The Anglican church’s rainmakers — financial consultants across the country who advise potential donors on various methods of giving — met near Toronto in September to plan strategy for the national church’s new funding plan called Letting Down the Nets.
Among their conclusions: appeals to donors must be clearly focused; dioceses, parishes and organizations should not hoard donor lists and the church’s various appeals should co-ordinate their efforts.
“We need to do a massive amount of effective communications. It’s very easy around this table and in committees to get the impression that people understand what we are trying to do,” said David Rushton, a consultant based in Delta, B.C.
“I see this as an investment. We should change our thinking — from ‘giving’ to ‘investing’ in the future, in our church, in new life,” said Canon John Erb, the Anglican Foundation’s executive director, in a presentation to the group.
To that end, all five of the church’s main appeals — the Anglican Appeal, Anglican Foundation, Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the office of Planned Giving and Anglican Journal — for the first time co-ordinated an advertisement in the October issue of the Journal.
“The message is that we are working together,” said Archdeacon John Robertson, national consultant for financial development based at the national office in Toronto.
Approved by the General Synod governing convention last June, Letting Down the Nets is a far-reaching plan designed to restore the financial health of the church at the national, diocesan and local levels.
“General Synod has seen its investments eroded by legal costs in recent years to a total loss of $8.8 million,” said a background report prepared by the national church’s financial management and development committee. The national office, also called General Synod, was named in dozens of lawsuits alleging physical and sexual abuse at a network of boarding schools for native children that operated from the 19th century into the middle of the 20th century. Under an agreement reached with the federal government, the church’s liability is capped at $25 million.
Letting Down the Nets is aimed at raising more than $30 million over 10 years, but the cost of such a project cannot come from the current General Synod budget and will require an additional $3.2 million to implement. It will support new initiatives approved by General Synod in 2004 that are part of the church’s strategic plan, Serving God’s World, Strengthening the Church, such as youth leadership conferences and help for parishes in the areas of stewardship and congregational development.
One area of focus — where the financial consultants already do a great deal of work — is in planned giving and bequests. Planned giving includes advising donors on such instruments as annuities, which provide an income for life and a bequest to the church at death. The importance of advising potential donors about bequests was underlined by the primate, Archbishop Andrew Hutchison, who told the group that when he was a young priest, he visited a parishioner often in the last year of his life. The man, who was well-off, died and his widow mentioned in passing that his will provided for the symphony, the art gallery, the museum… but left nothing for the church. Sometimes, one just has to remember to ask, Archbishop Hutchison noted.
Planned giving consultants are extremely cost-effective, the background material said. In the diocese of New Westminster, more than $7.5 million has been received in planned gifts over the past 12 years and another $10.5 million pledged through estate plans of parishioners. In Eastern Newfoundland and Labrador, more than $2 million has been generated in three years through realized and expected bequests; in Nova Scotia/Prince Edward Island, $1.5 million in three years; in British Columbia, $2 million in five years.
“The minimal funding support provided by General Synod has produced amazing dividends from a small network of part-time and a few full-time Anglican planned giving consultants. Our experience combined with the results above is proof that a far greater impact could be achieved with the appropriate resources,” said the backgrounder.