June 1, 2023

Telling Your Endowment Story

A new energy is springing up in churches looking to inspire new gifts to endowment. We’ve recently talked to several churches who are making plans for an endowment campaign, whether to grow an existing endowment or start a new one. While there are several steps to success, in this blog post we’ll focus on one: engaging parishioners by telling the impact story of your church so far and linking that to a future vision.

Why is this important? We know that many donors today give not out of habit or convention, out of duty or obligation, but because they see that gifts are used in a way that makes a difference. Coupled with this, while all fundraising is fundamentally a future-oriented activity, endowment fundraising asks your members to think about the long-term future. Why sustain the mission and ministry of your church into the future? How do you envision growing the impact your church has already made into the future?

If these questions seem daunting, they don’t have to be. You can start by determining how your church makes an impact today both on its members and on the surrounding community. This requires that you identify organizational assets and determine how they make a difference. A church has many assets; three key assets are its property, its people, and its money. Delve into the impact of these assets by answering these questions:

  1. How is your property supporting the broader community? Do you make your space available for recovery ministries, a shelter, food pantry, tutoring programs, or the dozens of other ministries we know Episcopal churches house? What difference does that make for the community?
  2. How do the staff care for, educate, and lead the parish? How do members of the parish care for one another? How do they invite in the broader community? Some of the best stories come when you focus on how the church fosters relationships.
  3. How does the distribution from the endowment sustain the church? What do those funds make possible?

In your communications about endowment gifts, you want to talk about the impact of the church, the specific purpose of the endowment, and how the annual distribution from the endowment supports the church’s impact. That connection between endowment and impact is a critical part of generating excitement and interest in making a gift, whether you are seeking new gifts for an existing endowment or building an endowment for the first time.

To get you started on your own path to telling your impact story, we offer a brief example:

Every year, the footsteps of thousands of people are felt in our churchyard—and not just on Sundays. Our buildings are graced by the presence of those finding support in daily noon meetings of the local Alcoholics Anonymous chapter, selecting clothing from our thrift shop, or picking out fresh produce from our Tuesday food pantry, among many other activities. Our worship services on Sunday are an opportunity for all to come together and then go out into the world refreshed for our kingdom-building work. Foundational to inviting everyone in throughout the week is the care and maintenance of our facilities—lights to shine the way, comfortable heating and cooling, working elevators to lift people up. Our endowment fund helps cover some of the annual costs of care and maintenance of our campus, ensuring our buildings remain a source of welcome in encountering our mission and ministry.

Fundamental to the notion of telling your impact story in raising endowment gifts is knowing that the endowment is just one piece of sustaining the mission and ministry of this place parishioners love and to which they have a commitment. In your endowment campaign, find your unique way to talk about that whole place, its impact, and how the endowment supports it now and in the future.

Are you looking for guidance or inspiration for gaining new gifts to your endowment? Contact ECF’s Endowment Management team for insights and ideas at endowment@ecf.org.