Modest fundraising plan, fiscal year date change approved

Deborah Froese | Mennonite Church Canada

After an unsettling year of cuts to ministry and staff, financial news from Mennonite Church Canada’s spring leadership assembly is cautiously hopeful.

“Individuals and corporate donors have increased their giving compared to last year,” executive director Willard Metzger reported, adding that congregational giving remained nearly flat. Preliminary signs for next year are encouraging, but it’s a constantly moving target, he said.

Although overall donation income rose by approximately $75,000 over the previous year, it met only half of the intended goal. Additionally, a slower economy led to an investment income loss of $23,000—when a gain of $70,000 had been anticipated.

While the numbers are sobering, the stage has been set for a stronger upcoming year. Until September 2011, fundraising staff were not all in place, limiting the national church’s ability to develop partnerships and inspire generosity. By September, those vacancies were filled:

  • Daniel Horne is now MC Canada’s director of partnership development.
  • Brent Charette is church engagement minister, filling a role jointly funded by MC Canada and MC Eastern Canada. Charette’s appointment is a demonstration of the relationship between the national and area church as they partner together for resource development to facilitate ministry in both.

Metzger and Horne have created a resource development plan to raise $150,000 more in donations for the fiscal year ending in 2013.

“It’s a reasonable plan. It’s a fairly modest plan,” Metzger said. However, he cautioned that not meeting the overall income target will mean further cuts to ministry next year.

Financial policy states that MC Canada must use the actual income of the previous year to determine the following year’s budget. Accordingly, the expenditure budget for the fiscal year ending in 2013 should have been reduced by approximately $75,000.

But to help the relatively new Church Engagement Council and fundraising staff strengthen their capacity, senior staff made a proposal to the Financial Planning and Audit Committee to cover the shortfalls in the 2011-12 budget with a draw from its council reserves.  Executive staff requested that the policy be overridden for one year to allow an increased donation target for the fiscal year ending in 2013, rather than cut an already tight budget further. Gordon Peters, committee chair and treasurer, deemed the request reasonable and recommended it to the General Board. After careful consideration, the General Board gave its approval.

“Now that we are fully staffed, we can really work at this,” Metzger said.

Fiscal-year-end date changed

Randy Wiebe, chief financial officer, said that just over 40 percent of annual donations typically arrive in the final quarter of the fiscal year, which presently ends on Jan. 31. For the second time in recent years, giving was on target as of Dec. 31, 2011, but fell off considerably in January of this year, which contributed to the unmet income target.

“By then, it is too late to make any adjustments in expenses or generate an appeal that will substantially change the picture before the end of the fiscal year,” said Metzger.

To provide a more stable outlook on income flow, the General Board has approved a shift in the fiscal-year-end date from Jan. 31 to Sept. 30. Once the new date becomes effective in 2013, the bulk of donations will arrive at the beginning of the fiscal year, rather than at the end.

The fiscal-year-end date change will not mean additional revenue, Metzger cautioned, but will make planning easier. “We will start the fiscal year on a more predictable footing, rather than ending the year on our most unpredictable quarter,” he said.

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