By: Christa Meland
Val Walker, executive director of the Minnesota United Methodist Foundation, announced her intention to retire June 30.
Walker has headed the Foundation for the past 14 years, during which time she turned what was a small ministry into a full-service foundation that provides fund development programs for the Minnesota Conference, local churches, and individuals.
Foundation services for local churches now include planned giving seminars, coaching for clergy, finance committee consultation, permanent endowment investments, stewardship materials, and capital campaign consultation.
After starting and running her own fundraising company for nearly two decades, Walker was hired as the Foundation’s interim director for a six-month period in 2005. But that six months was extended twice, and eventually she agreed to take the helm on a permanent basis. She recalls that the Foundation was managing funds for 21 churches when she began; its investment fund now covers 227 churches and exceeds $30 million.
Walker, a longtime United Methodist and a member of Hennepin Avenue UMC in Minneapolis, is especially passionate about helping people understand the connection between giving and discipleship.
“We give out of a sense of God’s blessings,” she said. “One of the messages that’s been most meaningful to me is being able to say: ‘If you want to find real joy, giving of your means is one of the ways that you can experience that. When you give, you take a step of faith. You grow your discipleship.”
Parts of her work that Walker has found it particularly rewarding are helping local churches build their endowments to support their missions into the future, and coaching clergy on how to ask for money—a skill that seminaries don’t always emphasize but one that Walker says can absolutely be learned.
Steve Pinney, president of the Foundation’s board of trustees, thanked Val for her vision and steadfast leadership over the past 14 years.
“Without Val’s dedication to the vision and mission of the Foundation, it would not be the organization that it is today,” he said. “We will miss Val’s leadership and insights, but take comfort in the solid organization that she has built. She has provided a solid base for the Foundation to build on going into the future, and for that, we cannot thank her enough. We wish her well as she enters into her next phase of life.”
The Foundation board has begun a search for the organization’s next executive director.
Walker said she’s thankful to Bishop Bruce R. Ough and the Foundation board for supporting the Foundation and its goals—and credits them for all the Foundation has been able to accomplish.
As she leaves her position, Walker’s hope for the Foundation going into the future is that it’s able to develop a network of trained individuals to visit churches all over Minnesota and consult on fundraising and stewardship best practices.
In her retirement, Walker plans to spend more time with loved ones but is also eager to use her fundraising experience and expertise to volunteer, and she’s begun to research opportunities in both the non-profit and for-profit arenas.
As she looks back and prepares for her next chapter, Walker is filled with gratitude.
“Whatever I might have given to this conference by way of leadership, I have gained so much more,” she said. “I can’t think of a day in these past 14 years that I haven’t gotten up and looked forward to what I was going to do that day. I’ve found that the body of Christ really comes forward as people begin to get a vision of what can happen through a message that says, ‘Through giving, you find joy but you also change lives.’ It’s such a remarkable job to be able to go and leave that message with people.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church