Church charities need boost

Published March 1, 2006

From left: Logos of the Anglican Foundation, Anglican Appeal, Anglican Journal and Primate’s Fund

A fundraising expert has recommended significant changes to the way the Anglican Church of Canada seeks donations, saying that it has a “strong prospect pool” that has largely been untapped because of reliance on old fundraising methods that don’t work in an increasingly competitive and complex word of philanthropy.

A centralized development office with an experienced executive director for development, more training for staff, an organizational culture that promotes teambuilding, business and strategic planning that includes a quarterly review of results against projections, a proper collection and maintenance of statistical data, donor cultivation, and proper use of technology need to be implemented, according to an audit report released to national church management and some staff in January.

Lorna Somers, vice president of McMaster University Foundation and director of development at McMaster, which is located in Hamilton, Ont., is a leader in the area of gift planning and annual giving in Canada. She and her husband, David, conducted the audit. The review and assessment of the fundraising efforts of the Anglican Journal, the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund (PWRDF), the Anglican Foundation and the Anglican Appeal began last spring.

Ms. Somers began her presentation by saying, “I bring you good news.” The good news, she said, was that the church has “the opportunity and the capacity to move forward” and that there is a field of 680,000 to one million committed Anglicans who can be approached to give support to their church. “The case for support is incredibly strong,” she said. “We’ve got demographics on our side,” she said, citing studies that have shown that “the biggest donors and donors to the church in Canada is a very large part of all donors to charitable organizations.”

“The four agencies are very successful, highly independent and clearly branded agencies,” added Ms. Somers in an interview. “I think there’s such a passion within each agency… The staff have such incredible commitment; (it’s) palpable… They want to touch lives and transform societies based on their mission.”


She added, however, that while their output has been “great” there is still “a huge untapped potential.”

She stressed that there are 210,000 agencies competing for charitable dollars in Canada. If the church wants to continue its mission-based programs, it not only has to “keep abreast of the times and people’s needs, but almost has to be a couple of steps ahead,” she said.

“I’m an incurable optimist,” said Ms. Somers. “But in this case, it’s based on reality. I’m not a big fan of deferred success. Another word for that is failure.”

‘Cultural shift’

In her comprehensive 73-page audit, Ms. Somers made general as well as individual evaluations and recommendations for each agency.

Overall, the audit noted that while there is fundraising expertise, particularly in the area of gift planning, within the church, there is “no single person with the depth and scope of experience in managing a diverse, comprehensive and geographically dispersed fundraising program.” It added: “There is a centralized/decentralized management structure but not one individual responsible for approving, evaluating and guiding all the revenue-generation activities of the (national) Church.”

The audit recommended the creation of a centralized development office, including the appointment of an executive director of development with “exceptional fundraising and management skills.” The individual must have “a track record in not only managing a complex, national fundraising operation, but someone with experience in working on and securing major and planned gifts,” it said. The office would consist of senior development professionals – director of major gifts and gift planning, director of annual giving, director of donor relations – and a research officer and administrative assistant. It also recommended staff development and training.

With the exception of PWRDF and the Foundation (which relies on the sale of memberships and bequest rather than fundraising campaigns), the Journal and the Appeal have relied on direct mail campaigns that produce results “but the potential for larger gifts is not being taken to its full potential,” said the report.

Ms. Somers said she considered having “almost a cultural shift into the framework of major gift development” to be her most critical recommendation. “We know in the world of fundraising that direct mail is probably one of the most expensive but least profitable return on investment,” she said. “That’s not to say it shouldn’t be done. It still plays a profitable role in the overall comprehensive fundraising program. But it has to be supplemented by programs to get out and work with individuals face to face, to talk about not only their priorities but the church’s priorities and how the two can be blended.” If the agencies just keep doing direct mail “you’re going to have, over time, dwindling resources,” she said. “The writing is on the wall and I talk about this all over the world. People want to connect with people and they want to know that their investments and gifts are being valued and will be valuable to the institution that they love.”

Quarterly review

The audit noted that the Appeal, PWRDF and Foundation, did not have a business and strategic (implementation) plan, a must for fundraising efforts. While the Journal plans annually, it needs to have a multi-year planning, said the audit “…Planning is essential in order to ensure that a target is both realistic and achievable. It provides analysis from previous years and ensures that the best possible strategies are employed in order to reach a goal.”

The audit recommended that each agency and gift planning team produce an annual business plan and implement a quarterly review “to ensure that the year remains on track and if changes need to be initiated, they are made in a timely manner.”

Information management needs to be improved, the report stressed. Results of the audit information survey distributed to all four agencies “suggests that basic information about their databases, fundraising results, prospect and donor pools, cost-per-dollar raised, etc., is not consistently tracked and updated, nor are the data easily accessible,” the audit said. “The Anglican Journal is the exception as they were able to provide answers to most survey questions.” PWRDF had some useful data in its brochure, it added.

In terms of setting the priorities and goals for fundraising, the audit questioned why the staff of the Appeal was not part of the goal-setting process. “They are the most knowledgeable regarding the trends and results of the Appeal,” the audit said, suggesting that “the current reporting structure, to the treasurer, needs to be reviewed.” The audit cited that the General Synod treasurer is not directly involved in the work of the Appeal but is responsible for setting the annual goals.

Ms. Somers said she had difficulty collecting information for the audit. “Information submitted for review and analysis was at times incomplete or unavailable altogether,” according to the audit. “Without access to accurate, easily retrievable information, it appears that little evaluation could be or is being conducted on programs, vehicles, publications and events.” The Journal it added, “had the best grasp on expenses versus revenue and does evaluate the efficacy of its initiatives.”

It pointed out a discrepancy in the figures of Appeal. “The goal in 2004 was $850,000 with $810,000 raised,” the report said, adding that the Journal reported that the amount raised was $760,000. (The Journal’s figures, reported in its March, April and May issues, came from interviews with financial and Appeal officials.). The audit stressed that “an accurate and reliable figure regarding the fundraising goal (of the Appeal) needs to be established as there appears to be several figures under consideration.”

Anglican Foundation, on the other hand, “does not have a database,” the report said. “There are no on-line capabilities and the membership list is kept manually.”

Data management

“That’s not to say the agencies don’t have a handle on their spending and what they’re raising. They’re not keeping it in a systematized, standardized format, which would greatly enhance our ability to evaluate individual programs for efficiency and effectiveness,” said Ms. Somers.

Ms. Somers suggested that a checklist be developed so that statistical data are “consistently collected and maintained.” Accuracy of data is “key to every fundraising program,” it added. Information should include cost-per-dollar raised, goal

versus realized revenue, number of donors, new donor acquisition, donor retention, repeat donors, average gift, payment method, year-over-year comparison, among others.

All four agencies had no donor information and no donor analysis,” said the audit. “There is no one source where one can obtain a complete profile on a prospect or donor and answer questions such as: who has asked for a gift? When? How? How much?

Donor cultivation is lacking. “While it is universally acknowledged that when possible, personal, consistent, frequent and meaningful cultivation is key to developing major gift potential, little personalized cultivation is underway and it typically involves fundraising officers and not clergy or church leadership,” said the audit. The “level of donor recognition is quite low and current recognition does not take into consideration larger gifts,” it said. The time between receiving the gift and issuing a receipt for some agencies was also deemed “too long” (the standard should be not more than 10 days).

The four agencies, also suffer from a lack of a “sense of team and collegiality” and are seen to be in competition with each other, said the audit. “Each agency values its autonomy and independence. This can foster a somewhat territorial, proprietary and sometimes competitive culture that isn’t always conducive to openness and transparency between agencies. It’s not always apparent to the outsider that everyone sees themselves working towards a common mission and vision under the overarching banner of the Anglican Church of Canada.”

The audit said that the presence of all four agencies in the same building “provide opportunities for economies of scale facilitated through shared resources such as software and databases.” It acknowledged, however, that the sharing of databases could only be done if it does not violate the proposed Privacy of Information Act.

It added that “organizational culture” could only be changed with the support of the church’s leadership. “An emphasis on the impact charitable giving has on the church and its agencies to achieve and advance the mission is most persuasive when delivered by the spiritual leadership. It will also help move people from the perception that fundraising is mercenary and inappropriate for the church. The discomfort many have around discussions of money and charitable giving can be overcome when positioned firmly within the Christian tradition and buttressed by Scripture.” Philanthropy, after all, “literally means a love of mankind..,” it added.

Geoff Jackson, senior financial development officer in charge of Letting Down the Nets, said he agreed “wholeheartedly” with the contents of the audit. “It was exactly what we were hoping for and having a third party from outside the church come in and take a look at the way we do things.”

Archdeacon John Robertson, national gift planning consultant, said he considered the recommendations “absolutely valuable and extremely helpful” but that he did not agree with some of the evaluation. “I am convinced that the people we have on board, including the steering committee of Letting Down the Nets and our regional consultants working together the way we do, which is very collegial, very much a team effort, that we have more than enough expertise collectively, more than enough vision and passion for the work,” he said in an interview. He pointed to the lack of budget for support staff as a hindrance. “We have great ideas and wonderful sort of plans of what should happen… but when it comes to actually implementing (them), who is going to be back in the office working to make all these things happen?

Ms. Somers urged the church leadership to “invest” in people and resources for fundraising saying that substantiated data have shown that the rewards in the long term are tremendous. She also said changes can be made incrementally.


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