Teach a Ministry to Fish
Dale and Gail Stockamp impact ministries by equipping them to manage their own funds
In the late 1990s, Dale Stockamp made a deal with God. It was more of a prayer than a deal. He read of a foundation who had given a record $23 million away off an asset base of $475 million. He didn’t expect to ever have those kinds of resources, but that didn’t stop him from asking God to help him make an even bigger impact—of $50 million annually.
But that would be after retirement. He figured he had years, decades even, to work out the whats and the hows. Or so he thought.
Dale was owner of Stockamp & Associates at the time. He’d built the healthcare consulting firm from the ground up. His teams would go into major medical centers and “reengineer their revenue cycles—everything a hospital does to be paid for the services they’ve rendered,” Dale said. He and his wife Gail shared their story at the 2018 Generous Giving conference, where people gathered to discuss creative ways to give both generously and thoughtfully. “If you’ve ever interacted with a hospital, your insurance company, and a bill, you know what a mess that process is.”
His team would go in and change the way hundreds of people did their jobs. “If we did our job well, we would generate $100-200 million or more of benefits for our clients,” he explains. “There’s that much inefficiency and waste in the system.”
Dale admits that his motivation for starting his own firm was rooted in a desire for autonomy and flexibility more than a desire to have more to give. He wanted more control over his hours and where he and his family lived—and he had a goal to retire at 45.
As the firm succeeded and the family’s bank account swelled, Gail says they saw a picture from an overseas refugee crisis on the front page of the paper in 1998. It was a young child crying over his dead mother. The child was around the same age as theirs at the time. The photo “tugged at [their] hearts” and prompted them to increase their giving to Northwest Medical Teams (now Medical Teams International), headed up by Ron Post. “That was our first significant gift where we gave a 7-digit figure,” Gail says.
When you donate a gift like that, an organization takes notice. Over the years, the Stockamps grew close with Post.
When Dale and Post met for breakfast one morning, Post said his heart was breaking for nonprofit ministries frustrated because they couldn’t raise the funds they needed.
Dale remembered the prayer he’d offered up to God a year earlier. The one where he wanted to make an impact of $50 million annually. The one he was supposed to have years to figure out. He came to find out God was taking him up on his offer, and he was blowing Dale’s timeline to the curb. “God’s time is perfect, and the time was then,” he says.
Over the next few months, he and Ron began looking at how they could help nonprofits struggling to raise needed funds. What they’d observed in the areas around Portland, Ore., where the Stockamps lived, was that though there were a lot of people skilled at helping those in need—the homeless, trafficking victims, addicts—“as often as they were great on the compassionate side of delivering care, they either didn’t have the time, interest or skill set for fundraising, development and the business side of their ministry,” Dale says.
Many of the ministries were in a constant struggle to keep their doors open. Some of them closed down.
Another thing Dale noticed was that most ministries were operating in isolation instead of collaborating with local churches and ministries to build community. “It was almost a competition for what they deemed insufficient resources,” Dale says.
In response to that, Dale and Ron founded Mission Increase in 1999 with a goal to teach these ministries to fish, so to speak, instead of giving them a fish. “Instead of giving a grant, we’re going to teach biblically-based fundraising development skills,” Dale says. They gathered leaders from 50-60 nonprofits and conducted training workshops free of charge. They also offered in-depth one-on-one coaching. They invited churches into the process.
By 2006, Mission Increase was working with 200 ministries in the Portland area. Dale says that by taking the skills they’d learned in training and “generating sustainable improvement,” they had collectively increased their income by about $30 million a year.
Dale was funding Mission Increase with profits from his firm. When Stockamp & Associates had two bad financial years, Dale and Gail agreed to dip into their nest egg to fund the mission’s expansion into other cities.
Even as the firm struggled, they were named the best healthcare consulting technology firm in the country. The American Hospital Association exclusively endorsed them for their 5,000 members. And Fortune Magazine recognized them in the top 20 employers in the country for new college graduates to work for. When those three things happened, other companies expressed interest in buying the firm—and on July 8, 2008, Huron Consulting Group acquired Stockamp & Associates in a $219 million deal.
“For the first time we were able to endow Mission Increase with longer term resources,” Dale says. “We could plan for the next day.” At the 2018 conference, he said the mission had expanded into 36 cities and was serving 2,300 nonprofit organizations. He said in 2017 the ministries had collectively increased their income by $235 million from where they had started—more than four times the “impossible” goal Dale had made back in 1998.
“That number is important because it shows they are learning, they’re sustaining, we’re training them,” Dale says. “But what’s really important is these ministries are able to serve millions more people around the world, taking care of their physical needs and spiritual needs as well. More givers are coming out and storing their treasure in heaven.”