Monday, May 14, 2012

A Solution for Funding Missions: Match Donations Dollar for Dollar

The genesis for Friends of ULC began way back in 2008, when the Missions Committee (or a task force thereof) of the The Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod suggested that the campus ministry properties in both Mankato and Minneapolis be sold in order to fund campus ministry.  If that sounds strange to you, you have a lot of company.  We also marveled at some of the other justifications that were offered for this novel approach to funding something by selling it.  "Ministry is not about brick and mortar", we were told.  Because we were cursed with too little imagination and too much memory, this was also puzzling.  You could also say that "Ministry is not about salaries, housing and benefits", but for some reason the committee did not recommend eliminating those things as well.

But instead of quibbling, we thought we would propose something that might work to preserve all of these things: matching donations dollar for dollar.

2008 December 9
Dear Friends of ULC,
It has taken us some time to digest the proposal passed by the Mission Committee, which is, apparently, that the buildings and property of the campus ministries at Mankato and Minneapolis be sold, and the proceeds be used to fund campus ministry and missions in the future. We would be eager to know more details about this proposal. In the meantime, we hope that our district might consider a different approach, one that we believe would have a great chance of success, would preserve, encourage and increase the base of support for all the mission and ministries of the district, and would also preserve and increase current and future sources of donations from the campus ministries of the district.
We were not part of the discussion or even the process that resulted in the recommendation of the mission committee, so our knowledge (as the Apostle Paul puts it) is “incomplete”.  We are still waiting for more concrete information, details and facts.  Once we get them, we will try to update and correct our information to you.  Here is what we can piece together: the mission committee has suggested to the Board of Directors of the Minnesota South District of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod the possibility that they sell the property of two campus ministries, both of which (from the published figures) have weekly attendance at worship at just around 100 individuals each, and one of which generated last year over $100,000 in donations from its members, and possibly a significant amount in donations from the other. There are no mortgages, notes, or monthly payments outstanding on either property. The District derives rental income from at least one of these properties, and may be able to derive rental income from the other. From the publicly available figures we can find, it appears that the direct cost to the district of one campus ministry is somewhere between $150,000 and $200,000 and the other between $18,000 and $42,000.  These figures will be updated when we have more information.
The mission committee proposes to sell both properties, and place that money in a fund for campus ministry and “other missions”. We are unsure as to the nature of this fund. Would money be spent only from the interest and gains, and the principle remain untouched and accumulate over time? Would there be a set target of perhaps 4 or 5 percent spent each year of the balance, and what would be the detailed plan to invest the money? Would this money be restricted to a very specific purpose, or would “other missions” grow to take the largest part?
We would urge all of our friends to consider supporting a different approach, one that many granting agencies, non-profit organizations, and foundations use, and it has proven itself in many environments. It is simple, elegant, efficient and accountable. It is commonly called “matching funds”. The granting organization matches every dollar raised by the groups which it supports. And we in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod have already been the recipient of a form of this funding, and it still is in use today by Thrivent (formerly AAL). It allows granting organizations to identify effective and viable recipient organizations, and it preserves capital assets.
Our enthusiasm for matching funds does not come from a belief that all missions should be self-supporting, or even “half” supporting. We would be delighted to see the District – and Synod – support an enormous level of outreach in keeping with the Word and the Sacraments as we have historically done, and we would be delighted if missions and ministries that could raise no donations of their own were fully supported by the District. Yet we must reluctantly conclude that, given this extraordinary proposal from the Mission Committee, these must be extraordinary times.
We would propose that the Minnesota South District match every dollar raised by a supported ministry, mission and campus ministry. We believe that this would have many, many advantages over selling the property of viable campus ministries:
Once the property is sold, there is no guarantee that the District would be in a better position to fund itself, much less campus ministry, beyond the first few years following the sale, and there is much evidence to suggest that this would not generate any greater amount of ongoing revenue. Just one example is the District's decision some years ago to reduce its giving to Synod from 60-65% to 50%. From that point on, the district has kept at least 25% more of donations it has received (from 40% to 50%). Yet we can only surmise from the Mission Committee's proposal that even this is not enough money for current levels of spending. If this is not correct, and the District does not need more money for missions and other work, we are at a loss as to why it would wish to sell property.Existing and viable campus ministries and congregations are far better able to generate donations that can match the District dollar for dollar. This can potentially greatly increase the ability of the District to support Word and Sacrament Ministry and outreach.Instead of a pie cut into many pieces, the District would have a “whole pie”, a larger amount of money which could then go to those missions and ministries which have demonstrated their viability.
We would like to assume, given the available information from the other supported missions of the District, that they too are generating a similar level of support as ULC. Given this, it would be necessary to set an upper limit of some kind for matching. Yet even this even this would be a blessing, because it would be further proof of how successful the District has been in its mission work.
University Lutheran Chapel thanks God and is extremely grateful for every penny received from all sources. We also realize that, like every mission of the Church, we exist solely because the faithful who have gone before us donated their time, talent, and treasure so that we might be able to proclaim and administer the Word and the Sacrament according to the doctrine and practice of Our Lord as our Church and Synod have historically proclaimed it through the centuries.
We thank you in advance for your consideration, and we hope you share these ideas with as many of our congregations and members as you can. We would like to do so as well, and we think that this has enormous potential.
God Bless you all, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

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