Capital campaign receives feedback about proposed projects

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Capital campaign receives feedback about proposed projects

April 6, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
800-282-8011  Orlando {0653}

NOTE: A headshot of Wilkinson is available at

An e-Review Feature
By John Michael De Marco**

Focus groups show there is strong support for the planned Conference Capital Campaign and that the effort to secure more than $30 million in pledges for numerous Florida Conference projects continues to gather steam.

The campaign is based on a survey of various capital and endowment funding needs related to specific conference ministries that was completed by the Bishop’s Capital Campaign Commission. Titled “Together! Bringing Hope, Changing Lives: The Campaign for the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church,” the effort emphasizes the church’s connectional nature and focuses on life-changing ministries. Rather than local churches raising funds for identified projects, the Florida United Methodist Foundation has launched a development function to tackle fund-raising needs on behalf of the conference.

Tom Wilkinson

Thirteen focus groups — at least one for every district in the conference — were held to gather input on projects considered for funding through the capital campaign, according to Tom Wilkinson, the foundation’s vice president of development. The projects relate to camping and retreat ministries, new church development, congregational transformation, higher education and new ministry initiatives. An average of 30 people attended each session, open to all district and church leadership.

“Basically, we presented the case and invited people to ask questions and offer feedback or responses,” Wilkinson said. “We had broad acceptance — no deal breakers at all. Mostly, it was seeking clarification about what we were saying.”

The foundation’s consultant, Doug Himes, is continuing a series of interviews with conference clergy, lay leaders and major donor prospects to gather additional input about the proposed projects. Wilkinson said the interview time has been extended to reach a broader cross-section of the conference and to accommodate the Florida United Methodist Children’s Home, which has recently become part of the campaign.

The Bishop’s Capital Campaign Commission will convene again May 25 to receive the report of the focus groups and interviews.

“At that point we will make recommendations to the commission as to the actual financial goals. What we have written right now (proposed projects) is what we are testing. We’ll know how much money we’re asking for in each of the different categories. It’s pretty much evenly split between endowment and capital goals,” Wilkinson said.

The next step after the May meeting will be an information report to members at the annual conference event in June.

“We’ll try to get people enthused about it,” Wilkinson said. “Then, we’ll begin major gift fund raising immediately after conference, finding out what donors’ passions are and seeking to match them with the needs of the conference. That’s when great fund raising can happen. That’s what we’ll be doing for the 12 months following annual conference.”

The foundation hopes to raise somewhere between 50 percent and 70 percent of the campaign’s total goal before returning to the 2008 annual conference event, after which the commission will launch the general phase of the campaign. That will involve communicating with every person who is a constituent of the conference’s local churches and giving them an opportunity to be involved.

“There is an enormous number of people in our conference who have had great experiences with our camping ministry, for example. When they know there’s an opportunity to renovate a room at the LEC (Life Enrichment Center) and name it in honor of somebody, a lot of people will get excited about that opportunity,” Wilkinson said.

The campaign has already received an advance, pre-campaign pledge of $700,000 from Alice W. Lockmiller, a retired Fort Myers businesswoman and philanthropist who has supported dozens of United Methodist institutions in the conference and denomination-wide. She is also a member of First United Methodist Church of Fort Myers.

Lockmiller’s contribution will go toward building a worship and program center at the conference’s Riverside Retreat Center in LaBelle. The new building will bear her name.

“We’re thrilled that even before we begin fund raising someone has made a pledge,” Wilkinson said. “We hope that others will be inspired by that.”


This article relates to Conference Finances and Bishop’s Capital Campaign.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**De Marco is a commissioned minister of the Florida Conference and a freelance writer, speaker and consultant.

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