Sacred Places Winter 2021 - Page 11

“ There wasn ’ t a week that went by when my staff and I didn ’ t hear from a church that needed rehab , or a congregation that was moving to the suburbs and was concerned about the future of their building ,” Finegood remembers . Partners had the models and tools to build congregations ’ capacities to take care of their buildings , both to maintain the physical structure and to fundraise for needed capital improvements . For Finegood , the training provided a way forward .
New Dollars / New Partners participants learn how to assess their building ’ s needs , solicit appropriate bids from contractors , oversee the work , and gain a new appreciation for the architectural and cultural value of their space . As the training involved multiple sessions , each a few weeks apart , there was often “ homework ” to complete between sessions . Some of these assignments asked participating congregations to do a walkthrough of their buildings with specific guidance to assess the condition of the masonry , foundations , doors and windows , and other structural components . This was often the first time congregations had done such a comprehensive evaluation of their building ; equipped with this knowledge , they were able to put together capital improvement plans with short- and long-term goals . “ It really was Preservation 101 ,” said Corliss Moody , “ and we just got smarter and smarter .” Training sessions always included building tours , and the facilitators saw how the participants ’ new knowledge were changing the way they saw their houses of worship . “ As they went through the buildings , they would point out architectural facets of the buildings that were unique and exciting , as well as the areas that needed work ,” remembered the Rev . David Wangaard , who worked as a senior staff member for the Minneapolis Area Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America when it sponsored a training .
Another stumbling block that congregations often face is the significant financial resources required to fund capital improvement projects . While many faith communities are adept at fundraising among their members for annual operating and program expenses , a large-scale effort to bankroll building improvements can be overwhelming . New Dollars / New Partners “ teaches congregations to think like nonprofits , to think beyond their typical ways of raising money ,” says Nancy Finegood . Participants learn the basics for conducting a capital campaign , with methods and tools that are new to many . “ One of the biggest takeaways for me was the concept of the pyramid of gifts ,” said Rev . Moody . A pyramid of gifts is based on the giving history of a
As part of a months-long process to engage the community and envision a new future for their landmark building , members of University Lutheran Church in Harvard Square Cambridge , attended New Dollars training . Here a small group , supported by Partners ' president , Bob Jaeger , are building their elevator pitch to share in the Meet the Mayor exercise that opens the training . The activity requires teams to create a short but compelling approach that might grab the attention of a major civic leader and lead to a new relationship . Photo : Joshua Castaño
congregation ’ s members , noting that congregation members with greater wealth can often give higher amounts . “ Before that , our approach was seeing if we could get everyone to give $ 1,000 a piece ,” said Rev . Moody . “ But we had folks who could replicate the giving of 10 to 20 people . So instead of raising $ 60,000 , we raised $ 250,000 from the same group .”
Not Going it Alone
The cornerstone idea on which New Dollars / New Partners training was built is that a sacred place matters to more people than the congregation to whom it is entrusted . “ It ’ s not just a place where a congregation worships ,” said DeAmon Harges , who facilitated some of the early asset-mapping sessions . “ It means so much more to the community .” Harges recalled how a particular church in an early training cohort , inspired by the training , began a storytelling initiative in its community , inviting neighbors to tell the congregation how the church had an impact on their lives . “ This work really pushed the envelope and prepared them to use the currency of relationships ,” The Rev . David Wangaard , said . Wangaard remembers that congregations had not thought much about the immense value that they bring to their surrounding communities . “ That entire notion of a congregation ’ s ‘ public value ’…. it was all new to me and was so different than what we could usually offer congregations .”
During the training , participants learned how to assess the public value of their buildings and articulate that value to both the congregation and community stakeholders . One
SACRED PLACES • WINTER 2021 11