March 2009
Imploding Market Challenges

No Endowment Fund Means Just That

An elderly woman who was a lifelong member of a small Episcopal congregation recently informed the vestry that she had received a large inheritance and would like to make a significant gift to the church. She wanted the gift to provide resources for the church for generations to come; however the church did not have an endowment fund.

A vestry member from another church called to say that a major donor to their capital campaign was ready to give another major gift to the church, but he wanted to see an endowment structure in place before he made the gift.

Two stories, one problem. Both were small churches. Perhaps they thought they were too small to have an endowment fund. Or perhaps they thought the vestry would deal with a major bequest when the time came. In both cases, the churches quickly established endowment funds and built the structure to receive and manage legacy gifts.

But consider the fact that it was the donor who asked the church for a way to make a legacy gift to the church. Think of the other potential donors who may not have been as persistent, or who were never asked to make a legacy gift.

Recently an Episcopal bishop asked the Episcopal Church Foundation to help him develop simplified endowment structure documents for churches. His goal: to make sure that every church in his diocese, no matter the size, and no matter if they have any endowment funds at all, has an endowment structure in place…just in case.

Colleges, universities, hospitals, museums, and dozens of nonprofit organizations target the members of your congregation with regular mailings and other contacts encouraging them to make a bequest in their will or a life income gift to their cause. It is tough to compete if your church can’t explain how a legacy gift to your church will be used, invested, spent, and managed over time.

Failure to establish an endowment fund commits two sins at once. You squander the chance to gather resources for the ministries of your church in perpetuity; and you deny your members the opportunity to make a meaningful legacy gift to the church that has meant so much to them over the years.

Ken Quigley joined the Episcopal Church Foundation's staff July 2005 and is Program Director for Endowment Management Solutions. He is responsible for customer service and account management for the endowment funds invested through the program as well as marketing and setting up new accounts. The program currently serves some 175 Episcopal entities and invests collectively approximately $125 million. Ken earned a Bachelors degree from Kalamazoo College and is an accredited member of the Public Relations Society of America. Currently he serves on the board of the Children's Medical Mission of Haiti (working with the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti).


This article is part of the March 2009 Vestry Papers issue on Imploding Market Challenges