Success doesn’t just happen; we must plan for it. Many churches have an endowment fund, but not all have the markers of success. At ECF, we encourage churches to act intentionally and proactively to build a successful and sustainable endowment that engages the vestry, the endowment committee, and the whole church community. It’s important to continually assess your endowment strategy especially if an endowment lacks organization, if it is not growing with new gifts, or if many church members are unaware of the endowment’s existence or purpose.
How to Structure your Endowment for Success
Step 1: Identify the church’s vision for the endowment
The first attribute of a successful endowment is a clear vision of what it can help the church accomplish. Endowments are an excellent way for churches to ensure that the gifts they receive will continue to benefit the church for years to come, but that will only become a reality if there is a direct line from the mission of the church to the vision of the endowment. Are you clear about how your endowment fund can help your church fulfill its mission? (And are you clear about its specific purpose?) All church leaders – including both vestry and endowment committee members – as well as the congregation must “own” the endowment vision. Root it in your shared mission. Make it simple and compelling. And proclaim it clearly.
“I can’t watch this.” That was my friend’s comment when she started watching a news special on the one-year anniversary of the invasion of Ukraine.
We talked about why it was so difficult to watch, and she recounted having heard about the atrocities committed, but what was so challenging to comprehend was what she called the sheer insanity of it.
One man decided to try to recreate a bygone empire and started firing missiles into another country so he could add it to his “kingdom.” In an instant, hundreds of people lost their lives. Thousands were wounded. Millions of others were displaced from their homes. Families were separated. Global food shortages and political instability followed.
On Shrove Tuesday evening, I carefully laid out my plans for Lent. Additional devotions, readings, and journaling each day, Sunday Mass and Rosary, increased giving to our local food bank. It was going to be a “perfect” Lent, beginning with a 7 AM Eucharist on Ash Wednesday.
My dog awakened me at 4 AM the next morning. He was unsettled because of a thunderstorm, and I couldn’t figure out why. He’d slept through plenty of them before without stirring. I finally gave up on the idea of going back to sleep and wandered into the kitchen to make coffee when I discovered why the pup was trying to pry me from my warm bed: I felt water dripping on my head. The roof was leaking.
My first thought: my plans for a “perfect” Lent are ruined!
Fundraising is on the long list of things that I never learned anything about in seminary. Or, so I would have told you several years ago. My congregation’s recent fundraising experiences have taught me that I learned a lot about fundraising in seminary, because the principles of effective pastoral fundraising are the same as the principles of effective pastoral care that I learned in seminary and that I continue to hone today.
Principle 1: Focus on the needs of the other person.
Effective pastors know how to keep the conversation focused on the other person, they know how to listen more than they speak, they know how to tolerate silence, and they know how to refrain from judgment. Effective pastoral fundraisers should display the same characteristics. Effective pastoral fundraising is not focused on the church, but on the giver. The goal is to make the giver feel good about her gift, and to create an opportunity for her to impact the future of her church.
Depending on when you’re reading this, Lent has either begun or is a few days away. Perhaps it’s the readings, but at this time of year, I always reflect on my life and on the state of the world. I’m writing this blog on Sexagesima Sunday – a term that is a throwback to the 1928 Book of Common Prayer – denoting the second Sunday before Lent.
I rather like the old terms for these three Sundays (Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima) because they give me time to transition from my Christmas and Epiphany mindset and prepare for Lent.
In some ways, they feel like the onramp to Lent, and, just like driving on a freeway, it’s best to come up to speed before you merge. I feel like I have a richer experience of Lent by observing these pre-Lenten Sundays.
After his baptism and his vision quest in the desert, Jesus encountered crowds wherever he went. Dozens or hundreds of people turned up in every little town, desperate for healing for themselves or their loved ones. He saw families struggling to survive, kids who went to bed hungry, adults worn out trying to care for others. There were broken-hearted people, grieving painful losses, and many struggling to find or keep their faith, wondering where God was in the midst of their troubles.
Jesus was filled with compassion for all those people; his heart must have been breaking for them. How did he manage to stay open and present in the midst of all their suffering? We know that whenever he could, Jesus slipped away to spend time in prayer. He looked for quiet places where he could sit with the Creator and replenish his spirit.