“Should We Switch Our Fiscal Year?” Response Letter
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 to view the others responses.
STEVE HASBROUCK WROTE:
I am the bookkeeper at Grace Episcopal Church in Amherst, MA.
We recently changed out fiscal year from the calendar year to the July 1 - June 30 year. We made the change in 2004. The first six months of 2004 was a "stump" year. We had our Stewardship pledge drive in the spring. We then started our first, new fiscal year in July, 2004.
We have completed that year and have had our second Stewardship pledge drive for the '05 - '06 year. Our situation is complicated by the fact that we are undertaking a huge Capital Campaign this year that we ran in concert with our Stewardship drive. Separating out the effects of each of these is not easy.
Your summation of the situation is just what we are experiencing. The reason we changed is the one you listed, "Spring is a time we celebrate life, hope, and resurrection". The reasons it is not working are the also the ones you listed: People are uncomfortable with the change and very, very confused by it. There are people who give once a year, in the fall. A fair number of these people are not pledging in the April/May/June campaign but will give in the fall, like always.
Another reason against it is that people leave during the summer (Amherst is very tied to the academic calendar as we have two colleges and the flagship campus of the state university in town) and if they haven't put their pledge in before they go, you won't get them again until September. In the meantime you have made your budget up based on what you THINK you will raise vs. what has actually been pledged. This year we have only 70% of the pledges in and it is late July. This may be in part due to the Capital Campaign. I am sure that has a piece. I also think the new fiscal year has a piece.
Another odd piece is the "annual" report. We still have our annual meeting in January. However, what do you report? The results that ended June 30th and/or the results of the half-year so far? Last year we didn't report enough for some people and I can understand their point. This year we will gave a balance sheet as of 12/31 and the six-month results.
I hate to sound like a stick-in-the-mud but I would like I to get back to the calendar year. This would be harder for me personally. I am an outside bookkeeper as well and January is by far my busiest month of the year, but I think the flow is just easier for everyone when it is based on the calendar year. Folks that are aware of the change in fiscal year will be able to change back. Those that were confused by the change will get back in the flow. As for giving levels, well, the capital campaign has clouded an apples-to-apples comparison and the economy seems to be a bit shaky as well and I think that is having an impact.
It is a very, very complicated situation that has a lot of ramifications that are hard to anticipate. For me, the fact that folks go away in the summer and, therefore, our campaign really won't be complete until late September means something. The confusion is very tangible and I have been telling so many parishioners I appreciate their confusion, it is confusing. I wouldn't do it again if I had a choice.
Hope this helps. The financial director of our Diocese sent your article to our rector and myself. It would be interesting to hear what the rector says. He is an optimist. I am, by din of my vocation, pretty conservative in these matters. Probably some where in the middle is a good compromise.