Inspiring Generosity: “We are Stewards, Not Owners.” Meet Julia Frisbie, the New Faith Foundation Northwest Executive Director


“We are Stewards, Not Owners.” Meet Julia Frisbie, the New Faith Foundation Northwest Executive Director

On July 1, Julia Frisbie began her new position as the Executive Director of the Faith Foundation Northwest. She’s stepping in to fill the shoes of Tom Wilson, who retired after 32 years of service.
Julia comes to her position with lots of experience. She grew up in the United Methodist Church and has worked almost exclusively with and for UMC organizations since graduating. According to the Faith Foundation’s website:
A Stanford graduate, she began her career at UMCOR [United Methodist Committee on Relief]. She led our episcopal area’s $1.2-million-dollar Imagine No Malaria campaign, and played a significant role at General Conference 2016. Frisbie has served as an Associate Director of the Faith Foundation Northwest for the past five years. 
It seemed like an opportune time to have a chat with Julia about her new position, where she sees the Foundation going, and to find out what she thinks about stewardship. I talked with her recently via Zoom. Some answers have been edited for clarity and length.
First of all, congratulations on your new position!

Tell me: what does the Faith Foundation Northwest do?
Faith Foundation Northwest exists to help churches and faith communities be financially healthy in the long run. We do that in a couple of ways:
1. Promote planned giving, because that’s how most long-term funds are created. We travel and do workshops and produce a planned giving newsletter. We work one-on-one with donors and talk to them about their trusts and annuities.

2. Manage long-term funds for growth and values. We’re almost like a bank for churches.

3. Provide loans to improve facilities. 
We work with more than 200 churches to manage their funds, 25 churches have loans through our loan program, and we’ve taught seven planned giving workshops so far in 2023. 
You were the Associate Director of the Foundation. What attracted you to the Executive Director position?
I’ve been working within the Methodist ecosystem my whole career and specifically since 2014 in the Pacific Northwest. I fell in love with the people and ministry they are doing to make the world better. I was so impressed with my predecessor, Tom Wilson. I just didn’t feel like my work was finished.
Are there some new things you are hoping to see happen at the Faith Foundation?
I inherited a healthy organization so my mantra is “Don’t break anything!” We have an amazing staff, and we are doing more cross-training to back each other up and serve more people.
My dreams for the future include doing an ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) report when we send out our annual report.
I also hope we can develop an equitable grantmaking process. I would love for us to become a carbon negative organization, and provide loans for affordable housing projects.
Stewardship and generosity seem to be important values of the Foundation – can you tell me what stewardship means to you? How about generosity?
On a personal level, stewardship means acknowledging that the concept of “private property” is problematic. When I think of the land I live on, I feel a responsibility to increase its biodiversity, build topsoil, and grow food and flowers, because I’m only borrowing it for a minute.

We are stewards, not owners.

The good things in this world were here before us and will be here after. We are stewards for our children and their children and all the other plants and animals we share the world with.
When I think of generosity, I think of plants. Plants teach us to make extra and give it away. One of my favorite authors, Robin Wall Kimmerer (Braiding Sweet Grass), writes about plants being the elder brother of creation. They have been here a lot longer than we have, and we have a lot to learn from them. Money is one way we express value, so I like to think about earning extra money – creating extra value – and then sharing it. 
You work with lots of congregations: What three pieces of advice you would you offer to them?
1.  Talk about different ways to give beyond the checkbook. For example, your liquid assets you haven’t paid taxes on (brokerage accounts, some retirement accounts, real estate, etc.). Pick up the phone and call the Faith Foundation. We are the satellite planned giving office for Northwest United Methodist Churches.

2.  Have a paper trail for any kind of long-term fund that’s been entrusted to your congregation – especially if it’s donor-restricted. Be sure to have it in writing and know where you can find these documents. Institutional memory can be a struggle as new leaders come in and old ones leave. Faith Foundation can store copies of documents and be your back-up library. You don’t want to lose your nonprofit status because you failed to follow the donor’s intention for their money.
3.  You used to have to choose between socially responsible and high-performing investments. It’s not that way now. We offer socially responsible funds that will grow long-term assets and make a difference. If you're thinking about investing church funds, give us a call and give socially responsible investments another try.
When you accepted the position, you wrote in your Facebook post:
When women step into leadership there are always lots of questions about how they'll balance work and family, so let me pre-empt a few. Yes, my partner Drew Frisbie is beyond supportive! He's thrilled for me, and for us!! No, we're not moving. Yes, the office is headquartered on the other side of the mountains; yes, I still have snow/ice tires on my car; and yes, I will be wearing out the pavement on Hwy 2 in the short term. 
No, my baby is not weaned yet, and yes, you may see him on my hip at a number of conferences this spring and summer. Yes, Drew is 100% capable of running this household and taking care of our boys when I'm busy. Yes, we're still gonna plant a big garden. And yes: I have always wanted to be the boss. 

Can you talk a little about why you wrote this?
It meant so much to me that the Board chose me as Tom’s successor and I know it was a leap of faith for them. I’m young. I’m female. I don’t look the way we think an Executive Director ought to look. But if we want organizations to be their best then we need to look for the best leadership…no matter what it looks like. And if we want to expand our notion of what leadership looks like, then we need to show up looking different – maybe even with babies on our hips!
I’m also coming into leadership with the knowledge that I have more freedom than anyone in my matrilineal line ever has. When I interviewed for the position, I was wearing a necklace that belonged to my great-great grandma Lizzie. She immigrated here to escape an abusive father, and entered an arranged marriage for the sake of economic survival.
Lizzie’s daughter Grace lost her job to a man who had a family to feed at the start of the Great Depression (although she also had a family to feed). Grace’s daughter Marie is a born manager, but her only career options were teacher, nurse, or secretary… so she started her own business. Twice. Marie’s daughter Anne is a brilliant teacher who had to leave the classroom when one of her two kids got an autism diagnosis and needed full time care, because she earned less than her husband.
And Anne’s daughter? That’s me. I’m not smarter than any of the women who came before me; just born with more options. Women couldn’t even open their own bank accounts until 1974, so it’s amazing that I get to manage a whole financial institution now. When I wear my great-great grandma’s necklace, it’s a way of bringing my ancestors into the room with me, and of sharing this victory with them.

What things do you do to relax?
Sleep. Seriously. It is my form of self-care. Eight hours a night.
What have I missed? Is there anything you’d like to add?

It’s a privilege to work with so many faith communities. These folk have dedicated their lives to ministry. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

New Webinar Series! Making Stewardship a Joy: Starting on August 30, I will be providing a series of three webinars (one per month) for Practical Resources for Churches. The webinars are intended for church cohorts but individuals are welcome too. Interested? Want to sign-up? Get more information here.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a Stewardship Consultant for the OR-ID Annual Conference. She is also a Senior Ministry Strategist with Horizons Stewardship. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous churches and non-profit organizations. One of her summer traditions is watching “America’s Got Talent.” She wants you to sit back and enjoy this group that got one of the coveted Golden Buzzers.
You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com, at CesieScheuermann.com, or at cesieds@horizons.net. Want to schedule a meeting? She’s got you covered!
Schedule a meeting now.
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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.