If you have a hard time remembering to write the new year on your checks each January, think about how confused I get when working on three different years’ of Minnesota Conference financial books at the same time. That is what we are doing now. We must close out 2010 and get ready for the 2010 audit. We are preparing to enter 2011 information in our accounting software. And we have begun work on the 2012 apportioned budget.
Because I’m thinking a lot about budgets at this time of year, I wanted to share with you some information about how we prepare and manage the conference budget. This is part one: managing the budget. Next month I’ll describe how we prepare the budget.
We take steps every year to be as frugal we can with all our resources; but the past few years have seen extraordinary financial circumstances, so we have made extraordinary efforts in managing expenses. Here are some of our recent actions on the expense side:
We have reduced conference staff by over four full-time positions (not including the reduction in district superintendents) in the past few years—a 20 percent reduction.
We reduced the number of districts and district superintendents from six to five in 2008.
We froze salaries for conference staff in 2009, with only a 1.5% increase in 2010.
We froze salaries for directors on conference staff and district superintendents in 2009 and 2010.
We maintained apportioned funds for key areas, such as Congregational Development and Investing in Congregations. These are distributed as grants to churches to address our strategic imperatives: reach new people and cultivate spiritual vitality.
We delayed computer and equipment replacement in the conference and district offices.
We reduced meeting and travel expenses for volunteers and staff.
We have a spending plan for 2009 and 2010 that asks ministry areas to reduce spending. All ministry areas funded by the apportioned budget participated as much as possible in the spending reductions. Most of the savings were realized from staff reductions and freezing salaries.
While we acknowledge the challenges facing us, we have many reasons to give thanks to God. Here are some of the things we have accomplished together:
Minnesota Conference apportionment receipts through the end of August 2010 are at a similar level as in recent years.
Minnesota United Methodists contributed over $400,000 to United Methodist Committee on Relief for Haiti disaster relief work so far in 2010.
Minnesota United Methodists completed their significant financial commitment to our Russia United Methodist Church partner in 2009.
Recent stewardship seminars sponsored by the Minnesota United Methodist Foundation, with assistance from the Minnesota Annual Conference, have been well-attended. Experts shared practical and proven strategies for improving financial stewardship so that churches can continue mission and ministry that is vital at any time and especially needed in times like these.
Across the United Methodist Church, congregations on average retain 84 cents of every dollar put in the collection plate. In Minnesota, United Methodist congregations on average retain 90 cents of every dollar they collect.
The Minnesota Annual Conference as an organization exceeds the guidelines suggested by charity watchdog groups for measuring efficiency with donated funds. (These groups suggest that 30 percent or less of an organization’s budget should be spent on administrative items. Minnesota Conference’s 2011 apportioned budget has less than 17 percent budgeted for administration.) If you add to the apportioned budget items such as the health insurance plan, youth events, all other benevolences such as the Advance, and the group workers’ compensation program, the Minnesota Conference spends under 10 percent of its total annual operating budget on administration.
For more detailed information, please see the 2010 Minnesota Conference Journal and Yearbook and the 2010 Treasurer’s Report. Learn how apportionments support ministry around the world by visiting www.umcgiving.org.
Barbara Carroll is director of finance and administration for the Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.