Recently I attended a Unitarian Universalist Sunday service in Montreal, where the congregation was in the midst of their annual fundraising campaign to raise the necessary money for their budget. These funds would be used to support their staff (full-time minister and part-time administrative and religious education staff), maintain their building and administer their programs. To my surprise, the various members who read out short testimonials about how important their UU lives were to them, spoke very frankly about their actual incomes and intended pledges, naming dollar amounts.
To my ears, this openness was unheard of, but very refreshing, as I have seldom known what anyone donates. Those UU testimonials were variations on "honesty is the best policy," I suppose—frankness is so much more useful than secretiveness or embarrassment. Yet the usual atmosphere around money for many of us is one of—if not dishonesty—evasiveness or secrecy, tension and a lot of unexplained taboos. How I would love us to grow to be able to talk very openly about money and to be relaxed about money matters in our meetings, as a Society—and in small-S society, too!
I note with pleasure that my own monthly meeting has been increasingly straightforward about money matters. For some years our assistant treasurer has prepared notes to give guidance to donors, and last year wrote about our meeting’s budget process in The Canadian Friend. This year’s text was not only read during announcements, but minuted.
Assistant Treasurer’s Report to Ottawa Monthly Meeting, November 2005:
In 2004, there were 54 contributors to our meeting. Of these, 39 were members of our meeting or other Quaker meetings; 14 were attenders; and one was an institution. Total contributions were $33,019 in 2004. There was a range of contributions from $35 to $2,100.
The budget for 2006 prepared by Finance Committee totals $53,500. Approximately $15,000 of this should be covered by rentals, fees and interest. The remaining $38,550 will have to come from the contributions of members and attenders. If we divide this amount by the number of contributors we get an average of $715 approx. It is worth noting that in some years in the recent past we had major contributions from a few older Friends. This kind of contribution is dwindling in number. It is necessary for each person in the meeting to consider well how much he/she can give to the meeting to cover our operating and programme costs.
This kind of openness really helps me figure out how to decide how much money to give my own meeting. I wonder if we can go further and find ways to be as unselfconscious as these Unitarians?