Posts Tagged ‘finance’

Technology has given us many convienences... including making your commitment to financial giving online.

Commitment Sunday is the time when the congregation turns in pledge cards indicating their financial giving plans for the year. In recent years, that has happened in February. The budget planning process usually takes place during the fall. Last year the budget planning process was stretched into the early weeks of 2011, to allow the Budget Team to look at year-end giving before finalizing their proposal.

As it turned out in 2011, the budget was adopted on the same day as Commitment Sunday – February 13. It raises the question about the relationship between pledging and budget planning. Associate Pastor for Communication, David Powers, sat down with Church Treasurer Kim Boys and Church Administrator Billy Burford to talk about it.

David: Every year around budget time, somebody is likely to say, “How much was pledged? And why isn’t there a connection between the pledging and the budget?”

Kim: Since I’ve been involved in the finance office, we have never pledged the budget. That’s going back to the late ’80s. In the days of the “Every Member Canvas” we would get 70 to 75% of the budget pledged. Our budget kept growing. Our giving kept increasing and the number of givers continued to increase, but the percentage of the budget pledged has continued to decrease. There has been a shift over the last decade or so. Prior to this shift, pledging’s main focus was primarily a financial planning tool for the church: the church being the center of reason for pledging. That has changed. Today pledging is more of a focus on the individual’s personal commitment rather than focusing on the church’s finances.

David: Even though the pledges have not equaled the budget, have the actual gifts kept pace with the budget?

Kim: Most of the last 20 years we’ve had enough receipts to cover our expenses. We’ve been basically break-even. In the late ’90s and early 2000s we had surpluses. Still we may not have made the budget. But the important thing is that the people gave enough to cover the expenses.

David: So more people give than pledge.

Billy: Yes. Last year over 1,000 people gave but did not pledge.

David: So, is that a problem?

Kim: That’s one of the reasons we stopped doing the Every Member Canvas… because the trend was going that way. We were still covering our expenses. We were still able to pay all our salaries, all our program expenses, all the office supplies, all the electric bills and everything, and there was a big disconnect between the pledging and what we were actually receiving. Many people will support, but for whatever reason, writing their commitment on a pledge card is not as important as it once may have been, especially with those sixty and younger.

Billy: So, pledging for us has really become an opportunity for people to make a commitment to the Lord, but not so much a commitment to the church. I applaud the individual who says, “I’ll give, but it’s between me and the Lord what I give. I don’t need you to know what I give.” It’s a personal commitment. It’s not a commitment to the church. If someone makes a commitment to the church, it is easy to find something in the institution they don’t like, and then they quit giving. But if they make a commitment to the Lord, they’re going to look beyond the things they don’t like, and they’re going to continue to give because it’s not to the church, it’s to the Lord. So that’s what I’m excited about. People are making commitments to the Lord and following through with that. Would I like to have 100% participation in making financial commitments? Sure, it would make budgeting a little simpler, wouldn’t it? Because we’d have a better idea of what to expect, but it’s an unrealistic expectation in this day and time.

Kim: And then you’ve got economic realities. You’ve got the recessions we went through, so even the people that maybe do pledge all of a sudden have found themselves where they cannot follow through. They don’t have a job. Or people on a fixed income, and all of a sudden their income and dividends just aren’t coming in anymore. While we do get some pledges from Boomers and down, the pledges are heavily slanted towards the more senior population of the church.

Billy: I’ve always had the belief that God provides that which He is blessing. So if we’re doing His work and His will, He provides the resources. So if the money doesn’t come in, then maybe we’re not doing what we need to be doing. Maybe we need to rethink what we’re doing.

David: So, why don’t we just do away with pledging altogether?

Kim: Well, we did a few years back. We just let it go by, and lo and behold, people came by and said, “Did I miss the pledge?”

Billy: I think that was our shortcoming because there are those who wanted that, and we didn’t give them the opportunity. And some people need that physical reminder or commitment—signing their name on the dotted line—during the year when things may not be going exactly like they had thought. “OK, I made a commitment, I signed it, so I’m going to follow through with it.”

Kim: And there’s no question that people give to what they believe in. I work with four or five nonprofits around town and it’s unbelievable to me how many people there are out there that will support what they believe in. There is not a shortage of money. There’s just a shortage of communicating their message. And I’m impressed with the way that has happened here. For example, look at the special offering on October 31st last year. It was the weakest year (financially) we’ve had for a long time. And then in a single Sunday our people gave a quarter of a million dollars.

David: So is “pledging” a meaningful budget planning tool?

Kim: Back in the ’60s, if we knew that 70-75% of the budget was pledged, we felt comfortable with the budget. But now we’re only receiving 50 or 55% and we’re still comfortable with our budget. So we’ve learned through the historical giving of the congregation that this doesn’t raise a big concern for us. We’re not going to look at the results of Commitment Sunday, the pledges that have been made, and then go out and start cutting programs because we’ve only received commitments for half the budget. We don’t say, “People aren’t going to give.” That’s not the case; they do give. We received close to $3.1 million in 2010; or just short of it. We only pledged $1.8 million. That was with only 30% of the family units turning in pledge cards. But historically we know more families and individuals do give. So as long those relationships hold up, First Baptist will continue to be able to execute on our mission statement and bring Heaven to Earth.

David: So, other than filling out a pledge card, what would motivate someone to think about how much to give?

Kim: I think budgeting is something that people need to be educated on, because it is a commitment to the Lord. Just like reading your Bible daily. You’ve got your time, talents and finances. You need to read everyday, become educated, put your skill sets to use, and you’ve got to give back what you’ve been given. And the way to do that is sit down and come up with a schedule… a budget. Behaviors are habits. We establish schedules to read the Bible, have prayer time and worship. Same thing should happen in the financial area by scheduling (budgeting) one’s personal finances. And I can say this, by and large, First Baptist people do have this discipline. In spite of economic environments, wars, political changes, natural disasters, and so forth, year after year after year, First Baptist people produce tremendous results. That happens because of the faithfulness of this congregation.

Billy: The New Testament talks about “generosity giving” rather than 10%. But the reason for it is that as you give, God gives back in return. And His blessings are always more than what you can give financially. And once people get a grasp of that, it can change their life. It certainly can give more opportunity for the Kingdom of Heaven to be revealed in Richmond, Virginia if they do.

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