The Foundation Speaks

On March 23, the Baptist Foundation of Arizona hand-delivered a letter to New Times in response to written questions. The letter, signed by Chairman of the Board Berry Norwood and BFA President William Crotts, included an introductory section, which is printed here:

This letter is the written response of the Board of Directors of the Baptist Foundation of Arizona (BFA) and its principal executives to your written questions of March 3, March 4 and March 13 which were sent to President Bill Crotts, Senior Vice President Thomas Grabinski, and Board Chairman Berry Norwood.

The Baptist Foundation of Arizona was formed in 1948 by the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention (Convention) to raise and manage endowment funds for Southern Baptist charities. These charities primarily include the churches, agencies and institutions of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. BFA's focus has broadened over the years, and today its Operating Mission Statement is to provide resources and expertise to Arizona Southern Baptist charities.

BFA differs from fund-raising organizations like the American Heart Association, United Way, the American Cancer Society, etc., in that these entities solicit donations from individuals, groups, and organizations. BFA does not do this. BFA, in carrying out its mission, assists its clients by providing estate planning and financial services through which they can establish an estate plan or invest in a financial product(s). Many of these clients leave part of their estate to charity.

As of December 31, 1997, more than $450 million has been designated for charity through bequests in wills and trusts established through BFA's Estate Planning Department. These gifts are referred to as "deferred charitable gifts." In 1997, $31 million in deferred gifts were left to more than 130 Southern Baptist and non-Southern Baptist charities.

As of December 31, 1997, BFA's Trust Department managed more than $84 million in trust, of which more than $28 million currently provides income to charitable causes, with the remainder benefiting heirs and charities when donors pass away.

In addition to raising resources for Christian causes, BFA directly operates charitable endeavors as follows:

1. Baptist Senior Life Ministries (BSLM). This entity owns and operates Arizona Baptist Retirement Centers, which has six campuses in three states with more than 1,200 residents. It is the largest non-profit retirement center system in Arizona.

2. Foundation Housing Corp. (FHC). FHC operates three low-income housing projects totaling 150 units and recently completed the Isaiah Project in partnership with the Church on Fillmore in Inner-city Phoenix.

Another way BFA benefits charity is through its "Ministry Investments." This represents the value placed on the time, talent, and services rendered by BFA staff to other Southern Baptist state agencies, entities, and churches. These investments, coupled with the costs to operate the charities noted above as well as BFA's Estate Planning Department, total nearly $3 million per year ($2.7 million in 1997.) All "Ministry Investments" are made at the discretion of the BFA Board.

Through its history, BFA has also provided more than $1.3 million in gifts to the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention for new church work and other endeavors.

In addition, BFA provides financing for Arizona Southern Baptist causes. In 1997, BFA loaned approximately $6 million to Grand Canyon University and about $150,000 to Arizona Baptist Children's Services.

Benefactors of the Foundation
BFA has benefited from partnerships and relationships with successful Christian business leaders who have provided intellectual and financial resources. These benefactors subscribe to BFA's goals and objectives, and have underwritten BFA's growth. The Foundation would not be here today without these people.

The benefactors' financial assistance and business acumen have positioned BFA on a well-directed path to ensure viability over the long term. Their beliefs reflect BFA's goal to be self-sustaining and continue its policy of not relying on short-term funding drives and similar strategies to accomplish its mission.

It is the policy of BFA to not divulge the names of its benefactors.

Foundation Structure
BFA carries out its work through multiple profit and not-for-profit corporations. This structure is dictated by regulatory, tax, and liability considerations. In America today, non-profit organizations commonly form for-profit companies to capture unrelated business income, which is then taxed by the IRS. This national model is followed by BFA. Each for-profit and non-profit entity complies with applicable laws and regulations.

BFA is a non-profit agency of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention. Southern Baptists utilize a congregational form of government in which there is no hierarchy and each church is independent. However, Arizona churches, like those in most other states, cooperate to form a state convention that establishes agencies and institutions to carry out the work that cannot be accomplished by any one church. Today, the Convention consists of nearly 400 churches and missions, with more than 125,000 members.

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Terry Greene Sterling