Impact Stories

Growing in faith. Growing in giving.

We start as children, dropping a few coins into a Sunday school donation basket and watching as our parents place their giving envelope in the plate. As we grow up (and older) in the church, our giving evolves as well, reflecting new depths of meaning, understanding and experience.

Major and planned gifts are a reflection of growth in giving. Yes, they are truly gifts for the future. But they also are enduring testimonies of lives joyfully lived in faith – year after year. Read how faithful members like you are making an impact through gifts now and in the future.
Charitable Gift Annuity: Alpha Ekstrom

We are a church that believes God is calling us into the world – together, achieving things on a scale and scope that we could never do otherwise.

Alpha Ekstrom has enjoyed a rewarding career serving at the ELCA churchwide organization, spanning from the Augustana Synod (a predecessor to the Lutheran Church in America) to the churchwide organization, where she served in the Office of the Secretary as a historian and record keeper.

Alpha: “The church has been a big part of my life. The friends that I have made … the many experiences I had … I have learned so much, and, as a result, my faith has grown.”

It only seemed natural, then, for Alpha to support her favorite ministries of the ELCA through her estate plan.

By establishing a charitable gift annuity with the ELCA Foundation, Alpha has the satisfaction of knowing her gift will continue to bless the work of this church and provide her with regular fixed payments for life, as well as tax benefits.

Alpha: “It’s a wonderful way to remember this church. My dream for this gift annuity is that it can help other people. Helping others and supporting the church and its ministries are all very important to me.”

Among the ministries Alpha’s gift will support: ELCA Vision for Mission, ELCA World Hunger and ELCA Fund for Leaders.

Alpha: “I have enjoyed supporting these different causes. I’ve tried to give, with the little funds that I had, to support the church. Giving and tithing is something that you can grow into. It becomes a very joyful thing that you can do.”

To learn more about how you – together with generous donors like Alpha and so many others – can achieve things on a scale and scope that you could never do otherwise, contact the ELCA Foundation for more information.

Memorial Endowment Fund: Amanda Weinkauf

Each of us has a unique story, and we are part of a larger story that makes up the ELCA. We work through our congregations, synods and partners, and the churchwide organization. Together, we achieve things on a scale and scope that we could never do otherwise.

While undergoing Clinical Pastoral Education as a student at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, Amanda Weinkauf saw firsthand the harm that can occur when individuals do not have an estate plan.

Amanda: “I saw a lot of people fighting over what the loved one would have wanted … . No one really likes to talk about money, and no one really likes to talk about death, either. But all of this stress and angst could be alleviated if people talk about this much sooner.”

That experience and her theological training have taught Amanda, 31, that the earlier one can get started on estate planning, the better.

Amanda recently put that lesson into action after her father passed away, establishing the Amanda L. Weinkauf Memorial Endowment Fund with the inheritance she received.

She and her mother had talked about a way to sensibly honor his memory.

Amanda: “We said, ‘If I die, you don’t need this money, and if you die, I don’t need your money.’ We just wanted to be responsible and have a plan so that if something ever did happen, people [wouldn’t wonder], ‘Oh well, what would she have wanted?’”

With the assistance of her ELCA Foundation regional gift planner, Amanda designated funds for ELCA ministries with which she has had personal experiences. For example, her travels to places like Guyana, Haiti and Palestine inspired her to support ELCA World Hunger and Lutheran Disaster. And the generosity of her home congregation, Lutheran Church of the Cross in St. Petersburg, Fla., which covered the difference of her seminary tuition and books, also inspired her generosity.

Amanda: “Because [my home congregation] has given to me, I put them in [the estate plan] so that money could go back to be used for additional Lutheran education scholarships.”

The endowment fund also supports the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, other global ministries of the ELCA, as well as the ELCA Fund for Leaders seminary scholarship program.

Amanda: “I received some money from the ELCA Fund for Leaders of the ELCA Florida-Bahamas Synod, and I know of a whole slew of classmates at seminary who are receiving funds from [the Fund]. It’s important to bring up new servant leaders, and school is expensive.”

By establishing the endowment fund, Amanda has achieved things on a scale and scope that she never could have done otherwise.

In addition to supporting a wide range of ministries, Amanda will provide a witness for those she encounters as a parish pastor in the years to come, she says.

Amanda: “We can’t talk about stewardship in our churches and not be doing it. I don’t have that much money, but it was important to set up a pattern of lifestyle and a way of thinking. I think that is good servant leadership.”

Deferred Charitable Gift Annuity: Dale and Deana McDaniel

We are a church that is energized by lively engagement in our faith and life. Doing so puts us right where God wants us to be: in the thick of life.

ELCA Members Dale and Deana McDaniel found themselves in the thick of life in 1968 when many neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., saw riots following the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. That period of turmoil was the catalyst that initiated the transformation of their congregation, Luther Place Memorial, as well as the McDaniels themselves.

The ELCA congregation realized it needed to serve its neighborhood, not just its members. Luther Place opened its doors to people during the riots. This, in turn, led to the development of additional outreach ministries, of which Dale and Deana became involved, including the overnight shelter and the eventual creation of N Street Village, which provides an array of services for homeless women to this day.

After Deana passed away in 2005, Dale heard countless stories of how his wife’s hospitality and friendliness to strangers at Luther Place Memorial changed many lives.

Before her death, the McDaniels wanted to do something special to support their congregation and the other ministries they loved.

They contacted an ELCA Foundation regional gift planner who explained how easy it was for the McDaniels to carry out their wishes through a deferred charitable gift annuity, which allowed them to joyfully give — and receive tax savings and retirement income for the future.

They also set up two Charitable Remainder Unitrusts — both offering income for life, as well as tax advantages. The charitable beneficiaries will eventually be the ELCA Foundation, ELCA World Hunger, their congregation and other ministries.

Dale describes giving as a “lifetime process.”

Dale: “When I was younger, it never occurred to me to tithe in real life. I used to think of it as a goal but not something I could really do. Part of my discovery and understanding was that we aren’t called on a journey upward or of being more important. We are on a journey of living on less so we have more to share with other people.”

What brings you joy? What ministries inspire you? Like the McDaniels, you, too, could support your favorite missions through a deferred charitable gift annuity, receiving peace of mind, as well as retirement income and tax savings.

Charitable Gift Annuity: Don and Kathy Lindman

We are a church that believes Jesus is God’s “Yes” to us. Our lives can be a “Yes” to others. The “Yes” of Jesus Christ compels and empowers us to be open and accessible within any community, within any context.

While Don Lindman was serving as parish pastor at two churches early in his ministry, the president of one of his congregations told Don he should consider becoming a military chaplain.

Don remained open to the idea of serving in a different context and eventually said “Yes” to this call, spending the next 28 years serving his church and his country as a pastor, mentor, chaplain and soldier.

Serving in the soldier readiness processing center remains one of Don’s greatest privileges in ministry. There he worked as part of a team in interviewing each soldier individually.

Don: “I would sit down with brand-new fathers or mothers, with grandparents, with corporate executives and college students … but they all had something in common. Their call to active duty disrupted everything in their life, yet they answered the call to serve their country with grace and dignity.

Throughout their 45 years of marriage, Don and his wife, Kathy, a retired elementary schoolteacher, have always made their giving decisions together with their faith at the center.

After Don’s mother passed away in October 2009, the Lindmans received a gift through her estate. They in turn wanted her legacy and love for ministry to be carried forward.

They discovered setting up a charitable gift annuity with the ELCA can benefit the ministries that mean so much to them — as well as receive tax advantages and supplemental retirement income, with good payouts based on their age. They also found joy knowing the remainder of their gift will one day benefit a wide range of ministries.

Don: “Our faith has inspired us to share our blessings with others. Psalm 23 serves as the core of my giving for my cup truly runs over. Any time I’ve shared excess in my life, I’ve received more in return than I ever imagined. We’re not here to consume things but to share with others. We’ve been blessed.”

Like the Lindmans, you, too, can say “Yes” to remembering the church in your estate plans. You can do God’s work in the world through a charitable gift annuity with the ELCA.

Endowment Fund: Esther and Harry Arne

We are a church that is deeply rooted — and always being made new.

ELCA Members Esther and Harry Arne have a deep understanding of the statement, We are a church that is deeply rooted — and always being made new since they both witnessed the transformation of the ELCA’s three predecessor church bodies into a new church in 1988. Esther and Harry both had leadership roles in the process of merging the three men’s and women’s groups into one.

Harry served two terms as the founding president for Lutheran Men in Mission, and Esther served as a member of the Women of the ELCA’s first executive committee board. In addition, Esther served as a delegate to the Constituting Convention, the birthplace of the ELCA.

Before Harry passed away, the Arnes wondered how they could give back to the ELCA — the church they have come to love over the years. They met with the ELCA Foundation and discovered they could establish an endowment fund, which would perpetually support the ministries that have meant so much to them.

Esther: “We decided we wanted to do something lasting, so we opened an account with the ELCA Foundations, and we have donated every year since.”

Today, the Arne Memorial Fund, which is invested with the ELCA Endowment Fund Pooled Trust, supports a number of ministries, as well as a scholarship for women seeking a college degree.

Esther: “I would like for women to have the opportunity to go to the top of organizations if they desire.”

The Arnes also established a charitable gift annuity, which provides fixed monthly payments to Esther with the remainder to be added to their endowment after they have both passed on.

Establishing an endowment fund can allow you to perpetually support the ministries that you have passionately supported in the past. To learn how you, like the Arnes, can set up an endowment, contact the ELCA Foundation today.

Charitable Remainder Trust: Harlan and Dolores Stoley

Harlan and Dolores Stoley have a deep appreciation for their homeland in the Highmore area of South Dakota, where they have been in the ranching business almost all of their lives.

So when it came time to retire and sell their land, they wanted to do something that would benefit the environment, as well as themselves and their families.

Harlan: “We didn’t want our land to be plowed up. We wanted to sell it to someone who would keep it in grass permanently.”

With the help of trusted advisors and a regional gift planner with the ELCA Foundation, the Stoleys established a Charitable Remainder Trust, through the ELCA Foundation, which called for the land to be acquired and placed in a trust. Ducks Unlimited then purchased the 1,418 acres from the trust, with the agreement that it be used for conservation and native grassland, along with a portion to be rented to neighbors for limited grazing. The Stoleys kept 35 acres for their home and farm buildings.

The trust provides a steady income stream for the Stoleys in their retirement. Through their estate plan, the trust will provide income for their six daughters and their families for 16 years. The remainder of the principal will then be given to six charities, including 25 percent to ELCA Global Mission.

Harlan: “We’ve always been interested in charitable giving, and this looked like a way to sell the land, put the money in a trust and have a comfortable living for us and our family and still be able to do a lot of good for people.”

To learn more about charitable remainder trusts, contact the ELCA Foundation. 

Distribution Agreement: Ruth Holliday

We are a church that believes Jesus is God’s “Yes” to us. Our lives can be a “Yes” to others. The “Yes” of Jesus Christ compels and empowers us to be open and accessible within any community, within any context.

As a recent college graduate, Ruth Holliday faithfully answered “Yes” to work with interracial groups in the inner cities of New York and New Jersey through the YWCA. She crossed denominational boundaries, serving a Spanish-speaking Methodist congregation in Harlem and a Presbyterian congregation in Brooklyn, serving primarily Italian members.

Later, she answered “Yes” to her next calling: to serve as a missionary in Guyana, where she helped build Sunday school programs, developed religious education materials and strengthened the Lutheran schools.

Today, Ruth spends her retirement playing the chimes at church, attending Bible study and helping deliver the mail to residents at a nearby nursing home.

It only seemed natural for Ruth to carry over that passion for service through her estate plans. Through her will, most of her assets will be given to support ministries of the ELCA through a donor-directed distribution agreement.

Ruth felt drawn to a distribution agreement because it provides flexibility on how her gifts are named and where they are distributed. She also appreciates the fact that she can name up to 10 beneficiaries, with no minimum gift amount required.

In addition, Ruth utilized the beneficiary designation of her commercial annuity to establish an ELCA Fund for Leaders seminary scholarship. She also has set up numerous charitable gift annuities with the ELCA Foundation, each providing her with an annual income stream and charitable tax deduction.

Ruth: “God’s word inspired me to help my neighbor — it is what I am trying to do.”

If Ruth’s story inspires you, and you’d like to learn more about establishing a distribution agreement with the ELCA through your estate plans, contact the ELCA Foundation today. 

Bequest: Ruth Sigmon

We are a church that believes Jesus is God’s “Yes” to us. Our lives can be a “Yes” to others. The “Yes” of Jesus Christ compels and empowers us to be open and accessible within any community, within any context.

“Ruthie” Sigmon faithfully answered “Yes” to the call of serving this church as a missionary in India, from 1945 to 1988. Her work included directing rural and social programs in the Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church in Andhra Pradesh, India. She supervised Bible women who taught Christianity in villages. She also promoted religious education, youth work, women’s groups and adult literacy.

She also helped establish Praja Seva Samstha, an ecumenical group that offered day care, health care, permanent housing, education and income-generating projects to people living on the streets of Guntur — many of them women and girls.

So for those who knew Ruth, it came as no surprise that she joyfully said “Yes,” remembering the church she had served with great passion through a bequest in her will. When she died in 2008, she left nearly $200,000 to the ELCA for programs and projects for women in Asia.

Among the ministries that will benefit from her generosity for years to come: missionaries in Indonesia, supported through ELCA Missionary Sponsorship; and women in Papua New Guinea, who benefit from a special leadership fund.

Our lives, like Ruth’s, can be a “Yes” to others. You, too, may wish to include a bequest in your will to support the missions and ministries that inspire and bring you joy.

The language link below shows how easy that can be done. You might find it helpful to print this page and the bequest language. Please feel free to give this information to your attorney. If he or she has any questions, please contact us.

Click here to review sample bequest language.


The examples and information provided on this website are for illustrative and educational purposes only and should not be considered tax or legal advice. Please consult with your tax or legal advisor about proceeding with your gift plan.

The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, via the ELCA Foundation, currently does not offer charitable gift annuities to any individuals in the states of Alabama and Hawaii.

A charitable gift annuity is not regulated by the Oklahoma Insurance Department and is not protected by a guaranty association affiliated with the Oklahoma Insurance Department. Charitable gift annuities are not regulated by and are not under the jurisdiction of the South Dakota Division of Insurance.

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