Endowments enable funding to meet the goal of educating Lutheran leaders.
by Roland Lovstad
Colleges and universities are complex, sometimes delicate, organizations, observes Dr. Kurt Krueger, president of the Concordia University System and executive director of the LCMS Board for University Education. Krueger explains that circumstances can affect the delicate balance: retirement or departure of key faculty or staff, a poor recruiting year, or unexpected campus maintenance, to name a few. Another example: generous financial aid attracts students, but funds must be replenished annually. Too little aid can cause enrollment to decline.
“If we have strong endowments, our schools could weather some of these cycles more effectively,” Krueger says. “We are trying to encourage our schools to devote time and effort to raise endowment dollars.”
The “For the Sake of the Church” initiative, begun in 1998 with assistance from the LCMS Foundation, seeks to address that issue. The goal is to raise $400 million by 2010 for endowments at the Concordia colleges and universities. A second, parallel goal is to double the Lutheran student enrollment at the synodical colleges.
Through 2007, development staffs at the Concordias and the LCMS Foundation have raised $160 million. In February, the foundation added a principal gifts coordinator to assist the colleges and universities in coordinating their efforts to increase endowments. The coordinator will help identify potential donors, learn their interests, and connect them with development staffs at the colleges and universities.
“Endowment at an institution of higher education is absolutely critical to the institution’s future,” remarks Dr. John Johnson, president of Concordia University Chicago. Since he became president three years ago, the university’s endowment has grown by at least $1 million yearly. During his tenure as president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, the endowment nearly tripled.
For the Sake of the Church has a welcome impact, Johnson notes. In Chicago, the effort especially increased financial aid and scholarships. Johnson adds that endowments also can support operational needs such as assuring competitive faculty and staff salaries.
He adds that endowment is a relatively new concept for LCMS colleges and universities. “For many years, synodical support was seen as covering the expenses,” he says. “There probably was a generation of donors who were never introduced to the importance of endowment. As a result, we rank low in terms of endowments in comparison to our peer institutions.”
At the same time, members of LCMS congregations have been generous with other kinds of support. Their gifts provide scholarships, construct buildings, and fund special needs at the colleges and universities. Along with tuition, these gifts fund the major portion of the institutions’ operations. During the past 40 years, more congregational offerings are being spent locally, so the national Synod’s unrestricted budget has fewer dollars to support the 10 colleges and universities, which receive $1.7 million per year from that source. Averaging about $170,000 per institution, those funds comprise less than one percent of their annual budgets, thus making endowments more important.
“Endowments live on until the Lord returns,” explains Mike Flynn, who served 13 years in fund-development roles at Concordia University, St. Paul, and is now senior philanthropic advisor for Concordia Seminary, St. Louis. “So we’re asking people to invest in our organization by providing a gift for endowment that is not used in the year it is received, but the annual income will be used for generations to come.”
For that reason, Flynn believes it is “extraordinarily important” that the institution—whether seminary or college—have a clear mission that can project far into the future. That way, donors know their endowment gifts are supporting an organization that is consistent with their interests for the future.
While many donors fund scholarships and financial aid, Flynn adds that endowments also can fund faculty positions, research, or building maintenance. A general endowment allows a college or university to direct the annual income to needs that vary from year to year.
More Lutheran Students
Building endowments also supports the other component of For the Sake of the Church—increasing the number of Lutheran students attending the Concordias. While professional church workers often are considered synonymous with “synodical college,” the Concordias also seek to educate Lutheran leaders for community, country, and world.
Last fall, 6,307 students identified themselves as Lutheran among the 21,839 students enrolled at the 10 Concordias. That is about 100 more than in fall 2006. However, the number who declared their intent to enter church-work careers declined to 2,237 from 2,406 in fall 2006.
The Concordia University System, as well as the individual colleges and universities, seeks to inform prospective students about the Concordias. Annually, the national office sends a personal letter to eighth-grade students whose names and addresses are shared by congregations. The office also offers free materials so congregations can observe annual “Concordia Sundays.”
“Over the years, we have attracted only four or five percent of our confirmands into our Concordias,” Krueger observes. “Congregations can plant the idea in the minds of their young people from early on—from the sixth or seventh grade—to consider church work, but also to consider a Christian education at a synodical college or university.”
There is another thing the church can do, Krueger concludes. “Our congregational leaders can do everything they can to provide a livable wage to their church workers. It is one of the big hurdles that we face in attracting students to church work.”
The Concordias: ‘Crown Jewels’ and ‘Gifts of God’
“They’ve often been called ‘crown jewels’ of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I’m referring, of course, to the 10 Concordia colleges and universities of the LCMS. Having personally visited each of their campuses, I’m happy to report that they are indeed wonderful gifts of God to the LCMS. The importance of Christian higher education from a Lutheran perspective cannot be overemphasized. A major challenge faced by university students and their parents is the high cost of obtaining a quality education at the post-high-school level. That makes it all the more important for the goals of ‘For the Sake of the Church,’ including the development of $400 million in endowments for our 10 institutions, to be pursued and accomplished, by God’s grace and with His blessing.”
—Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod
Be an Education Partner: Give a Gift Today
Your gift to “For the Sake of the Church” will make it possible for the son or daughter of an LCMS family to attend a Concordia University. To help, or for more information, call, toll-free, (800) 248-1930, ext 1252, or write to For the Sake of the Church, 1333 S. Kirkwood Road., Saint Louis MO 63122.
More information about “For the Sake of the Church” may be found at http://sake.lcms.org. Information about donating directly to a Concordia college or university may be found at the institutions’ Web sites, which are listed elsewhere in this issue.