Calling All Partners
By Richard DuBose
These last two months in the Advancement Office at Columbia Theological Seminary have been interesting and atypical times. All of a sudden, everybody wants to talk about money, about fundraising, and especially about how the current economy is likely to affect the seminary, the church, and stewardship and capital campaigns in particular.
For churches, I’ve offered words of caution, tempered with history. Since 1967, in years where a recession lasted eight months or more, giving to religion declined an average of 1.4 percent, according to Giving USA. Churches lost ground, but times were hardly catastrophic, and evidence suggests that Christians do not abandon their churches in a pinch. (Of course, as your financial advisor is required to explain, past results do not guarantee future performance.)
For Columbia, there is also reason for calm. Our annual supporters, in numbers and generosity, have grown steadily since 2003. That year, the seminary launched Partners In Ministry, our initiative to raise not only awareness of Columbia but to encourage direct and generous giving to our annual fund. Our Partners’ gifts have been generous and consistent, enabling Columbia in profound and remarkable ways to develop and expand programs and to increase support for students. We have every expectation that our Partners’ support will continue.
Of course, economic conditions will affect this seminary. First, Columbia’s mission is heavily supported by investment income from our endowment. While the seminary’s investments are holding up well in the current economy, we nevertheless are expecting a decline in endowment income for the coming year. At the same time, the recession is likely to increase the financial needs of our students and so place greater demand on our financial aid program.
In the midst of all of this, we look forward to increases in enrollment. In fact, we are on a mission to make that happen, as we invest in a new residence hall and academic spaces, and in improved technology. In fact, attendance at October’s Conference on Ministry for prospective students was up 50 percent over last year.
In other words, like churches and many other non-profits, the need for our mission and for your support will only increase during slow economic times. We are, therefore, “Calling All Partners.” We are asking that everyone with a heart for ministry and an interest in Columbia’s work support our Annual Fund this year. If you are already giving to our Annual Fund, thank you! We hope that you will continue to do so, as your gift is even more important now than ever.
Remember that Columbia’s programs and students receive as much support from an outright gift of $500 as is produced by $10,000 of our endowment. Especially if you need this year to ensure that your own charitable dollars go farther, Annual Fund gifts—to Columbia, to your church, and to most non-profits—yield the maximum effect.
We thank you for your support of Columbia and for answering this call!