A $454 grant from Lutheran Church of the Nativity's endowment fund helped pay for a Christian ministry in the Arden, N.C., area to expand its hours to feed, clothe and provide aid to veterans and families in dire situations. Another $403 grant from the endowment will help stock a nearby Episcopal church's food pantry that serves 90 to 100 families each Saturday.
Nativity's endowment committee decided it would focus on judging funding applications for such critically needed local projects and leave the endowment investment details to a little-known but highly accomplished investment fund with the unwieldy name of the ELCA Endowment Fund Pooled Trust, Fund A.
The ELCA administers the commingled fund, which is an investment vehicle available to any ELCA congregation, synod or related entity.
Mike Ward, an ELCA pastor, member of Nativity and vice president of advancement for the ELCA camping ministry NovusWay Ministries, said the church chose the ELCA Fund A to manage its endowment investments because it offers "great" rates and returns, and relieves churches of managing their endowment money. Nativity started issuing grants after a member made a significant gift to its previously established mission endowment fund.
The church's endowment committee set up bylaws that require the money — now totaling $54,300 — to be used in three ways each year: service outreach; scholarships for either seminary, Lutheran college or Lutheran camp attendance; and for initiatives the church hadn't been doing for more than three years. None of the money is intended to become permanent funding for programs.
In the past two years Nativity has spread its endowment money to several other missions, including setting up a medical equipment loan closet at the church and contributing to an international medical mission trip.
Nativity is also helping support the work of ELCA Foundation gift planners nationwide. A portion of the Fund A fee that congregations pay — a competitive management fee of one-twelfth of 1 percent each month — helps pay gift planners in the field who work with congregations to grow mission endowment funds. Gift planners also help members with bequests and life-income gifts that ultimately support various ministries.
Christine Post-Duncan, the gift planner who works with Nativity, has made several presentations that have resulted in new gifts to the congregation's endowment fund.
"We have received more gifts from more people who intentionally give because they've heard of the ELCA Fund A," Ward said. "It is extremely well managed and there is no reason to look anywhere else."
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