The Mid-Atlantic Foundation staff, left to right: Frank Robert, Tracy Brown, and Jack Brooks.
By Suzy Keenan
The newly formed Mid-Atlantic United Methodist Foundation, with assets approaching $60 million, is poised for dynamic new growth to support Methodist churches in growing their mission and ministry.
The Foundation was created this year by a merger of two former foundations – The Eastern Pennsylvania-Peninsula and The Baltimore-Washington Area Conference Foundations, and was approved by vote of the Eastern Pennsylvania, Peninsula-Delaware, and Baltimore-Washington Annual Conferences. The effective date of the merger was July 1, 2010. The Mid-Atlantic Foundation now serves the three annual conferences with stewardship and investment services.
Jack Brooks, executive director, spent nearly three years developing and implementing a new strategy for the Eastern Pennsylvania-Peninsula Foundation. This included designing new stewardship programs and materials in addition to dramatically improving investment services in the Eastern Pennsylvania and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences. “My vision when I began in 2008 was to concentrate on enhancing the two items at very core of the Foundation’s business model,” Brooks said, “first: identify ways to dramatically improve our investment performance and investment platform, and second: reach out to strengthen every church’s finances by searching for new and meaningful ways to deliver stewardship resources.”
The results are very impressive. In the course of nearly three years, Brooks has more than doubled the size of assets entrusted to the Foundation’s investment management, from $26 million to $57 million currently. “We’ve achieved growth in two ways,” said Brooks. “First we enhanced investment returns by adding three new investment managers to diversify and improve overall investment performance. Second we actively solicited churches to commit investment reserves and endowments to our care instead of a “for profit” investment company as a way of contributing to our ministry and growth – knowing that we are working toward achieving the best investment performance possible.”
“My goal today remains the same since the merger: to make the new Mid-Atlantic United Methodist Foundation the investment manager of choice for all United Methodist Church assets,” Brooks explained. “This merger represents continued steps toward increased efficiency in managing assets by reducing investment costs, improving research and technology, and therefore better fund our unique stewardship resources and delivery.”
All these achievements seem more significant considering the challenging economic times during the worst recession since the Great Depression. “As an investment professional I’m an eternal optimist. I always believe opportunities for organizational growth are present in both good times and bad if you are willing to accept the difficult challenges and make some very complex financial choices. The Foundation, like any of our churches and ministries, has essentially two choices – to thrive or decline. Unfortunately the third choice, just staying the same in a rapidly changing world, will rarely happen. Economic recessions, particularly in financial management, force all organizations to refocus on efficiently using the capital resources they have instead of spending time focusing on what they could have done with resources they simply don’t have anymore. By accepting fiscal responsibility and oversight of what resources you do have, you move forward to better position the organization and yourself for sustained growth as the economy turns. You emerge from a recession operating efficiently, pro-actively and with a hopeful and exciting vision for future growth and sustainability.”
Due to the scandals on Wall Street Many churches today are questioning their relationship with investment managers. There have been true ethical questions about how investment managers conducted themselves and if they put their clients’ interests first. “Here, at the Foundation, we are a 501(c) non-profit organization with the church’s interests at heart and as our only priority not self interest,” said Brooks. “Any profits from our annual operation are reinvested in our organization as a way of sustaining our growth and capitalizing future programs.”
The Mid-Atlantic United Methodist Foundation is unique in other ways in its approach to money management. It manages investments for churches and through nominal fees, generates capital for programs supporting church stewardship and legacy giving. The fee structure for the Foundation is easy to understand: charge a competitive fee, half of which goes to the costs of managing the investment services, and the other half goes to run the mission and ministry, covering the foundation’s expenses. The Foundation’s investment policies focus on socially responsible investing in accordance with the United Methodist Church while diversifying assets through a number of qualified and experienced money managers to reduce risk.
Beyond investments, the Foundation continues to develop new programs and resources for local church stewardship and planned giving, and informs churches on legacy gifts and legacy planning to help steward the church to the next generation.
“Many of our churches were created a generation ago by substantial gifts through the vision and planned gift in a member’s will. During this difficult economic time we need to reintroduce and encourage legacy giving as a way of endowing our future and perpetuate the church for future generations to come,” said Mr. Brooks. He added, “I believe most people are inherently generous. We see people everyday answer the call to support a variety of causes like the earthquake in Haiti. What we’re focusing on as we move forward at the Foundation is to help council and match a donor’s desire to give a substantial gift, with all the possible ways they could give and guide them through that gifting process. Congregants often want to leave a gift to their church but they need a logical starting point and plan. Too often laws related to charitable giving can be complex and hard to understand so we offer some independent and objective guidance while working as an advocate resulting in a tremendous benefit to their family, church and community.”
Recently the Foundation strengthened stewardship by creating an 18 month stewardship program titled Funding Transformational Ministries delivered throughout the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference. Substantial program follow-up will continue into 2011. The Foundation also provided a grant to the Lancaster County (PA) Parish Resource Center for Dr. Clif Christopher’s program Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate. A video of the program Not Your Parents’ Offering Plate has been produced and has been made available to churches in the three annual conferences during the rollout of the Foundation’s new website. “We are very interested in web and video content delivery of our programs and services said Brooks. “It has taken a considerable amount of time and resources to build the website as part of the new Foundation’s launch but it is quite a technological leap forward and will reduce our costs while expanding our reach.”
The headquarters for the new Mid-Atlantic Foundation is in Valley Forge, PA, at the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference office, with two satellite offices in Fulton, MD, in the Baltimore-Washington Conference Office, and in Dover, DE, in the Peninsula-Delaware Conference Office. Mr. Brooks said, “As we grow, we will need to continue expanding staff and support for more localized services.”
Two staff persons currently work with Mr. Brooks to help manage the Foundation’s services. Tracy Brown has been executive assistant to the Eastern Pennsylvania-Peninsula Foundation since 2008. She graduated from Villanova University in 1993 with B.S. in Business Administration, majoring in Finance. Her background includes many years of experience in accounting, accounts receivable and credit management, and Real Estate management. The first new hire since the merger is Frank Robert, associate director. Mr. Robert is a marketing and sales professional with significant experience in education and outreach. He holds a M.B.A. from Loyola College in Baltimore, MD, as well as a M.A. in Higher Education and a B.A. in Art History both from the College of William and Mary. CLICK HERE TO READ MORE ABOUT FRANK ROBERT.
Key support and guidance for the Mid-Atlantic Foundation is the Board of Directors. The Board is composed of talented clergy and lay people from all three Annual Conferences. Each member brings unique skills related to either stewardship or investment management. All are committed and actively participate toward the vision of the foundation, giving churches the best investment services and programming that can be provided.
“At least 70% of churches do not have an endowment to aid in church financial stability,” said Mr. Brooks. “Many churches are searching for ways to become financially more responsible and successful. They need financial stability, which can only happen through better financial education, improved budgeting, and planned giving, combined with a growth plan for the future. Many churches have been focused on meeting the needs of the current flock, when our true purpose is to grow the flock – making Christians. It’s my view the core business mission of the church is really to make more Christian disciples. Being good and responsible stewards of the financial gifts God has given us will fund this mission and make this ministry possible for future generations. The Mid-Atlantic Foundation exists to help churches become the best stewards possible of their financial resources and gifts received from God.”
Contact: Jack Brooks, Executive Director, The Mid-Atlantic Foundation
P.O. Box 820, Valley Forge, PA 19482-0820