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Promise Keepers’ layoffs entail shift to volunteers

DENVER (BP)–Promise Keepers has notified its 345 staff members they will be laid off March 31 and that re-staffing will occur after an indefinite period of time when “stable and sufficient” donations are received, the Denver-based Christian men’s movement announced Feb. 18.
This year all Promise Keepers’ events, including 19 stadium events planned for this summer, will charge no admission fees. Its “Open the Gates in 98” initiative is designed to remove all financial barriers to participation in its rallies. Promise Keepers’ board of directors unanimously supported McCartney’s call last September for ending the fees.
Promise Keepers said it “expects that donations from local communities and national sponsors will cover the considerable cost of producing the events” planned for the coming year, beginning with a Detroit stadium rally May 15.
More than 2.6 million men have attended Promise Keepers events in stadiums across the nation since 1991. Registrations of $60 each have provided a reliable revenue stream for the movement, enough to fund 64 conferences over the last six years. The admission fees provided 72 percent of the organization’s income, the news release said. The shift from a fee-based income to support from donations alone, and from a paid staff to volunteers, is a “transition of a magnitude unique in the history of nonprofit organizations” and “both a financial and an operational challenge,” the organization said in a news release.
Promise Keepers said its 1997 year-end revenues were committed to pay millions of dollars for “Stand in the Gap,” the sacred assembly Promise Keepers sponsored on the Mall in Washington. The Oct. 4 event was perhaps the largest religious gathering in American history.
Attendance at Promise Keepers rallies, meanwhile, dropped last year to an average of 36,000 from 50,000 in 1996, The New York Times reported.
Bill McCartney, founder and CEO of the ministry, told Promise Keepers staff in Denver in the face of the layoffs, “I have a broken heart. But, I don’t have a discouraged heart. I have a heart that is filled with hope.” McCartney issued a challenge to church leaders to rally around the ministry’s twofold mission of calling men to church and of bringing the churches of America together. “We have seen how God has used this ministry to change men’s lives and lead them back to church,” he said. “Now, as the fees to all events are removed, it is time for those churches to assist us in our mission to men.”
Promise Keepers’ cutbacks began last year in anticipation of the reduced revenue stream. Staff layoffs occurred in July, paring the organization from 400-plus employees. McCartney pledged last November, “We’re all in this together. If one can’t get paid, then no one will be paid.”
McCartney stressed Promise Keepers will honor its commitments to all Promise Keepers vendors.