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First Adventist fundraising handbook to guide church building projects

Historic ministry to schools, hospitals now available for local congregations

First Adventist fundraising handbook to guide church building projects

Adventist philanthropy leaders say a new handbook for local congregations covers industry best practices in fundraising from a Christian stewardship perspective. [graphic courtesy AdventSource]

A local congregation decides to build a church fellowship hall, but doesn’t secure adequate funding beforehand, assuming “the money will come once we get going.” It’s a familiar scenario, and one Seventh-day Adventist philanthropy experts are hoping a new fundraising guide will help local church leaders avoid.

“If you believe the Lord will bless later for the money to come, you can also believe the Lord will bless right now and bring it,” said Nikolaus Satelmajer, who wrote and edited “Successful Fundraising: A Guide for Local Churches” with Lilya Wagner, director of the church’s Philanthropic Service for Institutions (PSI).

As its name implies, the department has historically served the fundraising needs of the church’s educational and healthcare institutions. But today, PSI is fielding more and more requests from local congregations. As multi-million dollar building and capital projects become routine, fundraising is an increasingly complex endeavor, Satelmajer said. 

“While there are countless how-to volumes, I wanted something customized for Adventist campaigns and projects,” Wagner said. “It was challenging but also satisfying to take the best experiences and practices in my field and adapt them to the needs of [Adventist] leaders.”

“Successful Fundraising: A Guide for Local Churches” (AdventSource) is the first such handbook written and edited by Adventist philanthropy leaders.

The handbook will serve as a springboard to any fundraising project, with advice and formulas on advance planning, structuring a capital campaign, stewardship principles and avoiding debt fatigue, Satelmajer said.

While the handbook specifically targets a North American audience, its principles will apply worldwide, he said. One chapter explores Ellen G. White’s approach to fundraising. The Adventist Church co-founder was a key figure in fundraising for many of the early church’s healthcare and educational institutions. A study of her methods indicates that she believed in asking for donations, especially from those she knew well and from potential donors outside of church membership. 

“You have to get to know the person, and you have to present them with a case -- Here’s what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. It’s not enough to say, ‘We’re building a new church, will you give us money?’” he said.

Another key principle is getting the entire church behind a project before moving forward, Satelmajer said. With church-wide support, a building project can unify a congregation around a single goal, but when the majority of members are reluctant, a project “can really damage the relationships in the church,” he said.

“We spend quite a bit of time developing this idea -- How do you make it a church project, and not just a project of three or four enthusiastic people who commit $100,000 and say the other million will surely come,” Satelmajer said.

“Successful Fundraising: A Guide for Local Churches” is available through AdventSource as a first resources for local pastors and lay leaders. PSI is encouraging those who purchase the handbook to contact the department for further support, including advice, referrals to local resources and -- in some cases -- a site visit.

“PSI can answer some questions and provide some advice over the phone and will do their best to send someone qualified to work with the congregation,” Wagner said.