February 8, 2024 by Demi Prentiss

In this new blog series on “Reframing Assets”, we hear how four churches adjusted their thinking about their finances after Covid – reimagining assets, uncovering riches beyond the balance sheet, and charting a new course for ministry. In 2019 these churches shared plans to repurpose assets for ministry. Now, they update us on the critical four years since then, sharing lessons learned, insightful examples, and practical strategies for financial adaptation, asset realignment, and visionary stewardship. Learn how they seek to breathe new life into their community and thrive amidst change.

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January 25, 2024 by Aline Sun

January 24, 2024 by Bill Keslar

The church is a home for God’s people. Just like your personal home, you come and celebrate happy moments, bond together with loved ones through tough times, and create memories to serve a lifetime. To truly care for your home, it's essential to have a solid plan in place for any future improvements, renovations, or emergencies that may arise.

For the Episcopal Church of the Transfiguration in Dallas, TX that plan was supported through two Facility Audits completed by the team at Building Solutions. A Facility Audit is a vital tool for arming church leadership with the knowledge to accurately prepare operating budgets, guide capital campaigns, and direct long-range planning to positively serve its church body through good stewardship of the church home.

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January 11, 2024 by Demi Prentiss

In September 2019, churches were just beginning to recognize the shifts in demographics and culture that became indelibly apparent to, literally, the entire world once the Covid pandemic struck. Nearly four years ago, in a “Vestry Papers” article, ECF featured the innovative strategies some church leaders were discovering to assist in funding ministry and their endowments.

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Topics: Endowments, Finance
November 29, 2023 by Aline Sun

What are active and passive investing?

The question of active or passive investing – which to use, which is better? – may have begun decades ago but remains a hotly debated topic today. What is active investing? It is an investment method that relies on skilled managers to research and select investments that are expected to generate higher returns than the broader market. By contrast, passive investing seeks simply to replicate a market index, often at low cost, gaining returns comparable to that of the broader market.

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Topics: Finance, Endowments
November 2, 2023 by Josh Anderson

Unlocking the potential of young donors in your faith community demands a multifaceted approach. In this insightful infographic, we explore five powerful strategies proven to engage and inspire the next generation of philanthropists.

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Topics: Finance
October 5, 2023 by Juliette Acker

A sustainable endowment depends on wise spending. Do you need to take a fresh look at how you make spending decisions at your church? In the following infographic, we clarify five common misconceptions that may affect your endowment spending decisions.

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Topics: Endowments, Finance
September 21, 2023 by Aline Sun

Endowment funds are long-term funds, and they are appropriately invested in diversified portfolios of varying asset classes based on expectations about how each asset class will perform over the long term – typically, 10 years or more. Asset classes in an endowment portfolio will likely include equities and fixed income, US and international, large caps and small caps, and so on.

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Topics: Finance, Endowments
July 19, 2023 by Bruce Adams

At first glance, parishes and banks look as different as apples and oranges. Upon a closer look, however, the differences run far deeper than superficial appearances. One institution is a collective — a cooperative—in which individuals pool their treasure, time, and talents to create a social and spiritual community that serves its members and their communities in their search for a deeper relationship with God. The other is a bank. A bank lends money for the purpose of making profit for profit’s sake. The very mission of the bank is to concentrate community wealth in its investors’ hands. Its corporate vision is to grow larger so it can lend more and concentrate more wealth. This is not to say all banks are bad, or that none of them maintain a deep commitment to their communities. But make no mistake, the bank serves the dollar above all else and worships profit.

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May 17, 2023 by Josh Anderson

In Investing in the Future, Josh Anderson, Associate Program Director, ECF Endowment Management, outlines five things prospective donors want to know about your endowment.

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Topics: Endowments, Finance
April 13, 2023 by Carsten Sierck

Church leaders who oversee church money have a fiduciary responsibility. The money is not their own – it belongs to the church – so there are certain standards to follow. That is, you can be as carefree as you want with your own money, but not with someone else’s money!

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Topics: Finance, Vestry
March 30, 2023 by Juliette Acker

Success doesn’t just happen; we must plan for it. Many churches have an endowment fund, but not all have the markers of success. At ECF, we encourage churches to act intentionally and proactively to build a successful and sustainable endowment that engages the vestry, the endowment committee, and the whole church community. It’s important to continually assess your endowment strategy especially if an endowment lacks organization, if it is not growing with new gifts, or if many church members are unaware of the endowment’s existence or purpose.

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Topics: Endowments, Finance
July 11, 2022 by Carsten Sierck

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29: 18

Would you give money to a cause not knowing how it would be spent? Most people give to causes that affirm their cherished values, but donors are more likely to give when they know an organization will use their gift wisely … and believe the gift will make a difference. Churches face increasing competition for the time, attention, and money of their parishioners. Donors who care will give when they are moved by your mission, understand your plans, and trust you.

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Topics: Endowments, Finance
February 10, 2022 by Greg Syler

I hope you’re reading this blog post after your vestry has finished the 2022 budget. I hope it lands in your email or newsfeed after your 2022 Annual Meeting, and that your church’s finance committee and leadership are already well on their way in this year’s spending / resourcing plan. I hope you stumble upon this post long before anyone in your congregation starts talking about 2023.

Oddly enough, the lull between annual pledge drives, stewardship campaigns, budget setting and Annual Meetings is the perfect time to begin talking about spending and resourcing plans for 2023 (and future years). It’s the perfect time because you can talk freely about budget standards, using this Snapshot of Church Finances. It’s an excellent worksheet prepared by Dan Hotchkiss, senior consultant for the Alban Institute.

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Topics: Finance
February 3, 2022 by Greg Syler

I called a friend when I got the Vestry’s financial offer: “I’m expensive,” I said. And I was.

That was years ago, starting my first position as rector. I was taking a pay cut from my curate’s salary at the time, but the benefit of a rectory and related cost savings made it more like a compensation increase.

Clergy are expensive. There is a real cost to our current, at least inherited clergy model in The Episcopal Church. This cost is a lot to bear for many local congregations. The model of a full-time, residential clergyperson includes salary / stipend, plus Episcopal Church Medical Trust health insurance, then pension, SECA, and reimbursements.

Say what you want about the model as I defined it. I promise I’ll come back to that.

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Topics: Finance
January 27, 2022 by Greg Syler

In my previous post, I focused on the significant few expenditures and resources which really move the needle on what it takes to make your local church thrive, let alone run. When it comes down to it, there are remarkably few things church leaders need to pay attention to. These significant few focus on people: equipping lay leaders, resourcing clergy and staff, and connecting continuously with those people who regularly and generously invest in Christ’s mission (often known to vestries and finance committees as “pledge” and “plate”).

The challenge is that it’s hard to pay attention to the significant few because they’re such big items. The good news is that once you do a whole new world of opportunities opens up.

One of which is that you can (finally!) confront the insignificant many. I’ll be the first to admit that the institutions which make up The Episcopal Church have too much stuff: too many copy machines per Average Sunday Attend-er; too many buildings; too many inefficient, costly HVAC systems; way too costly an institutional model. I believe there’s a great deal of fat to cut. A colleague of mine says, rightly, that the problem of The Episcopal Church is not our theology, nor our faith practices, nor our liturgy, nor anything we keep harping on. The problem is our institution: we are driving ourselves out of business.

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Topics: Finance
January 20, 2022 by Greg Syler

“Pay attention to the significant few,” he said, finally speaking up after what seemed like hours of endless back-and-forth about the Excel spreadsheet.

Others at the table looked as bewildered as I was.

“The significant few,” he went on, “that’s what we need to pay attention to – those significant few expenditures and resources that will really move the needle on this budget.”

I knew exactly what or, better, who he was talking about.

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Topics: Finance
January 3, 2022 by Michael Carney

The checkout lines were long at the department store, and since I was just buying gift cards, Customer Service looked like a better choice. No one was returning anything at that moment, so the two clerks were chatting. As I approached the counter, they were discussing the shortage of coins. “Where have they all gone?” I asked, just to be friendly. “It’s the government,” one woman said. “They’re not making enough new coins.”

Back outside, walking to the car, I was still puzzling over that statement. Dollar bills wear out, but not coins. In fact, I hardly use them at all, making even small purchases with my debit card. Still, the cash economy is widespread, and a lot of coins are piling up somewhere.

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Topics: Outreach, Finance
October 14, 2021 by Sandy Webb

Some things just don’t mix: Oil and water, bleach and ammonia, churches and debt. Or, so I have always believed.

We have all heard stories about churches that got in over their heads with debt. We have all heard stories about churches that planned on resources becoming available, either because of congregational growth or forthcoming generosity, only to find themselves disappointed and overleveraged. Churches just need to stay out of debt. Or, so I have always believed.

My own congregation recently completed a major capital restoration project. We said from the beginning that we were not going to spend any more than we raised. And, while we did make some exceptions along the way, we generally stuck to it. The overall gap between our actual capital expenditures and our total pledged revenue was only about 5%.

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August 23, 2021 by Donald Romanik

Recently, the Rt. Reverend Shannon MacVean-Brown, Bishop of Vermont, reported that the diocese was heading toward a “financial cliff” and that budget cuts alone would not prevent the fall. In her July 21 message, MacVean-Brown also announced a new task force that will consider long-term strategies for sustaining congregations and ministries, including the possibility of greater collaboration and resource sharing with the dioceses of New Hampshire and Maine.

The Diocese of Vermont is one of the smallest in the Episcopal Church with 5,700 baptized members in 2019, 10 full-time clergy, and 45 congregations with all but three reporting an Average Sunday Attendance (ASA) of less than 100. Like the rest of the Church, Vermont has experienced membership and ASA declines from 2014 to 2019, but unlike the other New England dioceses, also had a pledge and plate income drop of 3 to 7% in those five years. And Vermont is not alone. I would wager that there are dozens of other Episcopal dioceses facing the same fate but are unable or unwilling to admit it.

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