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"It's cool to go to Phoenix"

Executive board approves 2020, 2023 convention, gathering sites

by Terri Lackey

Registration for the 2017 triennial gathering has yet to begin, and the Women of the ELCA executive board approved 2020 and 2023 convention and gathering sites at its meeting in Minneapolis, Oct. 23-25.

The churchwide board also took a short tour of Minneapolis and the convention center where the gathering will be held, set a 2016 annual churchwide budget and the 2017 triennial convention and gathering budgets, learned fundraising tips and installed a new board member.

The board approved an executive committee recommendation to hold the triennial convention and gathering in Phoenix, Ariz., in 2020 and in Spokane, Wash., in 2023. The executive board chose to approve two triennial locations because the site visits had been made. Board and staff representatives visited four cities during the spring and summer.

“A big chunk of business we (the executive committee) took up was to present 2020 and 2023 triennial convention and gathering sites,” said Jody Smiley, vice president of the executive board. “Staff and board made a lot of site visits this summer, and spent a lot of time, energy and effort (exploring convention and gathering venues). They did a wonderful job presenting the different sites.”

The site visits to various cities proved that “one cannot judge location without seeing it,” said Linda Post Bushkofsky, executive director of Women of the ELCA. “Phoenix was not on our radar, but we had a great experience there, and they offered us a financial package that could not be beat.”

Ely Smith, executive board treasurer, who went on the site visits, acknowledged Phoenix is hot in the summer, but she said the food was terrific. “I’ll go there just for the food. The city might be hot, but it’s cool to go to Phoenix.”

Of Spokane, Bushkofsky said that “some may think it’s too soon to go back” but in 2023, it will have been 12 years since the gathering was held there. Spokane “put together such a great proposal. They really loved Women of the ELCA when we were there in 2011.”

2016 budet

The board approved a 2016 budget of $3,154,073. Of that, nearly $300,000 is budgeted for the triennial convention. That sum is built into the budget each year for convention expenses. So that expenses do not exceed expenditures in 2016, the board is “going to have to find additional revenue,” said Deborah Banks-Williams, chair of the budget and finance committee.

That could be accomplished by congregational units and synodical organizations spending down their reserves and giving generously to the churchwide organization, executive board members making additional pledges, seeking grants and bolder year-end appeals. The finance committee also suggested that SWOs contribute according to the number of voting members in their delegation to the triennial convention.

In her report to the board, Bushkofsky said “a significant amount of time must be devoted to looking at our finances and how we are going to move forward.”

Over the past 18 years, annual offerings have dropped by more than 50 percent—from $3.6 million in 1997 to $1.7 million in 2014, she said. “The greatest challenge before the board and staff is how to sustain and grow financial support for the critical ministry of the churchwide organization, the ministry that creates resources to support women as they support each other on their spiritual journeys.”

Doris Pagelkopf, a non-profit consultant specializing in leadership training and fundraising, spoke to the board about how to raise money for the organization. She offered various ways the board could increase financial support from their friends, acquaintances and Women of the ELCA participants. One is asking; another is thanking, she said.

“Raising money is not begging; it’s helping people make a difference in their lives,” said Pagelkopf, a member of Edina Community Lutheran Church, Edina, Minn.

The board discussed several ways of raising money—from asking every Women of the ELCA congregational unit to contribute an extra $100 to the organization to asking synodical women’s organizations (SWOs) to contribute the travel expenses of their voting members going to the 2017 convention. The triennial convention in 2014 cost the organization nearly $1 million.

In other action, the board

  • Approved a triennial convention budget of $943,110 and a triennial gathering budget of $1,017,500. The expectation is that gathering expenses would be covered by registration, offerings and other forms of income.
  • Installed Anissa Canova, Gouldsboro, Pa. (Northeastern Pennsylvania SWO), as a new board member.
  • Heard staff reports, including a plan to move Gather magazine’s subscription fulfillment services from Augsburg Fortress to Cambey & West.
  • Elected new executive committee members. Those are Deborah Banks-Williams, Lois Bylund and Gwendolyn King.
  • Approved a policy against electioneering.
  • Heard a report about the organization’s human trafficking exhibit at the ELCA Youth Gathering last summer.
  • Approved a request from the Southeastern Michigan Synodical Women’s Organization to revise its constitution to reduce the size of its board from eight to six.
  • Approved forwarding to the Tenth Triennial Convention proposed language changes to the churchwide constitution, SWO constitutions, congregational unit constitutions and special unit constitutions. In all instances where the language states “voting members of the ELCA,” the board recommends a change “to voting members of an ELCA congregation.”
  • Set the April 2016 board meeting in Chicago.

Check out photos from the October board meeting.

Terri Lackey is director for communication for Women of the ELCA.