The year 2019 will be remembered by many in our Mennonite Brethren family as a year of financial setback and hardship for several of our denominational entities. While the U.S. economy has been strong considering the historically low unemployment and record highs in the stock market, some MB ministries in the United States and Canada have been experiencing significant cutbacks, realignments and deep financial losses. Explanations of significant financial losses and organizational adjustments are being reported through our denominational magazines and by press releases from these MB ministries. One headline in Mennonite World Review on Nov. 11, 2019, read, “Canadian MB leaders apologize for financial losses.”
My purpose in this column is not to point fingers or highlight the misfortune of these MB ministries. I grieve with them for the circumstances our brothers and sisters have had to endure. But I have to wonder if some in our U.S. family are privately waiting to see if there is another shoe to drop.
In response, Don Morris, our USMB national director, asked me to highlight the financial condition of MB Foundation. Though some may not want to dive into the weeds (i.e. numbers), I encourage you to read on.
In my opinion, MB Foundation has never been stronger financially than it is today. Nor have we ever been more generous to our MB family than we are today. In this column I’ll focus on the financial health of the foundation. If you are interested in hearing more about our generosity and service to the MB family, please send me a note.
It will be late spring 2020 before we have the audited financials of MB Foundation available, but here are some key indicators of our financial health and strength from my vantage point:
- Since incorporation Dec. 28, 1990, MB Foundation has experienced asset growth every year. In fact, in 2019, we estimate growth in assets of over $46 million.
- MB Loan Fund was launched Jan. 1, 2003, to better serve our certificate and loan customers. From start to finish, it took less than a year to develop and launch this new vehicle for the lending ministry of our national family.
- We meet and exceed the regulatory requirements for operating MB Loan Fund as directed by our board of directors. Our offering circular is published annually outlining the operational health and strength of the Fund.
- Since I had the privilege of joining the foundation team in 1996, we have experienced a fully funded budget each year; we have never spent more than the budget approved by our board.
- We currently have 16 staff members, 15 in Hillsboro and one in Fresno. Our four-member lead team has a combined tenure at MB Foundation of approximately 57 years. (This despite our new Chief Operations Officer who has only been here 16 months!) The entire team is knowledgeable, dedicated and focused on serving our family with excellence.
- MB Foundation has a recently expanded Board of Directors consisting of 11 individuals who are active members of their local MB church. We also have a special consultant appointed by the board and two directors with emeritus status. These individuals bring a wealth of experience in management, leadership, finance, theology, architecture, construction, real estate, banking, accounting and more.
- Loan loss reserve is “fully funded” as determined by our auditors and would help mitigate any loan losses incurred in our loan portfolio.
- An administrative reserve is in place to carry us through a season of difficulty.
- A newly developed financial model has been established to prudently ensure our financial stability and strength while providing additional funds in support of expanded MB ministries.
- MB Foundation has been a member in good standing of Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) since joining in 2005.
- Our most recent audit and annual report can always be found on our website and copies are available upon request to our constituency.
“As USMB national director, I can assure you that without a strong, healthy MB Foundation providing resources and financial expertise, USMB would not be in a position to provide many of the necessary ministries that we currently do for our MB family,” says Don Morris, USMB national director. “There are a number of ways that MB Foundation adds to the strength of our conference, and I am grateful that our foundation has taken the prudent steps along the way to insure robust financial growth, integrity and vitality. I also appreciate Jon’s investment of time, energy and wisdom as a liaison with our USMB Leadership Board and as a member of the National Strategy Team.”
David Hardt, chair of the USMB Leadership Board, says, “MB Foundation has been a key partner in our national conference of churches for many years. Through the generosity of MB Foundation, the U.S. Conference of Mennonite Brethren Churches has received consistent financial support to help with national ministry in our MB family. It’s not only the financial gifts. MB Foundation has given wise council in helping USMB to stay financially solid as well. MB Foundation has also facilitated financial gifts to many of our MB partner ministries. The commitment of MB Foundation to lead by example in the area of financial stewardship has been a huge asset to our MB family!”
All this said, only God knows what tomorrow brings. We have done our best to build and maintain a healthy financial position. Your faith in us and participation with us has been vital to our success.
More importantly, God has been at work through MB Foundation and we are deeply grateful. We take the instructions from I Timothy 6:17 very seriously and do not want to be proud, trusting in our money, but seek to put our complete trust in the living God. I’m the first to acknowledge that all success MB Foundation has had over the past 29 years is due to his working through us and in spite of us. All failures, large or small, are due to our shortcomings, not his.
I welcome your questions, comments and insights at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Links for additional information:
Jon C. Wiebe has served since 1998 as president and CEO of MB Foundation, the stewardship ministry serving U.S. Mennonite Brethren. He is a graduate of Tabor College, Hillsboro, Kansas, and the University of Denver, Colorado. He is an active member of Parkview MB Church in Hillsboro. He and his wife, Ellynne, have two married sons.