Notes by Lulu Philips, Finance Chair
The meeting was called by the Walker Finance Committee, because of an increase in our monthly expenses that leaves an average shortfall of about $3,000 a month. This number varies quite a bit from month to month, since some expenses are one-time or yearly. The shortfall could go up or down in the future, but its size is such that Walker needs to make significant changes in its income, expenses, or both to avoid running out of operating funds around April of next year. If we spend our capital funds on operating expenses, we would run out of money next summer.
The shortfall also doesn’t include about $1200 per month in apportionments that we owe to the United Methodist Minnesota Annual Conference. We have not paid our apportionments for several years, since we have not had enough income to do so.
The main differences in expenses between 2011, when we had a balanced budget, and 2014 are increases in expenses for custodial (about $450), building insurance ($750), modest salary increases ($500), electricity ($600), and phone lines ($250), for a total of $2,550 a month in increased expenses.
The main differences in income between 2011 and 2014 are a decrease in rental income of about $950 per month, and a decrease in rental income from the parsonage (net of expected expenses) of $400, for a total of about $1350 in reduced income.
About 30 members of the Walker community attended the meeting, and discussed ideas, which I have categorized as follows:
- Reduce staff
- Increase fundraising
- Increase donations
- Increase rentals
One key consideration is that we have put our parsonage on the market, and can expect to have over $100,000 in cash after it has been sold. The consensus at the meeting was that we should use that money to transition to a sustainable financial structure in some way. Just using the money to cover our shortfall would only postpone the time when we would have to develop a sustainable financial structure.
One idea that would affect all four categories of ideas was to increase the membership of the Walker community. Having a structured and intensive membership campaign would assist in all four categories of ideas.
When discussing reducing staff time, it seemed clear that the work done by our staff is necessary to our community. Therefore we would need to have volunteers from the community step forward to do some of the work currently done by staff. At the meeting, there was not a consensus that the members present would be able to take on significant additional volunteer work.
For example, if we did not have our part-time custodian, each family in the community would be responsible for cleaning the building for a week each year.
Our administrator currently does the bookkeeping as well as managing the custodian, maintaining a presence in the building, sending a weekly bulletin, and scheduling building use by renters and members. If we reduce the administrator’s hours by having a volunteer do bookkeeping, we would need a volunteer who can devote several hours every week to the bookkeeping.
Our pastor is currently paid for 50% time, and puts in more time than that. If we ask the Annual Conference to appoint a pastor at 33% time, that pastor would likely have two other churches, and would have very limited time for pastoral care and weekly celebration planning at Walker. Again, we would need very significant volunteer time to take on those responsibilities.
Currently our major fundraisers are a semi-annual rummage sale, a silent auction, and a number of concerts, dances, and other performances. We could hold more fundraisers if new volunteers would be willing to organize, plan, and staff the fundraisers. Another possibility would be to expand the current fundraisers and raise more money from them. Again, this would require an increase in volunteer time.
An increase in donations from current members of around 50% would make up the current shortfall. There was a general sense at the meeting that this level of increase is probably not affordable for the current members. However, if our membership were to increase by 50% or more with a similar range of income levels, this would likely result in the needed increase in donations. With a beautiful new building, this may be a time to do a major outreach campaign for new members.
There were a number of possibilities discussed for increasing rental income. The consensus is that the building is a terrific space for events that further our mission of building caring community, nurturing spirituality, and working courageously for justice with mercy. Renting the church for events does require a significant amount of work with potential renters, and then scheduling and managing the use of the building.
We discussed using some of the money from sale of the parsonage to install a good quality lighting and audio system for the sanctuary. We discussed whether members should be required to pay for using the building for events. We do want to keep rentals affordable for our low-income membership and neighbors.
We could hire a wedding planner and promote the use of the building for weddings. The fee would include an amount to pay the wedding planner.
Some ideas for ongoing non-event type rentals would be developing office space. Perhaps we could convert the basement into offices, or convert the conference room into a communal office for business people that would have a locked cabinet and bring their own computers to work there.
Other ideas included having a senior day care program, holding cooking classes in the kitchen, or having a charter school in the building.
We could possibly get grants to teach art or other subjects to the community.
Another idea that was raised is partnering with another church community that doesn’t have a building. Rather than rent space to them, actually work together to share the building and split the building expenses.
The members who came to the meeting had a very positive, hopeful outlook. We are a healthy community that has great potential to grow and become stronger. At our next meeting on October 29, we plan to decide on a direction to pursue for a new sustainable structure.