Sunday, March 12, 2006

Reality Check

Last week's bulletin at St. Al's [pdf 6 mb] has the weekly "Parish Giving Results" on page 2. These show weekly contributions to date. Then they show how much would be needed by this week to reach our budgeted income for the fiscal year. This is all in bold print. This week shows we are 2.6% "over goal." Sounds like good news.

Every week this is followed by an explanation that our budgeted income for this fiscal year is $100,000 less than last year. That goal was reduced because the parish wasn't going to make it.

Last week there was also, on page 5, a "Reality Check" by our pastor. It compares the amount actually given to this point in this fiscal year and last. It's down 3.8%.

Up is down, good news is bad news, financial statments are to obscure facts, here at the home of the Chapel of the Cross-purposes.

I went to the Parish Council meeting the following Monday. The agenda is on page 2 of the bulletin along with the date of the meeting. For the time of the meeting and the room location, you had to check the parish calendar on page 3.

I took along the Minutes of Finance Committee Meeting November 16, 2004. From those minutes, it appeared that most people the parish calls will hang up when they hear it's the parish calling. What, I wondered, did the parish do to follow up on this finding? Such data might be a starting point for finding out why parishioners give and why they don't. I was told they filed the results and maybe the info could be dug out of the records (or maybe from the packing in the crate with the Ark of the Covenant?).

One Council member suggested that since the selected parishioners had first been called on the parish's behalf by a marketing company, it was understandable that most would hang up on a follow-up call from the parish. I confess that does not satisfy me as an explanation. Another said the Council was told that our giving problems tracked nationwide trends. It was right out of Tom Peters, "But we're no worse than anyone else!" I told them these were the same kind of explanations I was hearing when I joined parish council. (I'm still waiting for some data I requested back then to be dug out of the records.)

I'd rather blog my parish's turnaround than its death spiral, but right now it looks like I'm betting on a long shot with my weekly envelope.



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