“Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back.” Luke 6:38 (NLT)
The theme of the 2017 Annual Conference was “Imagine; By Faith It Can Happen.” Just as our conference imagines and dreams of new ideas and strategies for the churches and agencies within the AWF Conference, we at the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Foundation continue to have a vision for new services and resources that can be used to better serve our conference.
A vision for a United Methodist Foundation in the AWF Conference started among a group of dedicated United Methodist men and women. The dream was for an agency that would bridge the gap between the mission and financial needs of the church both presently and into the future.
Founding members began to lay the groundwork for the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Foundation, and the agency was approved at the 1978 AWF Annual Conference. The founding members were so passionate about the mission and ministry the Foundation could accomplish, that they each pledged to give $5,000 in seed money over the course of 5 years to help start its work.
This new agency would accept deposits from both United Methodist churches and agencies, make loans to churches for building renovation and expansion, manage invested funds, and could be named fiduciary of bequests and trustee of trust funds. Gifts accepted could include cash, stocks, mutual funds, real estate, wills, insurance policies, trust funds, etc.
January 11, 1979, the dream for the Foundation became a reality, and the Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Foundation was born. Thirty-six lay directors and nine district superintendents met to finalize organizational aspects of the new Foundation and approve the by-laws. At this meeting the Board of Directors chose its leadership: Harry P. Hall, President, Edward J. Woods, Vice President, and James Y. Carroll, Secretary-Treasurer.
Before 1991 the Foundation had met its goals to raise $10 million in assets, be one of the few self-sustaining Foundations in the country, and was ranked in the top 20% of all United Methodist Foundations regarding assets under management. Word about the Foundation continued to spread, and its services continued to evolve, including the creation of printed resources for churches on financial and estate planning (2002), the creation of a Foundation website (2003), and the addition of the charitable gift annuity as a new way for donors to give (2006).
Under the leadership of the founding Board of Directors, the Foundation flourished. Since 1979, directors have followed in the footsteps of the founding members with their dedication and passion for the Foundation’s ministry. The work of the Foundation truly is “a ministry of generosity, ” and we owe a debt of gratitude to all who have had a hand in the Foundation’s work (Aubrey Stabler, President 2013-2017).
The Alabama-West Florida United Methodist Foundation will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2019 and currently manages over $82 million in assets. Through the years the mission of the Foundation has remained the same. Our services have grown and expanded to cover a variety of financial planning and stewardship areas, including the Endowment Fund Program, investment management and administration, free resources and generosity workshops, and assisting donors and their advisors in completing various gift vehicles.
With the generosity of donors, churches, and agencies, the Foundation has been able to return $76 million back into the AWF Conference since 1979. These funds have supported churches and ministries in many ways, such as building projects, general church maintenance, missions, United Methodist colleges and agencies, scholarships, cemetery maintenance, programming, and hundreds of other ministry programs as unique and promising as the donors themselves.
The ministry, services, and work of the Foundation would not be possible without the support of the AWF Conference, the Foundation Board of Directors, donors, pastors, professional advisors, and the churches and agencies within the AWF Conference. We are grateful for the vision and commitment of our Board of Directors, past and present, and look forward to what God will do through the Foundation in the years to come.