Top priority: A strategic fundraising plan

Murray McCarthy of Ministry and Money International, a fundraising and consulting firm based in Toronto, presents the results of the operational review conducted on the Resources for Mission department. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Murray McCarthy of Ministry and Money International, a fundraising and consulting firm based in Toronto, presents the results of the operational review conducted on the Resources for Mission department. Photo: Marites N. Sison
Published November 16, 2013

Mississauga, Ont.-The Resources for Mission (RfM) department of General Synod must, as a “top priority,” develop a strategic fundraising plan that will build donor revenue and improve relations with dioceses and Anglicans “eager to support the work of the church.

This was one of the recommendations made in a report outlining results of an operational review of the RfM, which was presented on Nov. 15 to new members of the Council of General Synod (CoGS) during their first meeting of the triennium.

The review, which was completed Sept. 28, also called for more financial accountability. “Managers must be held accountable and compensated based on tangible fundraising results,” it said, adding that the lack of an outcome-based review system is “detrimental to the overall success of the department.”

The basis for the review was interviews conducted with 15 individuals, including staff from the RfM, parishioners and donors from parishes of the Anglican Church of Canada. Murray McCarthy of Ministry and Money International, a fundraising and consulting firm based in Toronto, conducted the review and presented the report to CoGS.

In response, CoGS adopted a motion to receive the report and referred it to the office of the general secretary and the RfM co-ordinating committee “for consideration.” It also requested periodic updates on the status of the report. [Receiving a report does not imply acceptance of the recommendations, said Archdeacon Harry Huskins, prolocutor of General Synod.]

The review also suggested structures that “support donor development and face-to-face contact in support of an urgent and compelling General Synod Case for Support.”

It also recommended that if General Synod considers revenue generation a primary goal, the “most important organizational decision that must be made at this time” would be for RfM to have a full-time director “with this single priority.” The RfM’s director, Vianney (Sam) Carriere, also currently serves as director of the Communication and Information Resources department at General Synod.

Sought for comment, Carriere told the Anglican Journal that like the operational review conducted on the CIR (which will also be presented to CoGS at the meeting), the RfM review was “a mixture of insights and strangeness.” Neither of them “lives up to the potential that a thorough, thoughtful and objective review should have offered,” he said. “Both reports have value but are flawed.”

He said that the reviews could not be considered fair an accurate because there were “enough things that the authors of the report did not know and did not find out…”

For example, he said, the review “scarcely mentions the principles of stewardship and partnership despite the fact that those principles have guided our work for the past four years.”

“There is enough good stuff in both reports to offer significant guidance in the next triennium but they are not what they should have been,” he added.

In a 30-point executive summary, the review noted that Carriere has created a “motivated team environment” in his department. “Where we are today is different from where we were four, five years ago,” said McCarthy.

But he said that pressing issues have to be addressed, including “a database that fails to meet the basic fundraising criteria for door management, a lack of donor focused activities that encourage financial growth and a lack of major and strategic donor strategy…”

RfM’s planned giving personnel “must report on activities and provide tangible financial results,” it said. Goals need to be set and annual performance reviews conducted, it added. “Successful financial outcomes must be celebrated and the lack of tangible successes must be reviewed to ensure that the department is focused on the primary goal – to raise more money for General Synod to fund the important programs of the church.”

The review noted that RfM has “some very competent individuals who are committed and dedicated to the success of fundraising” for the church. But it needs to have a plan that will address succession “in light of the current ages of key staff members” and “ongoing education to maintain and increase the core competencies of staff,” it said.

It is critical that the RfM’s current donation database be reviewed, and possibly replaced since it “does not serve the fundraising function well,” the review recommended. “It’s not really a donor database, it’s an accounting database and [it’s] not the best way to proceed,” said McCarthy.

The report also suggested reviewing the responsibilities of fundraising personnel and lowering the fundraising ratio based on “both expense reduction and fundraising revenue increases.”

The director must be “a front-line fundraising professional that takes an active role in major donor and planning giving prospect identification and solicitation,” it also recommended.

The review also said:

  • A major donor committee is needed to develop a list of major donor prospects and visitation
  • At least one major fundraising event must be completed annually, including a possible Primate’s Dinner or General Synod Education weekend
  • Regional gift planners must become major donor solicitors
  • “Cost effectiveness is a priority given the current financial pressures of General Synod.

The review was conducted following a recommendation made by a national consultation convened by the primate, Archbishop Fred Hiltz, early this year. The recommendation to review the effectiveness of the church’s investment in fundraising, stewardship and planned giving was adopted by the Council of General Synod (CoGS) last spring.

McCarthy said the recommendations were based on proven fundraising practices and the Somers Report, an audit of the national church’s various appeals, which was conducted in 2006.

Some CoGS members stood up to comment and request clarification about the review, including James Sweeney (ecclesiastical province of Canada/diocese of Quebec), who noted that some issues raised by the report had already been made in the church’s previous fundraising initiatives. “I’d be interested in how those ideas differ from these ones. It seems like déjà vu all over again,” he said.

Archdeacon Michael Thompson, general secretary, said there is “serious intent” to follow through the report and said that he and the RfM committee could be held accountable not to let it slide. “If in three years I’m standing here saying, ‘this time it will be different,’ you can come and get me,” he said.

Diocese of Edmonton Bishop Jane Alexander said the work that the RfM has done in helping her diocese with its stewardship plan has been “really important… it has been a shot in the arm about what might be possible for us.” The idea of strengthening the work of the RfM “is fantastic,” she said.

The Episcopal Church’s partner to CoGS Martha Gardner said that she did not see an affirmation of the work that the RfM has done so far or “the successes they’ve had.” It only looks like “there’s so much to be fixed,” she said, adding that people who read the report might be prompted to simply say, “Why are we putting money into this department?”

Gardner noted that her church had been through “a hellish few years in our development efforts,” adding, “fundraising takes a long time; it’s relationship building.”


  • 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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