Executive board members discuss a new campaign to grow the organization’s impact
When the Women of the ELCA executive board held its spring 2022 meeting, the mood was thankful and celebratory. Board members recognized the organization’s nearly $700,000 surplus—its first significant revenue surplus in many years—as they met Saturday, April 23, 2022, via Zoom. Those positive results came after generous giving by the organization’s donors and synodical women’s organizations, and an organizational restructuring in 2020 that included staff reductions and cost savings from various efficiencies.
As churchwide treasurer Raeann Purcell reported, this “significant surplus” came after “staff not only worked very hard to come in under budget but also our giving increased. …We determined that expenses came in at 87% of the budgeted amount and revenue came in at 129% of the budgeted amount, providing us with a surplus for the 2021 fiscal year.” Purcell lives in Deland, Fla., and is part of the Florida-Bahamas Synodical Women’s Organization.
Expressing deep gratitude, board members said that, in addition to thank you notes that have already gone out to individual donors, they wish to send thank you notes to the synodical women’s organizations that responded so generously.
“This is an opportunity to communicate [to donors] about the great things we are doing because we have their support,” said Lorie Garcia (Corpus Christi, Tex., Southwestern Texas Synodical Women’s Organization).
Executive director Linda Post Bushkofsky told board members that turning a ship or an organization around does not happen quickly. “When I came on board [as executive director] in 2002, the organization had to use reserves to cover the cost of the triennial convention and gathering that year,” she said. “It’s taken all of us, working together for 20 years, to get to a point where our treasurer can report that we had nearly $700,000 in excess revenue over expenses for fiscal year 2021.”
In a later discussion, several board members spoke in favor of a recommendation from the board’s budget and finance committee that the surplus be used to cover expenses for the Twelfth Triennial Convention (2023). “If we’re able to say, we’ve got three-quarters of the convention costs covered, that’s better than having the funds look like they’re in a rainy-day fund,” said Laura Krueger (Avondale, Az., Grand Canyon Synodical Women’s Organization).
A little background
Every three years, the triennial convention draws together representatives from synodical women’s organizations across the ELCA to study Scripture, set policies, call for change, elect leaders and make other decisions for the Women of the ELCA. According to the Women of the ELCA constitution, the cost of the triennial convention is borne by the churchwide expression of Women of the ELCA.
Over the years, the board approved annual budgets that called for setting aside one-third of the total cost for the triennial convention. The expectation was that by the year in which the convention was held the set aside money would be available to cover convention costs. Unfortunately, with reduced revenue coming from Thankofferings and Regular Offerings—the two primary sources of revenue for the churchwide women’s organization—it was not always possible to follow this savings plan. To cover convention costs, the board has sometimes had to use board-designated funds (as opposed to annual revenue).
In 2018 the board had made a special appeal to the 64 synodical women’s organizations, asking them to contribute $2,400 (or roughly the cost of one voting member’s attendance at the convention), in anticipation of the convention to be held in 2020. Approximately two-thirds of the synodical women’s organizations contributed a total of about $70,000 in response to that request. The convention was postponed due to the pandemic and ultimately was held in August 2021 via Zoom. Those synodical contributions helped defray the costs of the online convention.
“It’s taken many steps, many people and many boards to bring us to this point, where all aspects of the organization are in a better framework,” Post Bushkofsky told board members. “We have a smaller, more nimble board. We have a smaller staff that is responding to the challenges that were thrust upon us in March of 2020. We are slowly getting to the idea across the organization that we can do things differently. This is an important place for us to be.”
According to Post Bushkofsky, the Women of the ELCA is now a decade older than its direct predecessors were at the time of the ELCA merger.
“Our predecessor bodies only existed for 25-27 years,” Post Bushkofsky said. “Here we are at 35 years [old] now. We’ve reached a different maturity, living through huge cultural shifts.”
Today, Post Bushkofsky said, Women of the ELCA is a leader in its anti-racism and anti-trafficking efforts, among other things.
“We’re ready to set sail to new horizons,” she added. “Certainly, Katie’s Fund will help us do that. It has not been without pain to get us here, but God has walked steadfastly with us throughout.” The Katharina von Bora Luther Endowment Fund, lovingly known as Katie’s Fund, was created at the organization’s tenth anniversary. It provides funding for programs, resources and opportunities in leadership development, global connections and living theology.
June 11 kickoff for 2122
The board received an update about the upcoming June 11 kickoff for “2122”, a major campaign to raise $1 million for Katie’s Fund. The campaign seeks to foster the future sustainability of the organization, focusing on the next 100 years of women’s ministry.
“Much of the behind-the-scenes work has been accomplished,” said executive director Linda Post Bushkofsky. “Two essential teams doing this work have been established. We are working right now to finalize the case statement that will be provided to major gift donors.”
After June 11, “we’ll begin making individual visits with people to support the campaign,” Post Bushkofsky said.
In other actions, the board: