Our Family Finances: Thank You—Now Some Nitty-Gritties

Written by Peter Wall, CFO

This has been a year of challenging surprises. One of them is that all of our services are now online, through Zoom, Facebook, and YouTube. You have probably witnessed our struggle to get up to speed with video streaming technology. And our limited equipment has not made it easy. If enacting a beautiful celebration in person can be taxing, just imagine having to coax it through a patchwork of devices that were not made to do this kind of thing.

So we should all be thankful that the chairman this year of our Ministry of Resources, Wade Hobson, has done the hard work of researching which equipment would hit that sweet spot of being most helpful to our needs, while getting the biggest bang for our buck. And the Council in June approved an unbudgeted expenditure of about $10,500, which is the estimated amount to purchase and install a two-camera system with a switcher/scaler.

I know what you are asking: Can we afford it? The short answer is yes, with your help.

Here is the longer answer. As I write this in June, we know our financial status through the end of May. (The numbers at the end of June will become available in July, and I hope to provide a better mid-year report in my next column.) Through the end of May, we did very well. Pledged giving was at 99.44% of budget, identifiable giving was at about 110% of budget, and giving overall was about 99.2% of budget. To put it simply, giving was right on target. (And that does not count several thousand dollars in additional donations to feed the hungry.) Keep it up!

Other forms of income have dropped significantly, however. Building use income is way down because fewer outside groups are paying to use the facility. And we were not able to hold the Jazz on Van Ness fundraiser in May. But our expenditures were lower during the same period by almost exactly the same amount. That means our expenses have not exceeded our income. In fact, through the end of May, our income was about 107% of our expenses for that period, which puts us about $8,600 ahead. But that is still a pretty slim margin with half the year still left (and surely more surprises in store). We need to keep up our practice of giving.

We also need your help with that video project. If you are able, and you wish to contribute, you can increase your usual giving, or you can specify “Video Project” on the memo line of your check or use the “Video Project” category in Givelify.

On that point, I need explain something that is often misunderstood in our congregation. When we develop the budget for the year, and we include a line for “pledged” giving, that line only includes the ordinary giving that you have pledged. You are always welcome to give more, and we know there are many circumstances when you might need to give less. But when you give to a specified project—for example, Coffee Hour, flowers, the pantry, or a fundraiser—then when you get your giving statement at the end of the year, you will see that specified giving does not get counted toward the fulfillment of your pledge. Why is that? 

Let me explain by analogy. If you are an employee, you probably get a regular paycheck. Now imagine one morning your car breaks down unexpectedly, so you are late getting to work. When you finally arrive, weighted with stress, you explain the situation to your boss, and lament that it will cost $1,000 to get your car fixed! Not to worry, the boss tells you—I will pay to fix your car. Greatly relieved, with this financial weight lifted, you get back to work. But then your next paycheck comes, and it is $1,000 less than usual. What is this? You study the pay stub and see that the boss deducted the amount paid to the mechanic! Suddenly, the weight of that stress returns. How will you pay rent? How will you buy food? The boss did not really pay for anything. The boss just took away your decision how to spend your paycheck.

How does this relate to giving at church? The givers are the boss, the church is the employee, the paycheck is the pledge, and the money to the mechanic for an unexpected expense is giving to a particular project. Do you see the problem? If you are only able to give the amount that you pledged, then you should be faithful to your pledge, because we are counting on your gift. (And thank you for your generosity!) Redirecting your pledge to a particular project can make things difficult for the church, financially. Give more to the project only if you are able.

It would be great if our general giving from pledges were enough that we would never need to ask for additional donations or hold fundraisers. And personally, I think that ought to be our goal. (As I wrote a couple months ago, “I like to imagine a crazy, radical world that runs on generosity, instead of on scarcity.”) But we are not there yet.

If you are able to give extra to help with the video project, please do. Thank you for your generosity!

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