Delightful, a privilege, a blessing, sacred. These aren’t words typically associated with asking people for money. But this is how Dale and Kay Kempf describe their experience of encouraging donors to support Mennonite Central Committee’s (MCC) New Hope in the Name of Christ centennial fundraising campaign.
The Kempfs, who live in Libertyville, Illinois, were part of a national network of 32 people who volunteered to help MCC raise funds toward its goal of $100 million in cash, pledges and estate commitments and planned gifts in celebration of 100 years of ministry. They were regional co-chairs for the Great Lakes region.
“I didn’t view it as us asking for money, us sitting across from somebody and saying, ‘Will you give us money for this?’ Our role was much more sitting beside someone and sharing our enthusiasm for MCC and our own generosity and enabling them to come alongside us in gifts to MCC.”
- Dale Kempf
“I didn’t view it as us asking for money, us sitting across from somebody and saying, ‘Will you give us money for this?’” said Dale. “Our role was much more sitting beside someone and sharing our enthusiasm for MCC and our own generosity and enabling them to come alongside us in gifts to MCC.”
According to Kay, the invitation to join the campaign committee came at just the right time. Dale was preparing to retire from his work as a chemist who focused on treatments for little known diseases in developing countries, like river blindness.
This role with MCC offered the chance for the two of them to engage in another type of meaningful work and to do it in partnership. “The opportunity seemed like a privilege,” she said. “It was just the right thing that we knew we wanted to do.”
The Kempfs’ connection with MCC extends back to when Dale’s parents met while serving with MCC in Akron, Pennsylvania, after World War II. Several other family members have served with MCC internationally.
While Kay and Dale’s life trajectories didn’t take them on an MCC service term, they have supported MCC financially for many years. When thinking about their own giving to the centennial campaign, they wanted to give generously at the end of their careers in recognition of what they would have sacrificed financially had they served with MCC.
Although they didn’t have previous fundraising experience, Dale and Kay agreed that they settled into the role comfortably.
“For us, it was all about making connections, and we got to meet all these great people that share the same values. It was a very delightful experience for us,” said Dale.
Typically, an MCC staff person would accompany the Kempfs to visit donors in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and Wisconsin. Between February 2019 and February 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, they met face-to-face with supporters asking them to consider a gift to the centennial campaign, above their normal giving to MCC.
As donors to the campaign themselves, the Kempfs invited people to join them in making large gifts. Thinking about the impact of those gifts began to affect Kay personally.
"You start to imagine how your gift is going to be transformative in the lives of those affected. And it also starts to transform you,” said Kay. “I found it very moving, the fact that giving, like God asks us to do … is really a sacred opportunity."
- Kay Kempf
“You start to imagine how your gift is going to be transformative in the lives of those affected. And it also starts to transform you,” said Kay. “I found it very moving, the fact that giving, like God asks us to do … is really a sacred opportunity.”
While it was initially uncomfortable to think about asking people for money, both Kay and Dale found that people would soon open up. And as they talked about finances, a deeper connection and vulnerability would occur.
“MCC donors are committed, passionate, caring people who trust MCC,” said Kay. “Part of the joy of having been involved in this effort was how graciously we were always welcomed into the visits. And that’s because people knew we were coming to talk to them about MCC.”
Kay said that many times they were thanked for what they were doing on behalf of MCC by the people they would meet. “They were impacted that just regular people were volunteering to come and visit with them because we so trust and care about and love the mission of MCC.”
The Kempfs were continually impressed by the culture of generosity that remains strong in the individuals and families they met. Helping match people’s desire to give with MCC’s important work around the world was key.
“One part of the joy of giving is being able to find organizations that you can trust and that you can really feel part of as a financial supporter."
- Dale Kempf
“One part of the joy of giving is being able to find organizations that you can trust and that you can really feel part of as a financial supporter,” said Dale.
In addition to individual meetings with supporters, Dale and Kay led monthly Zoom calls with other volunteers on the MCC Great Lakes campaign team. They also represented the Great Lakes region on MCC’s national steering committee. They credit these meetings with creating a community of support and giving energy and inspiration for the many visits.
As they look forward, Kay and Dale are excited about what the future holds for MCC.
“MCC’s mission and commitment to working one-on-one with people long term is widely respected,” said Kay. “I think there are many others who will also want to support MCC and its approach to helping others.
“People have recognized that this is a time that MCC really needs us. MCC is the institution through which we can reach out and help.”
Gifts to MCC’s centennial fundraising campaign will strengthen MCC’s ministry of relief, development and peace now and for generations to come. More information at: mcc.org/new-hope.