Monday, January 31, 2011

Money, money, money

Stephen Lingwood commented on one of my posts about budgeting last year

... But the key point is that most congregations (need) to increase live giving significantly. Most people are happy to put a few coins in the plate when they're there, but it costs thousands to run a congregation if you have a building and/or a Minister. Why do we expect other people to pay for this?

Members should pledge how much they are going to give, so the leadership can budget accordingly. This process should be as open as possible.

Couldn't agree more! So how do we encourage generous giving?

First I think we need to break down annual figures to monthly or even weekly figures. And then need to divide that by congregation numbers. So for arguments sake if it costs £52,000 p.a. to run a local congregation that's £1,000 per week and if there are 20 people in the congregation that's £50 per week each. These are simple figures but serve to illustrate the point that we all carry a financial commitment and what sort of commitment that might be. You might also do this having taken off all usual income e.g. from investments and rental income. This then gives a figure say £20 per week if investments work and rental income remains constant - and a worse case scenario of £50 if all income ceases.

Most people could not pay £20/week so there would need to be ongoing discussions about how to raise the money - commitment and responsibility are not just about giving money but also about giving time and energy - these too are resources.

All congregations have to have monthly giving directly from people's bank accounts and Gift Aid claims. I wrote this in a fund-raising guide that I wrote when I was on the Funding Development Panel (it may be a bit out of date but if you would like a copy do email me)

Why monthly giving?: Because it is an easy way for people to donate money – many people are used to do this for their favourite charities. An amount like £5 per month might seem a small amount but it amounts to £60 per year. For someone on a reasonable wage £20/month might not seem too bad but ask someone for £240 and they might look a Iittle shocked. It is also a way that people who do not attend services can give on a regular basis e.g. children of congregation members who have grown up and moved away or young families who whilst committed to the chapel have commitments to their children’s sporting activities at weekends. At the end of the day, there’s no harm in asking. Some chapels have been surprised that having instituted monthly giving the amounts received through the collection plate has not reduced by the same amount as some still put money in the plate.

The other benefits of monthly giving are

• Once people start giving they tend not to stop;
• It is relatively easy for people to increase their monthly giving; and
• It provides a steady stream of income rather than peaks and troughs of income. The steady stream tends to match much of a group’s expenditure.

I think that the other thing is how you involve people in the business of the community. Locally we have business meetings every two months after a service - we have increased attendance at business meetings from single figures to about 20 which is most of our regular attendees. This encourages openness and commitment.

And of course there's modelling - we have to act generously. Whilst giving monthly most of us also give to the plate - indeed locally giving to the plate has not reduced in the longer term since monthly giving was introduced. And giving a note rather than change can set a benchmark for expected giving. Although we must always be aware of those with little money to give and reassure them that whatever they give is very welcome and much appreciated. We may need to constantly remind ourselves that money is not the end of our giving - it is just the beginning.

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