Despite its years of expertise in advising local churches about stewardship and fundraising, the Florida United Methodist Foundation had never been asked by the leadership of the Florida Conference for help in raising funds for the long-term needs of the Conference.
That oversight was corrected after the Bishop’s Capital Campaign Commission invited officers of the Foundation to help with the campaign, which aims to raise $2 million for the Conference’s camping ministries over the next year.
Foundation officers helped with advice and publicity materials and helped smooth over concerns among local church leaders about the campaign.
As a result of working together on the campaign, the Foundation and the Conference have forged a new, ongoing partnership that could address future needs for development funds.
The Foundation’s vice president for development, Tom Wilkinson, said he was invited to join the Capital Campaign “toward the end of the process.” Foundation officers helped steer it toward a more standard approach of personally soliciting major donations before launching a public phase of the campaign that would appeal to individual donors rather than congregational giving.
“It’s been a process of changing the culture of the Conference. We want to change the mindset to appeal to the people who attend the churches. … We had to convince the clergy we were not competing with the churches for funds,” he said.
Wilkinson and the Rev. Bill Barnes, co-chairman of the Capital Campaign Commission, made a point of visiting the district meetings and presenting to the clergy the details of the campaign, in an effort to build trust.
Educating the clergy on how the campaign would be conducted was “a critical link” between the Conference and the Foundation, said Bishop Timothy W. Whitaker.
“We stumbled on a need for stewardship education. It kind of liberates the clergy to deal with people accustomed to being asked to give but who had never been blessed by being asked by their church to give. If we don’t (ask them), we have failed those people spiritually,” he said.
The collaboration produced a determination to continue the relationship between the Conference and the Foundation. A permanent office in the Foundation is being created to assist the Conference with development and advancement, with Wilkinson, vice president for stewardship Bonnie Ogie-Kristianson and a database administrator staffing the effort.
The Foundation team will help the Conference with ongoing fundraising priorities, Wilkinson said.
“These are projects that no single church or district could do on their own,” he said.
Whitaker said a commitment to capital and endowment fundraising will pay dividends in the future ministry of the Conference.
“I’ve been deeply committed to that concept, and I’m deeply grateful to the Foundation. They have embraced it,” he said.