From the Pastor…
Elsewhere in this issue of the parish bulletin, we inform parishioners that I recently approved the STM operating budget for fiscal year 2018, as recommended by the STM Finance Council.
The budget anticipates total revenue of nearly $2.1 million during FY2018. This includes $1.8 million of revenue from the Sunday Offertory collections, both the collection taken up during Mass and on-line donations. Interestingly, as the years have passed, the portion of STM revenue from on-line giving has steadily increased, while the portion from the “in pew” collection has steadily decreased. We encourage this shift.
Total revenue has varied widely from year to year since 2011. We have seen an annual increase of as much as 14% and as little as .5%. Because revenue is flat this year, we are projecting only a very slight increase in parish revenue in FY2018.
Projecting revenue is always a risky business. There are many factors that can affect a family’s ability and willingness to give to their parish, and absent extensive analysis, it is nearly impossible to guess which factors are at work in our particular case. The Finance Council, Carol Palmer (the STM Business Manager), and I have spent considerable time trying to understand what is happening here and how to address it. We know that several other parishes that are similar to STM are also seeing flat revenues. One local pastor has told me that he is not meeting his expenses for the first 9me in recent memory. Likewise, more than one fundraising professional has told me that non-profit organizations are generally struggling to meet their development goals. It would seem, therefore, that the factors affecting STM are also at work elsewhere. This would suggest that local, if not national, economic factors are discouraging charitable giving.
We also know that STM is growing. According to our parish records, the number of registered families has increased from 1,134 in 2014 to slightly more than 1,500 currently. To be sure, we have lost some families, but I am sure that we have gained many more families than we have lost. My observation is that families that have registered more recently tend to be families with young children. This is wonderful for our parish’s energy and life, and it is good for the larger Church, but families with young children still at home are less likely to be big givers, and understandably so.
We know that the number of STM families that give little or no financial support to the parish is quite high. To be sure, we can only track the contributions of those parishioners who use offertory envelopes, who give by personal check, or who do on-line giving, but according to our records, nearly 30% of registered households made no financial contribution to the parish in calendar year 2016. This high percentage is not atypical of other Catholic parishes, but it is nonetheless discouraging. It is hard to accept that a family that considers itself part of this parish community cannot give even a few dollars in support of parish ministries over the course of a year.
Our records also indicate that we have about 1,100 families who made financial gifts to STM in each of the three years 2014, 2015, and 2016. Of these 1,100 families, 57% either maintained their gift or increased it between 2015 and 2016. Thank you for this!
On the other hand, nearly one-third of these 1,110 families decreased their gift by at least 10% from 2015 to 2016. How to explain this decrease? I see several possibilities. A family may have moved away from STM; a family may be experiencing a difficult circumstance, e.g., lost employment, retirement, the death of a wage-earner, or greatly increased family expenses, like tuition expenses. These situations would fully explain a decreased annual gift in 2016.
Perhaps some families who have cut back on their annual gift to STM think that STM has sufficient resources and doesn’t need their contribution. Yes, it is true that we are paying our bills on time, and we are in fact increasing spending in critical parish ministries (more on this in the coming weeks). Furthermore, we are continuing Msgr. Paul’s prudent practice of setting a substantial sum of money aside each year in anticipation of making major improvements to parish facilities. We have deposited this money in investment accounts where it is earning interest until it is needed, perhaps as early as a year from now. But for every increase in spending in one area, we have had to cut back in another area. We are not “flush with cash.”
Or perhaps a family is unhappy with the direction the parish is taking under the Jesuits. Again, I understand that some parishioners are unhappy, and I am sorry that this is so. I simply encourage you who may be unhappy to sit down with me or Fr. Pat and share your concerns with us. Perhaps we can allay them.
STM parishioners have always been very generous. Since we Jesuits have come to STM, we have said very little about raising money, and this is as it should be. But every so often, we must remind parishioners that we cannot serve you and the larger community as we would like without your financial support.