Lessons From a 4.4 Million $ Gift


Lessons from a 4.4 Million $ Gift 
Ken Sloane, the Director of Stewardship and Connectional Ministries for the General Board of Discipleship for the United Methodist Church (and you thought you had a long title), recently posted an article on the UMC Stewardship Facebook page about Hazel Jones-Olszewsk (seen below).  Most likely, Hazel is not a household name…yet.  But in Wales everyone knows about the legacy gift she left to an Anglican church in Saron a little over a year ago: $4.4 million to be exact.  No one knew she had any money and, get this, although she had grown up in the church, she had not attended St. David's Parish Church for over 20 years.

As you can imagine, to borrow and mangle a phrase, “There is much joy in Who-ville today.”  But along with the understandable excitement – there are some lessons that can be learned from this act of generosity as well.
  • A gift like this is nothing short of a miracle – you cannot bank on it.  I have seen non-profits and churches waiting on their own personal Hazel – and she never comes.  Plan as though your surprise blessing will be that – a surprise and not something you develop your budget around.
  • Do not assume who has money and who does not.  Be honest – the photo of Hazel does not have you saying, “Wow – she must be loaded.  How can I learn to be a millionaire from her?”  Warren Buffet drives an old beater truck and lives in a fairly modest home.  The point is – you don’t know.  Don’t avoid talking about money because you think the person doesn’t have it…remember Hazel.
  • As Ken put so well in his Facebook post, “…remind [y]our people of how they can support the church they love through inclusion of the church and its ministry in their will.”  Who knew that Hazel had such a love for her childhood church?  And thank goodness she had the foresight to create a will and leave it to a beloved place.  Offer a workshop on bequests and wills, place a reminder in your newsletter (“Have you remembered Awesome Church in your estate planning?), or ask directly.  Others are already out there making their case. All it might take from you is a simple, “I hope that you will remember Awesome Church in your will.  Your legacy gift would fund some amazing ministry possibilities – let me tell you about some of them…”

We all praise God for the life of someone like Hazel and we marvel that she could a.) save that much money and b.) give it away based on warm memories.  May your ministry setting be creating those kinds of bonds as well.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2, NRSV).  Here’s to all the angels we come in contact with every single day.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann is a consultant in stewardship, development, and grant writing. Over the past decade, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she helped raise over $2 million dollars for numerous non-profit organizations. She served as the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference Lay Leader from 2008-2012.  She would be (really) happy if someone like Hazel left her a cool million.  Her position with the Conference is fulnded through a generous grant from the Collins Foundation. You can reach her at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com.

If someone has forwarded this to you and you would like to subscribe to "Inspiring Generosity," click here.  Miss an issue?  Click here.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.