June 16, 2021

James Murphy Shares Five Resources for Building Trust with Donors

Every month ECFVP offers resources on a theme. This month we've asked James Murphy, Managing Program Director at ECF, to choose five resources from Vital Practices to highlight. Please share this email with new members of your vestry and extend an invitation to subscribe to ECF Vital Practices to receive Vestry Papers and this monthly digest.

For 13 years, I have been blessed to be a part of the ministry of the Episcopal Church Foundation to lay and clergy leaders throughout the church. My role has been focused on overseeing programs and guiding leaders, as well as many donors, in a variety of areas including planned/estate giving, stewardship, endowment management, and donor philanthropy. I remain encouraged that after the many difficulties and challenges of the past year and a half, I believe that the Episcopal Church continues to be a beacon of hope to many. However, leaders always need to demonstrate they can be trusted with the gifts they receive and oversee.

At this critical time of resurgence after the COVID-19 pandemic, now more than ever, it is important for church leaders to demonstrate to supporters that they can be trusted with the financial gifts their donors make. I am happy to note a small sample of the many useful resources on ECF’s Vital Practices to help Episcopal leaders build confidence among their supporters in the months and years to come.

A good starting point is Julie Young’s Top 10 Finance & Administration Tips for Vestries. This is a great set of reminders for Vestries for building trust and encouraging gifts both now and in the future. Note that #1 is maintaining a balanced budget and living within your means, a key starting point for building trust!

Regarding current giving, keeping donors posted on the latest financial developments can also build trust and confidence. This is the focus of the CARES Act Giving Incentives article by ECF’s Carsten Sierck, which came out in the early stage of the pandemic last year.

Trust is also built through proper oversight of past gifts to congregations. Swimming Naked is a popular article by ECF’s Ken Quigley, warning leaders who over-spend endowments and diminish future donor trust. There is also wise guidance in this webinar: Are you overspending from your church endowment? If donors cannot trust leaders in the present, they will certainly doubt them in the future and may choose to reduce their more significant gifts.

Donors often make their most substantial gifts through their estate at death, so these require the highest level of trust. Building Trust for Planned Giving will help guide leaders in these important efforts to raise ultimate gifts.

Finally, donor trust can also be built in the wise use of property and creation of new income streams beyond gifts. In Uncovering Hidden Treasure, ECF’s Demi Prentiss encourages an unconventional review of all church assets. Leaders should consider all options for funding their mission goals with their assets more effectively, possibly even by selling them. There may be opportunities funding ministry which we had never been imagined before!