Tips on Endowment Success from Saint John’s UMC Austin
When Saint John’s UMC experienced unprecedented success in growing their endowment from $50,000 in 2014 to $860,000 in 2015, they embarked upon a journey to use their endowment strategically. (Read their story here.)
“We decided the strategic plan and the endowment should work together to serve our mission as a church,” Former Endowment Committee Chair Martha Renfroe shared. As they continued their work, they decided they wanted to utilize a grants program that could disperse interest from their endowment to ministries that would make a difference to their congregation and community.
“Currently, our grants ask church committees to think through how their request is aligned with the strategic plan and consider accountability measures,” Senior Pastor Hilary Marchbanks stated. “Through our endowment fund’s earnings each year, Saint John’s grant program encourages committees to further their mission or ministry. Each year the committees dream and then apply for funding.”
In 2015, they gave away $12,000. In 2017, they gave away $47,600 and the church hopes this trend will continue.
The grants they give out are intended to support church programs, improvement projects, and initiatives which are not currently funded through the annual church operating budget. Additionally, the grants come with accountability standards. “Every six months for the duration of the grant, a grantee must submit a brief written progress report including a summary of how money has been spent for the purpose of the ministry or mission,” Endowment Committee Chair John German shared.
As their grants ministry and endowment stewardship have been successfully growing, they have determined some recommendations for other churches to encourage success in these areas as well. Their recommendations were summed up by Business Administrator Duane Roth:
Grants Ministry -
(1) Develop a grant process with clear expectations, an application system, and accountability measures.
(2) Follow-through on this process.
Endowment Ministry -
(1) Find an organization to help manage your endowment, so you can gain the greatest financial return possible and feel confident about how your endowment is being managed. (Saint John’s highly recommends TMF!)
(2) Consider resources to start off on the right foot, if you are just beginning an endowment, such as meeting with your TMF Area Representative.
(3) Kick off growing your endowment with an initial energizing event or a matching gift.
(4) Keep the endowment at the front of church members’ minds. Frequently talk about what the church is doing with the endowment fund and why it matters, using any communication channel that is effective, such as the newsletter, bulletin, or worship announcements.
(5) Continue raising funds for the endowment. For instance, Saint John’s encourages members to give to the endowment on their birthdays.
(6) Acknowledge all donors to the endowment personally with a hand-written note or in another personal way.
Overall, Saint John’s is an exceptional example of a church’s ability to grow an endowment and utilize endowment funds to support a successful grants ministry. Moreover, their commitment to do these ministries well has encouraged their members to dream on a larger scale than ever before.
“When we have a big idea, lay leaders do not move it aside,” Senor Pastor Hilary Marchbanks shared. “Instead they wonder if it might be a grant request, because we have seen mission and ministry in action through the endowment fund grants. What a gift for congregants to be able to dream and achieve those dreams.”
What a gift indeed!
If you are interested in learning more about starting or managing an endowment, please reach out to TMF. One of our Area Representatives would love to walk beside you on this ministry journey.