Calming the Financial Storm

Church Financial Strategies for a Time Such as This

 

If you are like most leaders, your concern about your church’s financial position falls on a spectrum from “concerned” to “panicked” to “freaking out.” By now you should have heard from your denominational leaders regarding help that you can access. I’m writing today to add our perspective to what you have already learned.

Your first concern may be your cash flow. Do you have enough money to pay the bills for one or two months (or more?) of reduced giving? Your weekly offering is likely lower now than it was at the beginning of March. Lowered revenue can leave your treasurer in a pinch, wondering where to find money for the next payroll. If your projections leave you short, here are some strategies to address your cash flow.

  1. Improve Member Giving

  2. Seek Outside Funding – URGENT – START TODAY

  3. Assess Your Other Strengths

Improve Member Giving

What can you do to improve your member giving? Here are some suggestions:

  • Improve communication among your members. Because of the isolating nature of our current state, this is a time to increase phone calls, cards and letters, emails, texts, and social media interactions at an exponential rate. Those types contacts are listed in a specific order, from the most effective (phone calls) to the least (social media).

Staying connected is the right thing to do regardless of money; however, it also encourages people to continue practicing generosity as they can.

  • Make giving easy for your donors. If you don’t have online giving yet, establish your system now. Send SASE envelopes (with caring notes and letters) to your non-internet, non-email people. Send encourages and tips for your members to setup ACH transfers through Billpay at their bank.

Paypal is quick and easy. Vanco and Tithe.ly are other options. Remember: there is almost always a cost to payment processors. This is not an endorsement and we are not compensated by any of these.

  • Make a few phone calls to certain members who can increase and/or advance their giving. Some members who give quarterly or annually may be in a position to make a donation in advance of their once-intended time. Other members may be able to boost their giving for the remainder of the year. Peer-to-peer, or one friend calling another, is the most effective method of making this appeal.

Caution: this appeal is not for everyone. Members who give from current income generally cannot accelerate their giving. Some may even be compelled to reduce or stop their giving due to changes in their own lives. Grace abounds, and sensitivity is necessary.

Seek Outside FundingURGENT – START TODAY

Last week, Congress passed and the President signed into law the CARES Act, which includes the Paycheck Protection Program. I’ve provided some links below to the Small Business Administration’s website for more information. Your church will likely qualify. The most important take-aways are:

  • You need to be prepared this Friday to participate or not participate
  • You can request up to 8 weeks of payroll, retroactive to February 15
  • You can request additional funds to be used for other costs including utilities and interest on mortgages
  • You may receive complete loan forgiveness, if 75% of funds must be used for payroll

All loans under this program will have the following identical features:

  • Interest rate of 0.5%
  • Maturity of 2 years
  • First payment deferred for six months
  • 100% guarantee by SBA
  • No collateral
  • No personal guarantees
  • No borrower or lender fees payable to SBA

HERE ARE THE IMPORTANT ACTION STEPS TO TAKE IMMEDIATELY:

  • Contact your local bank to let them know your church is interested in the PPP
  • Gather and prepare the loan forms
  • Calculate the amount for which you can apply
  • Complete and submit the forms

(If your bank is not an SBA lender, ask for a referral to a bank in your community that is. Contacting your bank does not guarantee you will get a loan or require you to take a loan.)

For more information and to apply:

Assess Your Additional Strengths

With the suggestions above, you may be able to weather the storm for quite some time. However, I mention the following to provide a full range of options. Please note that these are only recommended in the direst of circumstances. That being said, here are some additional buckets that may be available to you when the General Fund gets low.

  • Designated Funds. You may have cash on hand (even in the same bank account) designated for other purposes, that can be temporarily or permanently repurposed in this emergency. Using designated funds for an alternative purpose has its own dangers. It’s a relationship issue – people trust that you will use that money for the purpose for which it was given. In any “normal” times, this would be a complete No-No. Stakeholders may also be understanding, however, given the current climate. Your leadership must gauge and decide. Do not make this decision on your own under any circumstances.
  • Cash in Restricted Accounts, such as endowments. Your church may have an explicit policy regarding the use of restricted accounts in the case of an emergency, when the survival of the church is threatened. This may be one of those times. Using the cash balance being held in these accounts doesn’t lock in the market losses we have experienced over the past several weeks.
  • Endowment and Reserve Assets. For most churches, this is the worst option to consider. I hope it will never be necessary. Selling assets, especially stocks, at this time will lock in losses and reduce future potential earnings. Only two other dates in U.S. history recorded more drastic one-day percentage falls: Black Monday in 1987, and December 12, 1914. Selling assets in this climate will be a short-term solution with a long-term negative effect. But it may be necessary.

Above all, remember that you are not alone. Jesus is able to calm the storm, especially the storm brewing within you and within your church. This time will pass, and a new, brighter, more hopeful world will emerge by the grace of God and by the faithful discipleship of the Church.

Stay safe, stay healthy, stay at home, and be at peace,

Rev. Michael Erwin, Director
Church Campaign Services