Ensuring the future or preserving the past


It was a question I hadn’t had before.  I like that kind of question.

“So what makes for an effective endowment?”

The questioner was a woman who is new to the Endowment Chair position.  She and I had been talking about endowments and policies and procedures.  When she asked me, I was about to launch into five percent spending policies and such.

But I stopped and thought for a moment.

I told her a truly effective endowment gives a church the resources to invest in its future.

Think about a committee developing a plan to reach new people in mission, a program to reach the unchurched, a way to keep teenagers after they are confirmed, whatever.  They take it to Ad Board with a great deal of enthusiasm.

In one church Ad Board may agree it’s a great program, but realize there’s no money to do something new.  So maybe the project gets watered down to the point of ineffectiveness or it just gets cancelled altogether.  Sure, the church has an endowment, but it’s already earmarked for Trustees’ projects, and a donor’s pet project from the Carter Administration.

But in another church there is an endowment that isn’t already encumbered by heritage funding.  Each year the proceeds are available to do something new.  Funds aren’t infinite so the various committees submit well thought out proposals for truly important ministries.  The endowment is seen as a tool for church growth, not a reason for members to not give.  In fact it is so effective that people contribute to it, providing a bigger pot from which new programs can be funded.

A church should always be looking forward, and your endowment fund can either be in front of this movement, or trailing behind.  I hope it’s leading the parade.

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