Attracted by Mission
Nothing in Richard Martin's career presaged his role on the board at Hood Theological Seminary in Salisbury, North Carolina. He was a surgeon and said he doesn't recall being on any boards except hospital boards and a short stint on a local business association. He is Caucasian and Episcopalian (the son of a priest and the grandson of a Presbyterian missionary to China). Hood is the seminary of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, an historically Black denomination. He claims he's still trying to figure out who submitted his name to Albert Aymer, Hood's president, as a potential board member. But when he was asked to join Hood's board, he decided the school's mission was one which he could support. He has done so with a conviction that made Hood president Albert Aymer suggest that "every board of trustees and every president needs a Dick Martin on the board."
As Hood celebrated its one-hundredth birthday last year, the seminary was in the process of separating from its parent school, Livingstone College. The General Conference of the AME Zion Church voted in 1996 to separate the two institutions, and in 2000, the seminary was granted a charter by the state of North Carolina. The board to which Martin was appointed was a new board, and a decision had been made to broaden the membership. Of the eighteen members on the new board, only six are bishops (all AME Zion bishops sat on the old college/seminary board, and they were keen to continue the tradition). Four of the new board members, including Martin, are Caucasian, a reflection of the changing demographics of the school, which has more non-AME students than ever before.
The new board quickly realized that one of its first tasks would be moving the school away from the college campus and into a space big enough for growth. Martin was named chair of the ad hoc committee on relocation at the same time as he chaired the finance committee. His proximity to the school, about thirteen miles by his reckoning, made it possible for him to help in scouting potential sites for a new campus. Although he credits a board member who has experience in real estate with finding the site the committee selected, Aymer said that "without Martin's leadership and involvement, I don't think we would have the property into which we anticipate moving the seminary in the fall."
The property is an old Holiday Inn (Martin thinks about the fifteenth in the United States), located, as one might expect, along the interstate. Although the seminary's supporting denomination bought the property for $3.2 million, it will cost Hood somewhere in the vicinity of $2.5 million to prepare the main building for occupancy. Some of that has been budgeted, some will come from the AME Zion Church, and the board is beginning a $15 million capital campaign which will underwrite renovation of two other buildings on the site, with some funds left over to strengthen the seminary's endowment.
Martin is a self-effacing man and does not pretend to know more than he does. Indeed, one suspects that he pretends to know less than he does. Of the groundwork for the campaign, he says simply, "We talked with people from town, some of whom will probably help us." As for the rest? The school is in the process of hiring a new development director, and Martin says, "I'm going to learn a lot. Probably more than I want to know."
Out of Retirement
An unusual confluence of timing, skills, and interests made it possible for Kay MacDowell to step into the development office at Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg when Christine Reimers, vice president for stewardship and leadership development, stepped out for a two-month maternity leave.
MacDowell retired in January 2003 from Lutheran Social Services in Gettysburg, where she had worn a number of hats over twenty years: from supervisor of community-based programs to coordinator of the independent living program to public relations work, including interaction with Lutheran congregations. As she explains, "It took longer than I expected to change rhythms after retiring." The projects she'd planned, including her wildflower garden, were "interesting, but not enough."
So when the need arose for someone to take over in Reimers' office for a couple of months, MacDowell was available and ready. A veteran of ten years on the board of the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, MacDowell's first assignment was to the personnel committee. Within a short time, however, she found herself on the development committee because, in her words, "I was willing and a lot of folks weren't." As a result, she knew her way around Gettysburg's development program even before Reimers' arrival at the school. It also helped that the position was presented as part-time, ("although it took longer than I thought it would to get those twenty hours in each week") and that her stint in the development office came during the late fall and early winter when some development tasks slow down ("not a lot of churches are interested in seeing you the week before Christmas").
Issues of possible conflict of interest were considered, both with legal counsel and with the board in a meeting that MacDowell can't say much about because she wasn't present. It was decided that since her role was not to be one of decision-making, but rather of support ("writing letters and getting the right letter to the right donor, and staying in contact with donors we hadn't talked to in a while") and that since Reimers was in the neighborhood and could be called if necessary, no conflict existed. She did make a point of being careful about not counting as paid time anything she would have been doing anyway as board chair.
What did MacDowell learn from the experience? First, she claims a greater understanding of the complexity of even the simple parts of the job. After working hard on a perfect letter, she said, one encounters "twenty-five situations to which it does not apply." Second, she has a new appreciation for the ability of development workers to "work with individuals and individual ideas and seek common ground while doing the primary job of finding funding for the core program."
What will MacDowell take back to her role on the board now that she's no longer working for pay at the seminary? She describes "a renewed sense of the importance of helping people beyond the point of saying, 'there are people who can do that job, and thank God it's not me'."
It's a notion that had crossed her mind before. MacDowell tried a few years ago to get board members involved in visiting churches to present the seminary's case. A list of congregations was circulated at board meetings, and some visits were made, although debriefing with the board members who made the visits never quite happened. The nature of the school's board increased the challenge: members are elected by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America's geographical synods, with particular quota slots: MacDowell, for example, is "lay female from the Lower Susquehanna Synod." Some board members are bishops or bishop's associates, which complicates their visiting on behalf of the school in their own territory.
Nevertheless, MacDowell and LTSG board are game to try again. This time the board is starting with thank-you visits to congregations that have contributed. And the job won't be sprung on unsuspecting board members, it is part of their list of expectations. They are receiving training from Reimers, now back on the job. And there is a new line item on the seminary's budget for board generated income. "No numbers yet," said MacDowell, "but the expectation is clear."
Family ties seem to be a ticket into fund-raising at Newman Theological College and St. Joseph Seminary in Edmonton, Alberta. For Jim Wiesner, liaison from the board of governors to The Foundation of Newman Theological College and St. Joseph Seminary, and David Thompson, current chair of the foundation, a brother had a role in each man's current involvement with the school.
Wiesner was still on the Edmonton police force thirty-some years ago when he first became familiar with Newman Theological College and St. Joseph Seminary. His brother was superior of a religious order that trained its students there. However, it wasn't until 1995, five years after he retired from the city's Corporate Security and Risk Management office, that he became a part of the school's fund-raising efforts. Wiesner did so in a paid capacity: he was hired to create the foundation's planned-giving program. Because his background was in other areas, he began with education a short course at the Banff School of Management with presenters he described as "Canadian and American planned-giving gurus." He says his biggest surprise was the number of times he's gotten an unexpected letter from a lawyer notifying him of a gift that has been left by someone he didn't know. "It would have been nice to be able to thank them," he says, and it is clear that such human concern is a large part of his approach to fund-raising.
The foundation was started in 1994 when, as Joyce Tutt, current executive director of the foundation explains it, the board of governors realized that they needed more than volunteer labor to raise money for the school. Newman is a private institution, which means the school does not receive government funds. Tuition accounts for less than thirty percent of the operating budget. The foundation is a legal entity separate from the school, but exists to serve the school.
Wiesner spent two years writing a policy manual for planned giving (although he worked just nine months each year, with the interesting stipulation that no two months off be taken back to back). A couple of years after that job was finished, he was invited to join the board of governors. Now in his third three-year term, Wiesner was a natural choice to be liaison with the foundation board because of his first-hand knowledge of foundation operations.
The current chair of the foundation, David Thompson, also had a brother who linked him to Newman. Mike Thompson headed the foundation a few years ago, and as his two-year term ended, he spoke about a possible successor with the archbishop, who suggested David. "How do you say no to both your brother and the archbishop?" David asked, with a feigned sigh that makes it clear the question is entirely rhetorical. Thompson's awareness of the school did not, of course, begin with his brother's involvement. He describes his family as "Catholic from day one," and a priest for whom he was altar boy later became Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Edmonton. The Chancellor promoted the school to Thompson and others.
"You evolve," Thompson said of his understanding of giving and his involvement with the school. It was a Sunday sermon on stewardship that got him to think about giving more than money. He is a busy person, he sells computers, but he notes that there is truth to the common wisdom about asking busy people to do the things that need to be done. With organizational skill, he says, one can weave charitable involvement into the nature of one's day. And his profession has given him skills for fund-raising. "After twenty-five years working in sales," Thompson said, "you learn to ask direct questions, and to figure out how best to get what you want and what the person you're talking with wants."
The committee of the foundation with which Thompson has been most involved is the annual parish campaign. He's found it surprisingly easy: St. Joseph Seminary trains priests for the diocese, and Newman prepares lay people for a variety of ministries. Students go out to the parishes for the campaign, but while they're there, they meet many people who have studied at the schools and are willing to tell their stories, too.
Thompson hasn't taken a course at the school yet. But when his term on the foundation is up and he has a bit more time, he hopes to. "The place is so good to come to," he says, "it's like home." He's happy with everything from the new "fluid but awesome" strategic plan to the food in the dining hall. He'll be part of the school in one way or another for years to come, telling the story and encouraging support. Which is, after all, the way it should be.
The center of fund-raising is stories shared by those who have caught a school's vision, whatever their connection to the school might be. Board members, it is to be hoped, have that vision, and can be encouraged to share it in their own circles, be they ecclesial, business, denominational, or social. Notwithstanding some of the stories shared here, most will not become, even temporarily, development professionals. But they can be amateurs in the best sense of the word, their love of the school overflowing in knowledge of how to help it continue its mission.