Crunching the numbers: Staff fund-raise their own Echo Ranch salaries

Posted: Friday, November 28, 2008

The youth of Southeast should have every opportunity to spend a week at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. This has been a priority of Echo Ranch from the beginning. One of the ways this is made possible is every staff member raises their own salary.

I have touched on this in previous articles, but I would like to look at it again. The camp is here to serve or minister to the adults and youth of Southeast.

Based solely on the Bible, ministry should be free or as low cost as possible. Hence, the need for every Echo Ranch staff member to ask for money, something that does not come easy.

Echo Ranch Bible Camp is a member of Avant Ministries of Kansas City, Mo., a nonprofit. Avant was formerly Gospel Missionary Union and helped to start Echo Ranch around 1964. Allen and Catherine McMurchie were the original homesteaders and they donated the land to GMU.

Avant coordinates the training and the staffing of Echo Ranch. They set the salary level for each missionary and provide instruction on how to raise support. Echo Ranch is also a non-profit but any donations given to the camp are designated to camp operations. The staff request personal donors to send money directly to Avant who then allocates the money accordingly.

When a person decides to join the Echo Ranch staff they spend two weeks at Avant headquarters for training. During this time the missionaries establish how they are going to raise support. Most of the staff originally come from the Lower 48 and are now living in Southeast. This means the churches and people most likely to support them come from their home town.

The first step is to sit down and figure out who these people might be and the best way to make contact with them. The usual method for fund raising is sending out letters explaining the need and asking for help. With the advent of the Internet, missionaries also send emails and set up personal blogs or websites. Don't think church missionary; think more along the lines of a small business owner.

An Echo Ranch staff member has to market their work at the camp and inspire people to see the vision. Should you decide to donate to an Echo Ranch missionary you might receive a refrigerator magnet with their picture on it, a regular or quarterly newsletter, and every so often a personal visit.

Avant requires that after so many years, their missionaries return home to update churches and supporters in person. Once the camp season ends, the staff member heads south to begin the fundraising tour. They have a couple of months to travel wherever necessary.

Churches may offer only a few minutes to present on Sunday morning or set up times during Sunday school. Dinners are spent at various homes sharing stories and showing camp highlight videos. Should the opportunity arise for a new supporter, the missionary will happily welcome them to the team.

I remember when I first joined Echo Ranch and the daunting task of raising support. The idea of asking people for money can be frightening. It also doesn't fit the usual 9-5 salary life that I was used to. I knew that if I put in a 40-hour work week I was going to receive a certain wage. Being donor-supported means living with constant uncertainty of how much people are going to give. One month all the pledges might come in and then the next month a person or church might forget or fall on hard times. Without minimal support levels, it makes it hard to afford things like health insurance and groceries.

The youth of Southeast should have every opportunity to spend a week at Echo Ranch Bible Camp. I believe in the positive message and environment that Echo Ranch provides. I believe that over the past 40 years God has used this camp to change young lives for the better. My momentary monetary conditions pale in comparison with a person putting their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. If you happen to support an Echo Ranch staff member or a church that does, thank you. There aren't enough newsletters nor refrigerator magnets that can express our appreciation.

• Jon-Michael Gwinnell is a staff member at Echo Ranch Bible Camp.

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