Straight talk about giving
By Jim Newman
Published: May 2011
Related Topics: Stewardship
A distant relative passed away a few weeks ago at the age of 92. He was a cradle Anglican who attended the same parish church for close to 90 years. He was buried from that church—the same church where at the age of 100 his mother was still a contributing member. His obituary read in part, "Memorial donations may be made to the Salvation Army".
Perhaps the lesson here is that the Salvation Army creates a simple and effective mission statement that people understand. It's one picture—"the poor" and it says, "We look after the poor in the name of Christ." Other key words and phrases from their web site are equally effective—Giving Hope; Restoring Pride; the Dignity Project; The Empty Bowl project. The generous response to their appeals far exceeds that of any other charity.
Unlike the Salvation Army, the Anglican description of mission is complex. Currently it reads in part like this, "Canadian Anglicans participate in God's mission in the world. We work with ecumenical, interfaith, and Anglican partners in Canada and internationally. We address issues of climate change, healing and reconciliation, theological education, Indigenous justice, housing and homelessness, and more. The Partners in Mission and Ecojustice Committee (PMEJ) oversees and helps to facilitate this work."
Our language about supporting mission is complex too. We call it stewardship and while I like that word, difficulties abound. We say that Christian stewardship is about a way of life. If the moment is right we even say we don't own anything; that all we have has been entrusted to us by God. And we are to manage these resources according to God's purposes at the same time as we're trusting God with all that we are. We say that stewardship is not paying the bills or keeping the church afloat, it's about our relationship with God.
But the real pictures we create can be negative, misinterpreted, or inaccurately expressed. An envelope arriving in the mail from the church may trigger the thought, "Here they go again—the church is asking for more money". Some refer to support of our Diocese and the national church mission work as a "tax", and call for a reduction. How tragic!
We're rich in resources
Before I go on let me say that all gifts to all levels of the church are sincerely appreciated. There are many, many people who give generously of their time, talent and treasure, and much wonderful mission work is carried out by dedicated clergy, staff and volunteers across this diocese and beyond.
But this Diocese is rich in resources, particularly when compared to so much of the world, and frankly, the Diocese and Anglican churches of Niagara should
be asking for more money for God's mission. The need is so great in our local communities, in the north, and around the world. Despite our overall good fortune in Niagara, a colleague at the national church tells me that Prince Edward Island recently topped Newfoundland as first on the list of most generous "givers" in the country. In Niagara we may be declining in numbers but our average incomes are strong; yet we are only typical givers. Why couldn't and shouldn't we be leading the list?
Anglicans as givers
An average Anglican household in Niagara gives about $950 or 1.9% of annual household income to its parish. Collectively Anglican households in Niagara earn about $900,000,000 (18,000 Anglican households x $50,000 household income per year) annually, and give about $17,000,000 ($900,000,000 x 1.9%) annually to their parishes. Significant concern is expressed about the amount of parish revenue which is remitted to the Diocese, but is it really too high? It is often quoted as 30%-32% of parish income, but after normal deductions it's actually about 17% net. And so 17% of $17,000,000 or about $2.9 million forms roughly the total amount of our diocesan budget.
Where does the money go?
About $160 of the average household's annual donation of $950 goes to support ministry at the diocese and national church—a little more than $3 per week. A few rounds of golf quickly eats-up $160. The national church's portion of the $160 is about 22% or $35 per year. Just enough for one case of beer and some potato chips. Perhaps that explains why Niagara has not been able to pay its full apportionment to the national church for years; even though we know that clergy in Canada's north are paid little if at all.
The impact of reducing the DMM rate
For that average household in Niagara a reduction of 1% of the net DMM rate equates to an additional $9.50 ($950 average annual giving x 1%) annually being retained in the parish. For a 200 household parish, the additional amount retained would be $1,900 annually—not a significant saving for a parish in financial difficulty. Overall the impact on the Diocese would be a revenue reduction of about $29,000 ($2,900,000 budget x 1%). The impact on the national church would be a further reduction in our annual apportionment.
To complete the picture, it should be noted that for the past two years the Diocese offered DMM rebates of up to $5000 per year to parishes, yet only 13 parishes applied for the rebate in 2009 and 12 in 2010.
Toward real solutions
A reduction in DMM rates provides little in the way of financial relief for parishes, and it further constricts the important work of the Diocese and the national church.
The struggle to balance the Diocesan budget's expenses consumes innumerable hours, yet little time goes into considering what would be realistic levels of revenue—for both the Diocese and parishes. A comprehensive increase in giving, even a modest increase, would provide a remarkable turn-around. Here are some examples based on increased annual giving by all givers in a 200 household parish:
Increase from 1.9% to 2.0% (e.g. from $950 to $1000)
Additional parish revenue $10,000 ($1000-$950 x 200 households)
Increase from 1.9% to 2.2% (e.g. from $950 to $1100)
Additional parish revenue $30,000
Increase from 1.9% to 2.5% (e.g. from $950 to $1250)
Additional parish revenue $60,000
Compare those numbers to status quo giving and the $1900 "saved" by a 1% reduction in DMM!
The remarkable impact of giving on DMM
Of course additional parish revenue would result in an increase in parish DMM. But calculations based on the examples above show the DMM rate could drop from the current rate of 17% to 16% (17% of $190,000 parish income vs. 16% of $200,000 parish income) in example 1, to 14.5% in example 2, and to 13% in example 3 while still realizing practically the same revenue stream to the Diocese. Just think what could happen if Anglicans were really generous! ...