Foundation helps Baptists invest eternally
    September 21 2010 by Norman Jameson
, BR Editor

    The Baptist Foundation serves North Carolina Baptists who want to discuss how to leave a legacy for ensuing generations through Christian estate planning. The Foundation maintains that everyone should have a will and it encourages every Christian to include ministry organizations as beneficiaries in that will. With certain estate planning vehicles, the donor may realize income and tax benefits while he or she yet lives.

    To discuss the possibilities for your life, contact the Foundation at (800) 521-7334 or through   

    Founded in 1920, North Carolina’s Baptist Foundation observes its 90th anniversary this year and three-fourths of its executive directors are on hand to help celebrate.

    The Baptist Foundation, an agency of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, functioned its first 42 years simply by having its five-member board supervise assets and investments, which started with a $1,000 gift for Baptist Hospital. That gift prompted the Convention to create an agency to handle endowment giving, but it did not employ a fulltime director until Gordon Maddrey was hired in 1962 when assets had reached $250,000.

    Today Clay Warf is only the fourth executive to oversee Foundation work. Assets under management now total $128 million and its mission remains unchanged to help Christian stewards undergird and enable ministry “until Jesus comes.”

    North Carolina was the first Baptist state convention to create a foundation, an idea that originated with Gilbert Stevenson who was Wachovia Bank’s first trust officer, according to Ed Coates, who retired as Foundation exec in 1997. Stevenson was a prominent churchman and lawyer from North Hampton Country.

    According to Coates, Stevenson spoke for two or three successive years at the annual Baptist State Convention meeting to push the notion that the Convention needed a trust agency.

    The first such agency in Southern Baptist life, Coates said North Carolina’s Foundation is still considered “a pilot, a key foundation and it is admired for what we do here in terms of management.”  

    Area managers
    Coates was just the second executive director, serving for 25 years after succeeding Maddrey in 1972. Upon retirement in 1997 Coates was succeeded briefly by Scoot Dixon who returned to Gardner-Webb University after just a year at the helm.

    Warf succeeded Dixon and is the first pastor to claim that seat.

    To improve access to key Foundation personnel, the Baptist Foundation inaugurated the concept of area managers with Tom Denton operating out of New Bern in the east; Charles Fox in Winston-Salem and David Webb in Morganton. That move multiplied the face of the Foundation and puts personal service very near the vast majority of North Carolina Baptists.

    It also cut a lot of miles off the schedules of Warf and Development Director Bill Overby, who started with the Foundation in 1991. The Foundation’s current strength “has a lot to do with the area managers who are out there every day,” Warf said.

    BR photo by Norman Jameson

    Clay Warf, left, is only the fourth executive director in the 90-year history of the Baptist Foundation of North Carolina. Ed Coates, right was the second. Bill Overby, center, has been on staff since 1991 and is director of development.

    He believes people are very receptive to Foundation representatives because they aren’t selling anything.

    “All we’re trying to do is help them be good stewards and use their God-given assets to support the very things they’ve loved and supported all their lives,” Warf said.

    “No one profits from anything an individual does in their estate plans,” Overby said. “We are just there to help.”

    The Foundation staff finds their work “a joy” Warf said because they work daily with “the most generous people in the world.” Staff gets excited about the generosity of people who are looking for a way to support the ministries and institutions they love when they no longer need the resources God has blessed them with in this life.

    The Foundation took the lead 36 years ago when it began to sponsor an annual meeting for development officers of North Carolina Baptist agencies and institutions. Coates came back from a (now defunct) SBC Stewardship Commission event determined to be as knowledgeable about trusts and financial instruments as he could and he put training at the top of his list for all staff members.

    For almost four decades the Foundation has been instrumental in helping other development officers be knowledgeable as well.  

    You can start small
    People can establish an endowment at the Baptist Foundation with as little as $100, an amount unheard of in other foundations, and one that makes no business sense, Overby said.

    But it makes the Foundation accessible to anyone and “makes a lot of friends,” he said. No endowment will begin to pay out to beneficiaries until it grows to $1,000.

    Working with the Baptist Foundation for estate planning makes sense for many reasons, said Coates, Overby and Warf while visiting around a conference table in the Foundation building in Cary. The building was erected on land donated by the Baptist State Convention, whose staff office building is across the parking lot.

    Persons establishing a trust can typically enjoy capital gains tax savings, secure an income for themselves and gain favorable income tax treatment. A single trust can support multiple ministries.

    The purpose of the Foundation has not changed in 90 years, but laws have changed and new vehicles that benefit both donors and institutions have arisen.

    The Foundation has expanded into church fund management. Churches with funds beyond what they need for operating can invest that money with the Foundation and enjoy favorable returns without the worry and hassle of managing the funds themselves. And the money is available to the church with 30 days notice.

    In longer term investments, churches are starting endowments with funds designated for missions, scholarships or the cemetery, etc., Overby said. “The church can control the investment but they can’t pull the principle back so the next generation can’t pull the money for a new roof or to pave the parking lot.”

    The Foundation cautions new donors not to be so specific in designating the funds’ use that they will become impractical in 100 years. With even moderate earnings, an endowment may grow beyond the vision of its donor and if it is too severely limited earnings may be restricted beyond being useable.

    The Foundation charges a management fee for the assets in its control.

    The fee is one-half percent for churches, and one percent annually for individual endowments. The Cooperative Program funds about seven percent of the Foundation’s budget.  

    You need a will
    Fewer than one-third of persons have a will that directs distribution of their estate upon their death, Warf said.

    That means they are trusting the state to know and carry out their wishes, which is impossible. Warf encourages every Christian to create a will and to at least tithe his or her estate to Christian work.

    “From a Christian perspective you haven’t taken care of your family; you’ve given up any potential opportunity to give to your church or other Christian ministries when you don’t have a will,” Overby said.

    Even churches that are disbanding have turned to the Foundation to handle their assets and to utilize them for new work.

    In April 2009 the Foundation launched North Carolina Baptist Financial Services to provide loans to churches affiliated with the Baptist State Convention.

    The Convention made an initial investment into the loan pool, which was also opened to individuals purchasing certificates of participation.

    With 26 loans approved for $15.6 million, the new venture has “probably gone better than we could have anticipated,” Warf said.

    While the Foundation is celebrating its past, Warf is excited because the future holds “so much potential as more people are taking seriously their estate stewardship opportunity.”

    Foundation leaders emphasize that estate planning is for everyone, not just for those with large assets.

    “It doesn’t matter how much you have, just be a good steward of whatever it is,” said Overby. “When you bring it all together, it is significant.”

    “Imagine the last 20 years in your church,” Warf said. “What if all those good people you knew and loved who have gone on to their reward had left a tithe of their estate to the church? Where would you be today?

    “Think about 20 years from now. You can do something about that.” 
    9/21/2010 10:13:00 AM by Norman Jameson
, BR Editor | with 0 comments

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