Magazine article The Christian Century

Churches Seek Funds from Bequests

Magazine article The Christian Century

Churches Seek Funds from Bequests

Article excerpt

As the income of many churches in the U.S. falls and shows little sign of immediate improvement, some church officials are hoping to encourage donations from what many believe is a huge source of money that is often forgotten by churches--the last will and testament of American Christians. Financial analysts estimate that the older generation of Americans will transfer via wills more than $10 trillion in the next few decades. Some observers have said this development represents the largest transfer of wealth in history.

Most of this capital will be left to family members? and some of it to various secular causes. But some within the churches are saying that substantial amounts could also be obtained to provide a more solid base for religious ministry. The Episcopal Church Foundation, an independent agency which has offices in the same New York building as the church's national headquarters, embarked on a major program of promoting "planned giving" in 1994, according to William G. Andersen Jr., the foundation's executive director. Frederick Osborn III, a foundation official, said the denomination "had obtained about $100 million in wills and bequests over an eight-year period." Originally launched in 1949, the foundation now has over $23 million in assets.

Andersen acknowledged, however, that Episcopalians have lagged far behind Presbyterians in developing a national program for planned giving. He does not expect his agency to catch up in the foreseeable future with the Presbyterian Foundation, which has assets of more than $1 billion. …

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