By: Christa Meland
Sheri Meister—who possesses more than 30 years of fundraising and nonprofit experience—has been selected as the new executive director of the Minnesota United Methodist Foundation. She succeeds Val Walker, who retired June 30 after assuming the position for 14 years.
Meister is also the executive director of the Dakotas United Methodist Foundation—a position she began five years ago. Under a year-long pilot arrangement with the Minnesota Conference, she’ll assume an area-wide role in which she oversees both foundations simultaneously.
Networking is a key strength of Meister’s, and she looks forward to the opportunity to get to know Minnesota churches and leaders, learn about their passions, and ultimately help them generate resources to accomplish their ministry goals.
“It is so rewarding when you can make that connection between people who have means or want to give and help them find a ministry that they truly love and put their resources where their heart is,” said Meister, a longtime United Methodist who attends First UMC in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.
The Minnesota Foundation currently invests money for 227 churches, and its investment fund exceeds $30 million. It also provides planned giving seminars, coaching for clergy, finance committee consultation, permanent endowment investments, stewardship materials, and capital campaign consultation.
Meister said foundations are sometimes seen as banks—but they have the ability to be so much more. She has focused on making the Dakotas Foundation into a full-service development arm of the conference and a key ministry partner for churches, and she is eager to bring that same focus to Minnesota.
Meister and two other Dakotas staff members—Director of Connectional Ministries Rebecca Trefz and Director of Finance and Administration Jeff Pospisil—have a monthly podcast called “The Vital Connection” that equips leaders and congregations with resources for ministry. Meister and Pospisil also provide regular webinars on topics like online giving, how to ask donors for gifts, and infusing principles of stewardship and generosity into the life of the church. Meister hopes to offer these same tools in Minnesota, while also continuing to offer some in-person stewardship and training events.
Steve Pinney, chair of the Minnesota Foundation’s board of directors, said he’s especially excited about the synergy that will take place with Meister at the helm of both the Dakotas and Minnesota Foundations.
“The opportunity here is to learn from each other and make both foundations stronger,” he said. “Sheri has the energy, the drive, and the experience that will allow best practices to be transferred in both directions—making both foundations stronger and a larger presence for the good of both conferences.”
Pinney said he’s confident that Meister will build on the excellent foundation laid by Walker. As he looks ahead, his hope is that the foundation expands from being primarily an investment vehicle to being even more of a service vehicle—perhaps through church loan programs or expanded resources around legacy giving, stewardship campaigns, and other types of fundraising.
Diane Weller, the Dakotas Foundation’s donor relations and development coordinator, will work with Meister to serve the Minnesota Foundation.
Meister said her primary goal in the first few months of her new position is to get out and meet as many pastors as possible to learn about who they are, what’s important to them, and how the foundation can serve them. She’ll also take a deep dive into the Minnesota Foundation’s investment accounts, assess staffing needs, and explore new communication vehicles to get the word out about the Foundation’s offerings.
Meister said she feels called to expand her role to Minnesota and is hopeful about the future working with both foundations.
“I’ve felt a constant nudge of the Holy Spirit to figure out how to make this happen,” she said. “I can’t wait to help people in Minnesota explore possibilities for how to achieve their hopes and dreams for their churches.”
Christa Meland is director of communications for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church