In his early days as president of Luther Seminary, he worked with Arley Bjella to create the foundation board which would concentrate its efforts on fundraising. Arley, who was chair of Lutheran Brotherhood, approached David shortly after the ELCA merger and said, "You're about to have trouble. Church mergers often result in reduced financial support from the national church body for seminaries." He said Luther Seminary was going to have to raise more money and that he was ready to help. David quickly picked up on it with him.
He had no fundraising experience at that time, but he was a good listener. He listened well to the people he recruited for the foundation, and he wasn't reluctant to take suggestions about fundraising. He realized that without extra funding, the seminary would be in tough shape.
Fifty years ago the seminary was fully funded by the national church, but today the seminary gets just 16 percent of its budget from churchwide and synod support. That was why there was a need to establish the foundation board. David brought in people who had experience raising money and said this would be their primary role with the seminary. This role is very distinct from the seminary's board of directors which governs seminary operations. When it comes to fundraising, the president has to play a lead role in accomplishing the job.
David is masterful at this. He has a natural knack for it. He is very good with people, and he likes people. That is one of the keys. He has a wonderful feel for people and for meeting the needs of the seminary. When you are really committed to what you are doing, it makes a big, big difference. Someone who is a pastor and theologian is a key person in fundraising for the seminary because the donors are people of deep faith. They give out of their faith, so when David communicates to them about the gospel it strikes a deep chord.
- Norman M. Jones, chair of Called and Sent campaign, past chair of the Luther Seminary Foundation
Many times he would come home and tell me about the generosity and enormous Christian convictions of the seminary's donors. He would be in awe of their generosity but also their love of the church and the way they will sacrifice for the church. That was something I hadn't thought about until I started to see this unfold. Work with donors was a learning curve for both of us. Seminary donors love the church, and they know the seminary provides the leaders for the church.
- Muffy Tiede, spouse, curriculum coordinator, retired educator
Ithink donors trust David. He has shown that he is living under God's direction and that he is a man of prayer. He is able to relate to people in such a wonderful, friendly way, and it is sincere.
- Marlene Engstrom, former member of Luther Seminary's Board of Directors and Foundation Board of Trustees
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