Great expectations

Published January 28, 2009

Holland Hendrix

Anglicans have been warned by their primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, that Holland Hendrix can’t walk on water. Still, the expectations are high for Mr. Hendrix, who was appointed last fall as the Anglican Church of Canada’s first executive director of philanthropy.

They are high because, even before the worldwide financial crisis deepened, budgetary woes were hitting the church. And the expectations are also high because Mr. Hendrix comes to his position with an impressive background – former president of the New York-based Union Theological Seminary, and former chief advancement officer of Hampshire College in Massachusetts. While at Hampshire College, he planned and implemented a $125 million financial campaign. He also led Union Theological Seminary through a “major renewal process.”

The question being asked is whether Mr. Hendrix, who has a doctorate in theology from Harvard University Divinity School (as well as degrees from Union Theological Seminary and from Columbia University, both in New York), can pull a similar feat in the Canadian Anglican church .

The Anglican Journal sat down with Mr. Hendrix for a recent interview. Excerpts:

Q: What is it exactly that the department of philanthropy is expected to do?

A: Our over-all mandate is to support, enhance, and better coordinate fundraising throughout the entire church – not only for General Synod, but for dioceses and parishes as well. This last weekend (Jan.17-18), John Robertson (gift planning consultant) and I were in the parish of St. John the Evangelist in Ottawa presenting workshops on how to improve their resource development. We have been working with the diocese of Ontario on how to increase their fundraising development, and with other dioceses. That work will intensify; we’ll be traveling a lot to dioceses and parishes, and also working with our partners – the Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund, the Anglican Foundation and the Anglican Journal, to help coordinate and increase their resource development.

Q: How different is this from the Letting Down the Nets initiative that was started two years ago? What happened to that?

A: The Letting Down the Nets was a one-time campaign that had very specific goals and objectives. I think it only partially fulfilled its goals, but one of the most important goals that it did fulfill was developing six pilot dioceses with whom the church house staff worked in trying to build their resource development capacity. We’re seeing now that there really has been some real success in those particular dioceses. What was realized, though, is that it takes more than one campaign. It takes a concerted effort along all the major trajectories of fundraising and those include the Anglican Appeal, a major gifts program, which has been lacking a gift planning program for bequests and other kinds of planned gifts and also a corporate and foundation relations strategy.

We have completely restructured the Anglican Appeal for 2009. We’re trying to spend more time developing relations with donors and prospective donors, trying to increase the income from the appeal that will basically help fund the ministries of the General Synod. We’re building, for the first time in the Anglican church’s history, a centralized major gift program. In fact, the primate made his first solicitation last week to a donor, and he did this with the partnership of the diocesan bishop. They both went to the solicitation and I was there as well, and the primate asked the donor for a contribution that would first support the diocese; second, support the work of the bishop ordinary and the chaplains in the armed forces; and third, support our ministries in the north, especially those non-stipendiary clergy. That’s an example of a major gift and we’ll be doing a lot more with the primate and in partnership with the diocesan bishops or the parish clergy.

We will also be intensifying our planned giving program around bequests and other planned gift instruments. We have a number of regional gift planners who work throughout the country, paid for in part by the philanthropy department, but also supported by their diocese or parishes. We will be intensifying their work; we just met for a two-day conference two weeks ago and they found a great deal of inspiration and motivation. We will see some increased resource development through their work.

Q: Some would argue that the church has always survived without having to ask for money. Why finance a fundraising program?

A: Well, because the church has always asked for money all the way back to St. Paul. In almost all his letters, St. Paul makes a fundraising pitch for a collection for the saints, back in Jerusalem. The Anglican church in particular has, for most of its history, engaged in fundraising – the Anglican Appeal has been around for a long, long time. Bequests have been given to the Anglican Church of Canada for many, many decades. There’ve been many major gifts through supporters of the Anglican church; we’ve even received some funding from some corporations and foundations. This has been going on for a long time. What’s been lacking is a single, centralized strategy for how most effectively and in the best Anglican way possible to build resources for the church that will sustain it into the future – building a centralized single department whose major work is around resource development to sustain the Anglican church into the future.

Q: Your success in philanthropy work in the U.S. has been written about extensively. What makes you think you can accomplish the same feat here within the Canadian context and especially now with the global financial crisis?

A: This is my first time working in Canada and what I’m discovering already is that Canadians are, as a people, rather more generous than U.S. donors. And even though the Episcopal church, for example, raises more money, it’s probably larger because there’s a lot more Episcopalians in the U.S. than there are Anglicans in Canada.

Something else that I discovered, and this is really wonderful because I think the church is at its best in hard times, and what’s really distinctive about Canadians is that they tend to increase their giving during hard economic times.

Q: Why is that?

A: I think it’s because they realize that more people are in need…they feel the responsibility to step up to the plate in ways that simply don’t happen in the U.S. I think one of the things that give me a lot of hope in being able to realize some very ambitious dreams is the generosity of the Canadian people, but specifically Canadian Anglicans.

Q: A few years ago, Lorna Somers, a renowned Canadian fundraising expert, conducted an audit of the church’s various appeals and concluded that were areas that needed improvement.

A: I think it’s an extremely important report and she is probably one of the best fundraisers in all of Canada. The fact that the church was able to engage with this report is important. I will agree with most of her observations, having spent more time with the Anglican Church of Canada. The plan that I just described responds to her report – We need to improve the way we go about raising money for the Anglican Appeal; we need to develop a major gift program; we need to intensify our efforts in planned gifts and we need to develop a corporate donation policy as well so that the goals that we set for ourselves – the philanthropy staff – were designed specifically to respond to some of the suggested recommendations that Lorna Somers made.

Q: It’s been pointed out that church leaders are embarrassed to ask for money.

A: I think so. It comes up all the time, and again, I simply have to point to the role that fundraising has placed in the history of the church. And the fact that, as early as St. Paul, we’ve had a direct mail appeal; he was extremely innovative, and we can learn a lot from Paul’s example. I think just from what I’ve observed, we can do a lot better job – not just the leadership, but all of us generally – in letting our resource development follow authentic building relationships so that if you really go about building your congregation, developing your congregation, funding will follow. You have to demonstrate that you’re serious about the ministry of the parish or the diocese or the General Synod, and that if you can demonstrate that effectively and genuinely, then the gifts will follow that.

I’ve been spending a lot of time working on relationships and also beginning to develop a theology of philanthropy that will give both the clergy and our supporters the theological confidence that what we’re doing is really about fulfilling God’s mission for the church.

Q: If a person in the pew asks you to summarize what this theology is, what would you say?

A: (Canon) Alyson Barnett-Cowan (director of General Synod’s faith, worship and ministry department), spent some time with me because I can’t go around developing that theology without really consulting the expert theologians in the General Synod. One of the first things – and I pointed it out in the sermon this past Sunday – (is that) we tend to forget as Christians, not just as Anglicans, that really all things are God’s. Whatever we think we own, whatever we think we possess is really just a convenient fiction; we’re basically the beneficiaries of God’s creation and God’s gifts to the world. What we’re called to do as Christians is share those gifts and share them as generously as we possibly can. Paul doesn’t lay down any rules about how much contribution we should give to support the church’s ministry. But he does make it clear that to support the church’s ministry is an obligation – it’s part of being a Christian, it’s part of living out one’s Christian vocation and that even though they’re not rules, they’re guidelines. He says that one should give generously and one should give regularly.

Q: But some say that the drop in giving is tied to the overall decline in the membership of the church.

A: This reflects Canadian society generally; it’s not unique to the Anglican Church of Canada. The very interesting thing about Canadian giving is that since records were kept, the amount of dollars contributed continues to rise, even during recessions, but the number of givers decreases. We see the same phenomenon in the Anglican church. Overall giving continues to grow but the number of givers is tending to decrease somewhat and that should be of concern to us. What it means is that we have to do a lot more in congregational development, in outreach to non-active Anglicans in order to build up our parishes in ways that could mount a more robust ministry and so attract increased funding. We need to be paying a lot more attention to our indigenous brothers and sisters because their congregations are growing and the amount of money that they’re raising is increasing. So, we see within the Anglican church some pockets of real growth that really give different trends than what we see in non-indigenous denominations. There are pockets of opportunity and there are real challenges in terms of congregational development that we have to work on.

Q: What challenges are unique to the Canadian context?

A: I think the greatest challenge is developing a whole vision for the Anglican Church of Canada that embraces the range of its diversity. That has not been done by the Episcopal Church in the United States; there are a few in the Anglican Communion where it has been done. But there is an initiative that’s underway now that’s called Vision 2019 that is intended to develop a mission for the church and I’m going to be very interested in seeing what they come up with. It must embrace and tap into the work of the remarkable diversity that is reflected now in the Anglican Church of Canada. If there’s one overarching challenge, I think that would be it. With that challenge, what we call in professional fundraising is the case for supporting the ACC.

Q: What happens to the different appeals. It appears to be a grey area and there’s a lot of anxiety around that.

A: I’m already in conversation with all of our partners and have begun having constructive collaborative work with the Anglican Foundation, with the PWRDF and with the (Anglican) Journal. I think what you’ll see is a much greater degree of not only collaboration, but especially co-ordination of our various efforts. I think everyone, including our supporters, wants to see more co-ordination; they are put off by competition.

Q: What about the dioceses? The impression is that the church is fighting over the same pie.

A: That’s why I cited what we did in the major gifts program. It will include the dioceses and parishes when that’s appropriate, so that when the primate is asking a donor for a major gift he will be asking for support for the diocese, for continuing support of the donor’s parish and for support of the Anglican Church of Canada. We’re modeling that and the primate is very insistent on modeling that in our resource development. It will be for all the entities in the Anglican church.

Q: As with any fundraising efforts, donors have questions around the issue of accountability. How are you going to address that?

A: There are a number of ways to do that. With a major gift, we’re planning annual reports to donors on progress made in the various programs that they have supported and we’ll try to show what exactly has been accomplished for their gift. With the Anglican Appeal it becomes a bit more abstract, though we can point to some really remarkable progress in the Council of the North, in the ministries of the north. And also some successes and real progress made by partners under the partnership program. We will devise ways of better communicating exactly what kind of progress is being made on the basis of the contributions we’ve received. With respect to planned gifts, that’s a special area. What we have to assure people who include the Anglican church in their wills, for example, is that the money will go to sustain the church and not just to pay for operations. The tendency in the past has been, if we receive a bequest, it could go mostly to operations. Now, we’ve passed a resolution at the last financial management and development committee meeting, that was then forwarded to the Council of General Synod (CoGS), and passed. (That resolution) was that this next year, I think 60 per cent of money received through bequests will go to an investment fund, the income from which will help sustain the church through operational support. But only the income, so that the principal remains intact. And the other 40 per cent can go directly to operations or to ministries. And then that proportion becomes greater in terms of the amount that goes into the investment fund and reduced in terms of what can go into operations until finally we reached a stage where all bequests, 90 per cent of them, will go into an investment fund and 10 per cent can be used for operations. We’re assuring folks who are contemplating including the Anglican church in their will that indeed we will be accountable and their money will go to long-term support of the ACC.

Q: In past budget reports, one of the reasons cited for the drop in donations, aside from the decline in membership, was the conflicts in the church over the issue of sexuality. Is this something that you find is hampering your efforts?

A: It has yet to come up, unless I bring it up. So I think we’ve turned some kind of corner. Certainly in the American church it still has a major influence on fundraising and on the success of particular fundraising initiatives. But in the Canadian church, at least right now, it doesn’t seem to be playing that major a role. I’ll keep you posted.

Q: But that was the reason cited year after year. And in the years before that, the issue around residential schools.

A: In both cases that trend seems to be reversing. The Anglican Appeal went up this year. I don’t know a single instance in which either of this was cited as a reason for not wanting to give or as reasons for decreasing their donations or whatever. I think a lot of this has to do with the primate’s leadership because I think the primate has helped the house of bishops create the environment in the Canadian communion that allows for difference without necessarily leading to division, and that is really quite remarkable.

Q: What makes people give? What makes them not give?

A: People who give usually give to another person who is able to persuade them that the reason for their contribution is compelling and that their contribution will be responsibly spent. So they give to another person who is able to make the case for the cause they represent and who can assure the donor that their money is being well-invested. That’s why people give. People give to people for good causes. And they give to people whom they trust and respect.

Simply reverse that and come up with the answer to your second question; what makes people not give? They can’t trust the person asking for the money; the person asking for the support really can’t make a cogent case for why they should support them; and third, they don’t know the person well enough to be able to trust them and to make sure that the case is compelling.

Q: What’s a typical Canadian Anglican donor?

A: It’s such a varied profile. There are groups of indigenous peoples who are actually giving back grants made by the Council of the North because they feel as though they don’t need them, that they are better invested in other communities and for other ministries. How would you describe that profile? Miraculous? Certainly very, very caring and responsible. I think the one attribute that comes through so far in the various people I’ve asked to contribute is their remarkable loyalty to the Anglican church. If there’s one thing that unites all the donors I’ve encountered, it’s that loyalty. These are extremely loyal people; they want to support the ministry of the church.

Q: Is there a particular segment that the church hasn’t been able to attract, but needs to?

A: Yes (laughs). We need to attract more Anglicans who are not supporting the church and there are a large number of Anglicans who don’t support the church. They either don’t support the national church while supporting the parish, or they support the diocese and not the parish or the national church. We need to get more Anglicans in the habit, if you will, of contributing to the various constituent parts of the Anglican church – their parish, their diocese, the national church, PWRDF, the Anglican Foundation and the Anglican Journal. Those are the entities that we think should be supported and not everyone supports them.

Q: Why don’t they?

A: Because in some cases, they have personal preferences, or in some cases, they don’t even know about it – only 30 to 40 per cent of Anglicans know the PWRDF.

Q: And yet they probably give to other charities?

A: Yes, we know that for a fact – that they give to charities, and more than they give to the PWRDF. We also need to reach out to non-Anglicans for support because there are things that the Anglican church does that is worthy of support from non-Anglicans, and I will be emphasizing some of my staff’s work on trying to attract contributions and support from non-Anglican supporters… We will be developing strategies for how we can bring them in to the goal.


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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