Diocese of California looks to the future to support congregational sustainability, essential housing

Jul 18, 2023 | #DidYouKnow, #FunFacts

Canon Davey Gerhard

Davey Gerhard, Canon for Stewardship, describes successful Expanding Horizons capital campaign

An interview by Donald Miller

The Diocese of California is uniquely positioned to face post-pandemic realities by providing resources that address critical issues, especially among congregations and the wider community of the San Francisco Bay Area. Through extensive fundraising, Bishop Marc Handley Andrus, working closely with Canon for Stewardship Davey Gerhard, secured an unprecedented amount of funding that will equip the Diocese of California to face the future with confidence. Important institutions such as the Bishop’s Ranch and Episcopal Impact Fund, among many others, were the beneficiaries of the Expanding Horizons campaign.

The Bishop’s Ranch in Healdsburg, one of the beneficiaries of the Expanding Horizons campaign.

The Diocese of California is one of only a few Episcopal dioceses with a staff role dedicated to stewardship and development. In this Q&A interview with Canon Davey he described the Expanding Horizons capital campaign, which raised more than $15 million for congregations, ministries, and diocesan institutions between 2016 to 2019.

Q: What were the origins of the Expanding Horizons Campaign?

Gerhard: One of the conversations that the bishop and I had right from the outset was that we need to run a capital campaign to increase capacity in the diocesan budget to help congregations and to shore up some diocesan institutions and give them essential help. In 2013, such was the landscape in San Francisco with the tech boom and unprecedented wealth in the Bay Area, that we thought, “This is the time to run the kind of campaign that could really ensure the diocese could operate well and serve its congregations.”

And the other thing that Bishop Marc and I wanted to accomplish was to continue the work of the diocese as a thought leader in the Bay Area. So, really establishing, reminding, that we are relevant and that we have something to say about what our civic Bay Area life is and how a community should function. A lot of our work with Expanding Horizons was to raise that awareness as well.

Q: Did the campaign address essential housing?

Gerhard: Absolutely. We weren’t going to do that initially. We got feedback. What kept coming back was, if The Episcopal Church is to engage in anything meaningful, housing has to be one of the things that it does. It’s the biggest crisis that we’re facing outside of climate in the Bay Area.

Q: Who made the decision about how the campaign funds would be allocated?

Gerhard: We had a steering committee of about 25 that met in the early months of 2015. They were comprised of members from our institutions (specifically, the Bishop’s Ranch, St. Dorothy’s Rest, and the Episcopal Impact Fund), a collection of rectors and vicars who represented congregations that said they would participate or that had underrepresentation in the diocese, and also some representatives from the Executive Council and the Standing Committee.

Q: What can you say about the donors and the congregations that participated?

Gerhard: The largest gift we received, $10 million, came from the legendary, amazing philanthropist Bill Bowes, a faithful Episcopalian, a member of Grace Cathedral, the grandfather of venture capital. Just a stunning human being. He died a few years ago and the world lost a beautiful man, but his generosity continues through his foundation, the William K. Bowes Jr. Foundation, and through his wife, Ute, who is also a gift to the world. 

The thing that got Bill to say, “Here’s my ten million dollars,” was the big idea. The big idea was that congregations are the hub of community action, and that the capital campaign would strengthen and support congregations to engage in the five practices, which are: invitation, diversity, collaboration, sustainability, and neighborhood embeddedness. His donation encouraged other generous donations.

We raised great money with the congregations that participated. These congregations raised lots of money for their programs, for their infrastructure, or for whatever they needed to do. Great money was raised, great work is being done. 

At the end of the day, seven hundred donors made gifts to the campaign. And those gifts ranged from the tiny to the miraculous. And every one of them mattered to us. It was beautiful to get a one-time gift of $50 from someone who said they just wanted to participate, as beautiful as it was to get those really large gifts that came in to us. That says to me we are raising awareness and relevance, we have great influence, and we have great people and generosity in this diocese.

Q: Of the people who worked on the campaign, who do you think deserves credit?

Gerhard: Bishop Marc. Bishop Marc solicited almost every major donor gift himself. At the end of the day, our donors, like me, wanted to hear from the bishop what the big idea was. I also don’t want to discount Dr. Sheila’s work in this. Much of the hospitality fell on Sheila, to organize and plan and be there by his side. Also deserving much credit are the diocesan staff, our communications team, myself and the development staff at the time.

Q: What obstacles did you face?

Gerhard: One of the obstacles was convincing everyone that we weren’t going to take money away from them, but that what we were going to do was add money to them, through service, through gifts, through increased capacity. And so, we made a pledge that clergy would be involved in the solicitation of their donors and that they would be offered a chance to collaborate, make a gift both to the campaign and to the congregation.

Q: What is the most rewarding aspect of the campaign for you?

Gerhard: The one thing I most wanted to see and the thing that makes me feel best about it, is the capacity we have to give money back to congregations that need it. Investing in our congregations is the best bang for the buck that the diocese could hope for. It’s the big idea; it’s where everything is happening.

Q: Is there anything else you want to share about the campaign, or stewardship and development in general?

Gerhard: The work of the Canon for Stewardship is to bring in stewardship, planned giving, fundraising, events, and development work. Not just to do work in the diocese, but I have colleagues all around in our congregations who call on me for support at all levels. That we’re able to do that across the diocese, to support fundraising initiatives at our congregations, is a real gift. I’m proud and excited every day to engage in this work at the diocese.

Ellie Simpson
Author: Ellie Simpson


1 Comment

  1. Betsy Rosen

    Well done, good and faithful servants!


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