Stewardship Resource

“Should We Switch Our Fiscal Year?” Response Letter

Letter  Letter
  • Author: Scott Searl
  • Updated: 06/17/2008
  • Copyright: Scott Searl

In a recent newsletter I wrote that I "would like to learn  from others whose fiscal year is other than the calendar year.  What are the benefits?  What are the disadvantages?  What do you recommend a congregation do to implement such a change?"

Click on A SUMMARY OF LETTERS o view responses.

--Jerry Hoffman

Scott Searl Replied:

I read the question and your response to moving the stewardship cycle in a congregation to a fiscal year orientation. My response after working for four years to return our appeals to a regular calendar year cycle is... don't do it. Having an internal fiscal year for accounting purposes is fine, making both Christmas and Easter fall in the middle of the fiscal year is a nice advantage for the accounting folks, and even for planning budgeting purposes... but for regular, everyday moms and dads and families and kids... personal fiscal years run on the calendar... you can try to fight it but I would not suggest it; it's not worth the effort and in the long run will not produce growth in giving.

Mount Calvary made the move to a fiscal year and fiscal year pledging a number of years ago, there was a steady decline in pledging, and more importantly a steady decline in clarity, trust and understanding... sending a reminder to fulfill your pledge in May does not make sense to families and my experience is that any amount of uncertainty in a stewardship appeal leads to less giving, not more. While the initial push, and initial appeal may generate a small increase due to the novelty... it will wear off as most gimmicks in fundraising always do.

My advice after spending four years working to reorient an appeal cycle to calendar year and after doing so receiving the most pledges for the most dollars ever, and increasing trust and clarity... is don't change, don't fight it from a stewardship perspective. Simple is always the best plan and a pledging cycle that begins on a fiscal year is confusing... no one, other than a few savvy business people will remember that the church has a fiscal year, and that our pledges are due in May, or whenever... At the same time I do recommend a church budget that follows an internal fiscal year... our pledging and budgeting are out of sync like this and it is working well... hard, but good. Council members have a monthly opportunity to understand this orientation and we never talk about it publicly. It works well because it forces us to think about six months to a year and six months out... better long term planning, better internal direction and better budgeting for the future. So fiscal year = great, fiscal year pledging = disaster.

That is my perspective, and I feel quite passionately about it as I feel that any move to a fiscal year pledging cycle is simply another gimmick and will not produce long term quality stewardship... spend more time teaching, preaching and in conversation with people over a meal about stewardship... do the hard work of it rather than a quick fix.

Anyway -- for what it is worth.

Scott Searl

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