Local churches with a creative and evangelistic spirit will soon be able to access millions of dollars of funding thanks to the General Conference’s (GC) new Mission Impact Fund. Established through a partnership between GC Treasury and the Planned Giving & Trust Services (PGTS) Department, the fund will exist to support I Will Go initiatives, with special preference given to those being administered by local churches.
“We hope that this fund will send a message to every member in the Seventh-day Adventist Church that the GC really cares about what’s happening in their local communities,” PGTS director Dennis R. Carlson said. “We see their work, and we fully support it.”
Unlike other funds administered by the General Conference for mission work, the Mission Impact Fund will not be limited by project type or geographical location, and its primary focus is to fund projects at a local level.
“Unlike other funds, this one will be distributed worldwide. Every year, funding will be available to every division,” Carlson explained. “It’s also unrestricted, which means that the money can be used to build a school, to pay a salary, to fund evangelism . . . anything! So long as the purpose is to advance the mission of the church’s current ‘I Will Go’ strategic plan, we will consider it. But the fund’s purpose will take on the flavor of future strategic plans as well.”
Carlson said that since the new fund was introduced at the recent Spring Council meetings (April 12-13), several divisions have already requested more information.
“We’ve had people asking us, ‘What kind of projects will be accepted?’ And we’re being intentionally vague in that regard,” he said. “We don’t want to stifle creativity. If I specify that a project should look like X, then we may miss projects Y and Z, which could have been very good. We don’t want to limit what the local church can do. We want them to bring their crazy project ideas to us to see how we can make them a reality.”
Tracing God’s Work
As well as opening opportunities for creativity in ministry at a grassroots level, the PGTS department is excited by how the Mission Impact Fund will help trace the development of mission work around the globe.
“In the past, funds have come in through planned giving, then into treasury, and we never really know what happens to them,” Carlson said. “We had a very large distribution last year, and with the Mission Impact Fund, it will be nice to share specific stories about how people’s gifts impacted the mission of the church and accomplished the command of Christ.”
While some funds that come through planned giving are restricted in their use — for example, to be dedicated specifically to evangelism, or to building a hospital in Africa — it is the unrestricted funds that are difficult to trace. It was this ongoing problem that inspired the creation of the Mission Impact Fund.
“I was having a conversation with [GC] president Ted Wilson about telling planned giving stories, [and he] then took the idea to the other officers. The then treasurer, Juan Prestol, started work on it. Then when he retired, Paul Douglas came in as treasurer and really made it go. He had the vision for it. He is the one we can credit for the local impact and local focus of the fund,” Carlson said.
Now that the Mission Impact Fund is almost in effect, Carlson says that he is excited to be able to report to donors about where and how their money was used to further mission.
“What really excites me as a Planned Giving director is that we will have a vote for every dollar that’s being spent from this fund. We’ll know where it went. And when those projects get finished, part of the accountability process is that the division must return a report of what happened. This will give us videos, photos, and stories to encourage the rest of our members to be faithful and remember how God has worked.”
How the Fund Works
The Mission Impact Fund is primarily composed of unrestricted maturities of planned gifts from church members, as well as designated current donations to the Mission Impact Fund specifically. Eighty percent of all distributions that come into PGTS that are unrestricted will go into the Mission Impact Fund, along with 100 percent of all designated donations.
“We will see funds continuing to flow into this, year after year. They may not flow as they did last year, but they will always come in. While it’s not an endowment, the fund will operate so that every year, 20 percent of the total balance will be distributed the year after,” Carlson explained. “Every dollar received will flow through during a five-year window, being used directly for mission.”
The projected starting balance for the Mission Impact Fund is approximately US$12.5 million. This means that US$2.5 million will be distributed for use in 2022. This allocation will be announced at Annual Council in 2022 for use during 2023.
The Mission Impact Fund Project Proposal justified it this way, “The budgeting guideline is to spend up to 20 percent of any unrestricted maturities or specific donations received, in the subsequent year and each year thereafter. This provides a balance of not spending all resources in one year while not holding the money unspent for an indefinite period.”
How to Apply for Funding
Local churches will be able to apply for funding by submitting a Mission Impact Fund Project Proposal through the process prescribed by their world church division. The PGTS department of their related division will submit the project to the GC PGTS for approval.
“Even though the focus is on the local church and community, the system will need to operate through the chain of command — from the field or conference, then to the union, and then to the division,” Carlson said. “We don’t want churches doing something independently that’s totally opposed to what their division is doing. While the church will oversee the projects themselves, the division will be the gatekeeper.”
According to the Mission Impact Fund Project Proposal, ideas for outreach can be generated by the division itself or can be born at a local church before being approved by the conference, union, and division. Projects can also be implemented at multiple churches and still be considered one project.
The General Conference Treasury will partner with PGTS each year to administer the Mission Impact Fund and ensure that resources are appropriately distributed and will promote the fund through division PGTS departments worldwide.
This year, the deadline for submitting a project proposal to the GC’s PGTS Department is August 1. Proposals will be reviewed and funding decisions announced at Annual Council 2022. In 2023 and each year thereafter, projects will need to be submitted by May 1, and funding decisions will be announced at Annual Council in the same year the proposal is submitted.