The Grandparent Principle

At the Moravian Ministries Foundation, we often suggest to churches and agencies that they tell their stories: who they are, what they believe, their history, the missions and ministries they value, and where they see themselves heading. All of us think, “If I know who we are and what we do, then everyone else does”. Well, despite all we do to tell our stories, the process is continual.

However, like the plumber that has a leaky faucet at his home while he goes about fixing the faucets of others, the Foundation has not been telling our story lately. So, as we begin the New Year, I resolved to tell it again. It is not meant to brag (although we are proud of what we do); rather, we want people to know it since it involves generous Moravians, gifts, investments owned by church and agencies, and the services we provide that help connect money with ministry.

The Foundation is now eighteen years old and continues to be guided by the same core values as they were expressed on Day 1. Those values reflect our commitment to serve: to serve Moravians, congregations, agencies, and the Body of Christ we all call the Moravian Church. Let me offer some specifics and begin with our planned giving program, which we call GiftLegacy.

GiftLegacy is about working with people who wish to plan a gift today that generally will not be made until they enter into the more immediate presence. The most common form of planned giving is through our wills, but there are others ways Moravians can remember the Church.

Eighteen years ago, our Board adopted the core value called the "Grandparent Principle" (which is reflected in our Gift Acceptance Policies). Very simply, it says that we will not suggest a gift or gift plan to a person that we wouldn't also suggest to our grandparents. This means we are entirely focused on the individual, couple, or family, and their hopes, dreams, worries, and aspirations, so that we can do right by them every time.

Along with the Grandparent Principle, the Trustees established policies that prohibit us from raising a penny to support or work and from soliciting gifts for any single ministry of the Church.

You maybe asking, “How do they go about their planned giving work?” Well, we publish and mail newsletters. We run ads in The Moravian magazine. We have an active Facebook page and dynamic website which we update regularly. And we have a weekly eNewsletter. We use all of these to tell the stories of Moravians who are making planned gifts, to educate people on planned giving, and to share how we can help. The only way we contact a person, couple, or family about making a gift is if they contact us via a response card, email, or phone call. NO ONE IS EVER CALLED or VISITED WITHOUT AN INVITATION!

This is in contrast to what other charities, colleges and universities, and hospitals do. They have important institutional needs and hire a professional staff whose job is to reach out and ask for gifts. The staff’s job performance is measured by how many people they contact and visit, and how much is raised each year. The professional parlance for securing a planned gift is called “closing a gift”.

The Foundation has great respect for these organizations, their work, and the professionals who serve them, but we do not and will never work this way. We have never “closed a gift”. Our work is about helping those who want to connect their faith to their gift. Therefore, since we are focused on the goals and desires of the person we meet with, s/he is in charge of the process. We simply listen, learn and serve. So, when a Moravian says s/he wants to make a gift to her/his local church, we talk about the best ways and means of accomplishing that goal, and let her or him decide.

Sometimes – and this has happened often – we listen, learn, and suggest the person postpone making a gift for the time being. We don’t want someone’s rush to be generous to come back and hurt her or him in any way. Remember the Grandparent Principle! Sometimes the process can seemingly take forever; in fact, it is not uncommon for some people to take years before they decide. Remember the Grandparent Principle! And if someone decides not make that gift, we express our gratitude and don’t bother her or him again. It’s that Grandparent Principle, you see. 

The Foundation’s performance is measured by the quality of service, not quantity. We provide lots of information, but the people who contact us are in charge. Each gift is a very personal expression of gratitude for the grace and blessings God has bestowed upon the giver. Deciding how to share that gratitude is a faith-driven experience that demands our utmost respect.  

What happens after a person makes a plan to do something? Of course we thank her/him and stay in touch. We send cards and call occasionally to see how s/he is doing. In other words, we treat everyone like family. If someone, through our work, has decided to support her/his Church, an agency of the church, and the like, we never release that information to anyone or any organization unless given permission to do so. There’s the Grandparent Principle at work again! The bond and trust we have is paramount and stands firmly in the center of all we do.

So, what about the results? Over the past eighteen years, we have served hundreds of Moravians who have given, or plan to give, about $40,000,000 to $45,000,000 in planned and outright gifts to churches, agencies, and other affiliated organizations throughout both Provinces. Not a penny of this is for our work. The gifts range from a $5 check to upwards of $10,000,000. In every case and regardless of the amount, everyone is treated the same. You see, for us the gift is the special relationship we have with everyone who asks us for help; it’s a relationship built on respect, trust, and a shared desire to serve God in all we do.  

Next we will tell the story of the Moravian Common Fund and how the Grandparent Principle impacts this exciting and growing ministry of the Foundation.