades beginning when the former North Cambridge Catholic High School, his alma mater, joined the Cristo Rey Network in 2004. For many years prior, Tom was Board Chair and Member at North Cambridge Catholic. In 2010, Tom helped lead the school’s rebranding to Cristo Rey Boston and its relocation to a larger building, the former St. William’s Elementary School in Dorchester. Tom has been instrumental in advocating for Cristo Rey’s innovative corporate work-study program, a requirement for all students enrolled at the school. Cristo Rey Boston partners with more than 125 local businesses and non-profits to provide work-study job placements where students earn two-thirds of their tuition and gain valuable workplace skills during their four years of high school.

The event held at the Boston Harbor Hotel also featured special recognitions for the school’s top five academic performers and the top three corporate work-study students. O’Neill and Associates’ own work-study senior, Evelyn Nuñez, was recognized for her hard work in the classroom and her three years at O’Neill and Associates. Ms. Nuñez has chosen to attend Suffolk University this fall.

Tom, Hugh, Mike

(L-R) Hugh McLaughlin, Tom O’Neill, Mike Brennan

Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives Robert Deleo joined Cristo Rey Boston President Michael J. Brennan and other community leaders at the celebration. Also in attendance was Father John O. Foley S.J., the founder of the Cristo Rey model and Jim Brett, President of the New England Council.

“We strive to ensure that the experience at Cristo Rey Boston High School is transformational, and that each student gains personal growth in the classroom, in the workplace and in the community,” said Cristo Rey’s Michael J. Brennan. “This event, our largest fundraiser of the year, honors our students, community and the success of the Cristo Rey Boston model. We also wanted to show our deep appreciation for Board Chair Tom O’Neill for his leadership, generosity and dedication to our students and our school.”

Cristo Rey Boston combines a rigorous college-preparatory academic program with a work-study program where students benefit from classroom and work-based learning, and develop the skills needed for college and job success. The school enrolls approximately 360 young men and women, more than ninety-five percent of whom are students of minority backgrounds. To support Cristo Rey Boston and learn more, visit

AICUM, Governor Baker and State Senator Donoghue Celebrate New College Savings Incentive

At its 12th Annual Dinner, the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) celebrated the Commonwealth’s new 529 College Savings Plan incentive for families which was passed by the Legislature this past summer. AICUM represents 58 private, non-profit colleges and universities throughout Massachusetts.

Governor Charlie Baker received AICUM’s “Committed to Access” Award for advancing a 529 tax deduction as part of his Economic Development bill and State Senator Eileen Donoghue, the legislative sponsor of the 529 provision, delivered keynote remarks. The 529 College Savings provision of the Economic Development Bill was signed into law by Governor Baker in August. A video testimonial on the story of the 529 legislation can be seen on YouTube, here.

The new 529 College Savings provision offers Massachusetts families a new tax incentive for contributions to a prepaid tuition or college savings program established by the state. Single filers will be able to deduct up to $1,000 while married people filing jointly can deduct up to $2,000.

Q&A with Pentera Inc. President & CEO, Claudine Donikian

Planned Giving Study Sponsored By Pentera Inc. Breaks New Ground


                   Claudine Donikian,                           President and CEO                Pentera Inc.

New research on planned gifts and the donors who make them shows that legacy society members make more gifts, larger gifts, and a wider variety of gifts—demonstrating that legacy societies are a significant way for nonprofits to connect with and steward donors. “The 2016 Planned Giving Study: Building Lasting Legacies: New Insights from Data on Planned Gifts,” was sponsored by Pentera, Inc., and researched by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University.

We spoke about the study with Pentera President & CEO Claudine Donikian, who is also a member of the advisory board of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Lilly school. Pentera is the nation’s leading planned giving marketing firm, specializing in full-service integrated marketing communications for more than four decades. A planned gift is any sizable charitable contribution made with forethought about the benefit to the charity and the financial implications to the donor and the donor’s family.

OA Online:  Why was this the right time to initiate this research?

Claudine Donikian: Several years ago I realized that there was very little research about the behaviors of actual donors who made actual planned gifts or actual gift intentions, so I approached the Lilly school to initiate and underwrite this national study that is the first to look at institutional data from a sampling of top university planned giving programs. Until now, most research has just used surveys or tax return data.

OA Online: What was the impetus behind Pentera supporting this research study?

Claudine Donikian: Looking at these top planned giving programs will help us discover best practices that can be used to guide all types of planned giving programs at various organizations.

OA Online: How was the research conducted?

Claudine Donikian: The study analyzes actual data on planned gifts and donors from case-study universities across the country. This unique data set includes information on planned gifts made from 1972 to 2015 (the date range varies by university).

OA Online: What are the top takeaways from the research?

Claudine Donikian: According to the study, 90% of the top 120 higher education institutions in the U.S. had an institution-wide legacy society exclusively for individuals who make planned gifts to the institution. The study found that legacy society members make larger gifts, with an average gift size more than twice that of non-members. They also make more gifts and use more different types of gift vehicles.

The study also found that these donors are likely to make multiple gifts: More than one-fifth of them did so. And schools are getting a lot of money from those repeat gifts, which on the average were about the same size as single gifts.

OA Online: So who are these planned giving donors?

Claudine Donikian: The study found that planned giving donors:

  1. Start making planned gifts at about 50 years of age, with the likelihood increasing as they age.
  2. Are likely to live in the same state as the university they are giving to.
  3. Are members of the Silent Generation or the Baby Boomers (79% combined).
  4. Make larger gifts if they are childless (average gift size more than double).
  5. Tend to use a wide variety of gift vehicles, especially when making repeat gifts.

OA Online: In regard to that wide variety of gift vehicles: Aren’t most planned gifts bequests?

Claudine Donikian: You are correct, and the finding on the wide use of gift vehicles is particularly significant because many nonprofits limit their planned giving programs to bequests based on the knowledge that they are the most popular gift and account for 80% of all planned gifts. Our study confirmed that most gifts came from bequests—but the percentage was much lower at just 54%. That means a lot of money is coming in through other types of gifts. Bequests brought in about $1.7 billion in this study, while other gift vehicles brought in just over $1 billion. So if all these schools had bequest-only programs, they would have left a billion dollars on the table!

The gift variety is even more significant among repeat donors. They made less than half as many bequests (25% to 54%) and twice as many gift annuities and charitable trusts (59% to 29%). This shows how important it is for nonprofits to accept and encourage a wide variety of gift vehicles.

OA Online: Were there other findings offering new insights?

Claudine Donikian: Yes, the study showed in a number of areas that unexpected groups account for a significant amount of planned gift revenue. Here are three examples:

  • Gifts from non-alumni: Alumni are the primary donor group to universities, as one would expect, representing about three-fourths of donors. But we found that family and friends of donors, faculty, and even those with unknown relationships with the university made gifts that were just as large as the gifts from alumni. In addition, those non-alumni were just as likely to make multiple gifts. So it is crucial to steward those who have all different levels of “linkage” to the nonprofit.
  • Gifts from other than the top donors: We found that the 80/20 rule of fundraising applies, with 82% of the planned giving funds coming from the top 20% of donors. But we also found that a significant amount of money—more than $330 million—came from the middle group of donors (between the top 20% and the bottom 50%). Ignoring those donors—like by leaving them off your mailing lists—is leaving money on the table.
  • Gifts from other generations: As expected, almost half (48%) of planned giving donors are members of the Silent Generation who are currently aged 71-88—but a large and growing percentage (31%) are Baby Boomers, and they will soon become the largest group of planned giving donors. And the marketing strategies for Baby Boomers are quite different from the Silent Generation.

OA Online: So what does this research mean for those who oversee planned giving?

Claudine Donikian: It’s important to study the top programs, as this study does, to discover best practices and also to see what is possible when nonprofits prioritize planned giving. These universities have robust planned giving programs—they promote all of the gift types and have the staff to cultivate and steward a large number of donors—and other schools as well as other types of nonprofits can then see what is possible when you do planned giving in the most strategic way. That is, they can see the value of having a comprehensive program, and they can look at how their own programs might expand—whether it might be adding a legacy society, offering more gift vehicles to donors, increasing their staff and budget to cultivate and steward donors, and other strategies.

OA Online: One more question: With the speculation about changes in the tax laws next year, should donors take any action before December 31, 2016, if they are doing estate and tax planning for the New Year?

Claudine Donikian: Yes, donors should always take action before the end of the year. We don’t know what next year holds; we have to wait to find out. But for those who are charitably inclined, of course you should make a gift before year-end—and enjoy receiving the tax benefits. Charities need your help. So make the gift.

Learn more about Pentera and the research study by visiting And follow Pentera on Twitter @PenteraInc

Dr. Arun Gandhi Delivers Inaugural Lecture for John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Jr. Chair in Peace

Gandhi Ireland.pngA year after receiving an honorary degree and delivering the commencement address at the University of Ulster-Magee Campus in Derry, Northern Ireland, Tom O’Neill returned to campus with his wife Shelly for the Formal Launch of the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace. Dedicated in honor of their efforts to foster peace and advance the reconciliation process during and after the Troubles, the John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill Chair in Peace seeks to use the lessons learned from peacebuilding in Northern Ireland to prepare future peacemakers of the world.

Dr. Arun Gandhi, grandson of the world-renowned non-violent Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, served as the keynote speaker of the inaugural events, which revolved around the commencement ceremonies for the INCORE Class of 2018. During his time on campus, Dr. Gandhi met with the Clinton Summer School INCORE participants and delivered a lecture around peace and nonviolence. The Smyth Memorial Lecture, “Building a Culture of Peace: Lessons from My Grandfather” emphasized the importance of learning in order for future peacemakers to create a culture of peace. Mahatma Gandhi led India’s non-violent independence from Britain and Dr. Arun Gandhi recalled learning from his grandfather that justice did not mean revenge but rather transformation through love.

Professor Brandon Hamber is the Director of INCORE and was appointed as the professor for the Chair in Peace to help future peacemakers in cultivating a more peaceful world. He was congratulated by Emmy-nominated actress and producer, Dr. Roma Downey, through a video message where she expressed her warm congratulations and her confidence in his valuable contributions while holding the Chair in Peace. Professor Brandon Hamber meditated upon the current violence conflicts around the world and recognized the great work that will be done to empower a generation of peacemakers.

While these events remind us that there is much that remains to be done to stimulate peace around the globe, the formal launch of the Chair in Peace was an opportunity to celebrate people like Mahatma Gandhi, John Hume and Thomas P. O’Neill. Tom adds:

“The origin in modern history of peace, brought about in a non-violent way, for the essence of equity and justice to be realised, was really at the hands of the great Mahatma. It was the others that followed him, because they had been reminded of what peace can do.”

Looking forward, we can only hope the next generation continues to follow and be reminded of these great leaders and what peace can do.

Coverage of the Formal Launch included The Irish News, the Londonderry Sentinel, the International Fund for Ireland, and more.

AICUM Applauds Joint Committee on Revenue for Progress on Bill to Incentivize College Savings



Proposal would help families save for their children’s futures

BOSTON, MA – The Association of Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) today applauded the state’s Joint Committee on Revenue, for advancing a college savings tax incentive proposal out of committee with a favorable recommendation.

The amended proposal, An Act building real incentives for college savings, originally filed by Senator Eileen Donoghue, would allow families to deduct a limited amount of qualified college savings contributions from their state taxes annually. Qualified contributions to a Massachusetts-managed prepaid tuition program (UPlan) or college savings program (529) of up to $1,000 for single filers and $2,000 for joint filers would be eligible for a state tax deduction.

Such incentivized college savings programs, often called 529s, are available in the vast majority of income-tax levying states, where they provide a needed boost to middle class families wishing to save for their children’s futures. A recent study demonstrates that of the households participating in the federal 529 program, 72 percent make less than $150,000 a year.

“There’s a lot to be done to help young people get to and through college affordably,” said Richard Doherty, president of AICUM. “College savings programs have proven to be an essential piece of the college affordability puzzle, and it’s time that Massachusetts catches up with the rest of the country in trying to help families save for their children’s futures. We strongly urge the legislature to move forward with this common-sense college savings incentive, which has helped low and middle income families across the country pay for college.”

Massachusetts is an outlier nationally and regionally in its lack of tax-based college savings incentives. Of the 42 states levying income taxes, and the District of Columbia, Massachusetts is one of only eight that fail to offer college savings incentives. All of the Commonwealth’s neighboring states offer such college savings incentives, save for New Hampshire, which does not have an income tax.

In 2006, Vermont introduced a $2,500 tax incentive and immediately saw a 34 percent increase in the number of families creating college savings accounts.

The Massachusetts Educational Financing Authority (MEFA) illustrates well just how much college savings pay off in the long run. According to an example provided by MEFA, $6,906 in college savings accumulated over 10 years could reach $10,000 with interest and earnings; whereas taking out a $10,000 student loan and adding interest payments could leave the student with a debt of $13,920. Over time, that $6,906 set aside for college saves that student more than $7,000.

“Providing needed assistance with college savings not only helps families looking to save for their children’s futures, but these programs benefit our economy as a whole,” said Doherty. “The more students save for college, the more they can contribute to our economy after they graduate. We all win when low and middle income families are given additional tools to help save for college.”


The Association of Independent Colleges and Universities in Massachusetts (AICUM) was founded by independent college presidents and today comprises 58 degree-granting, accredited independent colleges and universities in the Commonwealth.  It is the leading voice on public policy matters affecting independent colleges and universities in Massachusetts. AICUM plays a critical role in advocating for state and federal funding for need-based student financial aid, research and addressing state and Federal legislative and regulatory issues. 

To learn more about O’Neill and Associates’ higher education experience, click here