Several years ago I visited a church and was handed a budget breakdown of the fiscal year along with that day’s service bulletin. It broke down exactly how much came in through offerings and tithes and other sources of income (event space rental, donations and gifts, etc) and how much was spent EXACTLY and where it went. Even down to finite details like how much it cost to heat and power the church, charitable giving and the exact recipients, how much the youth group spent on snacks, and the Pastor’s salary down to insurance and hourly wage.
I was impressed not only because the information was public but also handed out freely for public perusal. An open congregation meeting followed right after the service to discuss the following fiscal year and discuss any questions or concerns.
It struck me that this type of transparency was somewhat rare in today’s society. Even things that are “public record” could potentially take hours or weeks worth of phone calls, paperwork, and digging to locate.
Is your association’s budget that open? Should it be?
Consider the pros here:
- Your members could likely see their dues as an investment. They could feel reassured and more connected if you share how your association puts their money to use.
- Those feelings of engagement often lead to increased participation. Members want to connect closer with groups they feel a part of.
- This could create some great dialog in your meetings. Opening up the budget for consideration of the entire membership base will keep you/your accountant in check.
This brings us to the cons:
- This could create some horrible dialog in your meetings. Squabbling over budget lines might not be the best use of your large group meeting time.
- Your salary and your staffers’ will come into question. Not saying that’s a bad thing, but just be prepared to answer questions should they come up.
- Your budget might have to be a little more detailed and thorough than in the past. This could be a pro too, because you could have a member who could get you cheaper phone service or office supplies, but working the budget this term may take longer than previous years.
Not ready to jump right in with sharing your complete budget with your whole membership? That’s ok. Communicate it’s availability, and set up times to talk about it with those interested, or hold a separate, smaller meeting. If it’s not a good idea for your association to share the budget at all, explain why if asked. Transparency goes a long way!
Speaking of budgets, how is your association accepting credit card payments?