Church Leaders are Feeling Excitement over Major Adaptive Change Opportunities: A Look at Financial Survey Data

Church Leaders are Feeling Excitement over Major Adaptive Change Opportunities: A Look at Financial Survey Data

Last week Don Remick shared with us the results from the SNEUCC’s most recent COVID survey. The Conference received nearly 300 responses representing 45% of our congregations. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughtful and honest reflections and answers. Your input is helping us as we prepare resources that will work to support you as we all navigate this next stage of life mid-pandemic.

The COVID survey looked at a variety of aspects of congregational life. This analysis looks specifically at those regarding finances, questions 7-11:
Question 7: Did you receive a PPP loan?
(Answered: 270, skipped: 2)
  • Yes: 76.5% (206)
  • No: 23.5% (64)
Here, in order, is a summary of some of the most common comments:
  • “It was a major hassle to get but has proven to be a life-saver. Most of the funds were used to offset payroll costs (we did not lay off or reduce hours of any of our staff even though they were not working when the building was closed) but enough funds remained to cover the costs of installing touchless hand sanitizers for our two entrances to the sanctuary and touchless soap dispensers and paper towel dispensers for the bathrooms.”
  • “We applied, were approved, and then declined it, so others might benefit from that money”
  • “Did not apply - felt we have adequate resources for now and others needed it more.”
  • “We felt there was too much paperwork and preconditions, so we never applied.”
 Question 8: Our pledge income giving is:
(Answered: 268, skipped: 4)
  • Less than what we expected: 22.5% (60)
  • About what we expected: 53% (142)
  • More than what we expected: 24.5% (66)
Here, in order, is a summary of some of the most common comments:
  • “We are receiving donations from around the country because of our live-streaming. Also electronic giving has helped immensely. Our current fall pledge drive is exceeding expectations so far.”
  • “People have been generous at the encouragement of speeding up their giving (finishing their yearly pledged amount early). Coupled with reduced expenses, this has left us in a good fiscal place.”
  • “Without plate offerings, and without our Thrift Shop and other fund-raising revenue sources, we are down.”
  • “Giving remains at almost-normal levels, though we have lost significant rental income and loose plate income, etc. The majority of our congregation is not financially impacted by the pandemic in a way that prevents them from fulfilling their commitments. Our mission giving collections have increased.”
  • “It may be trending down a bit now. We'll need another month in the fall to judge.”
*Resources mentioned: DonorBox, challenge match fundraiser, text to pledge
Question 9: Our rental and other income (fundraisers, thrift shop, pre-school etc) is:
(Answered: 259, skipped: 13)
  • Less than what we expected: 83% (215)
  • About what we expected: 15.5% (40)
  • More than what we expected: 1.5% (4)
Here, in order, is a summary of some of the most common comments:
  • “At the beginning of the year, we lost one of our leases, a major chunk of revenue, and also with the building closed, it has inadvertently decreased our regular income from the usage of the building by outside groups.”
  • “We have not done any of our regular fundraisers, which bring in maybe $10K, which is significant for us.”
  • “The pandemic forced us to close our preschool and stop all space rentals”
  • “We're getting creative in our attempts to make up some of what we will miss from the fair; we have an online auction and a socially distanced cookie walk planned, both awaiting approval from our local health officials to assure we've planned for all the necessary precautions.”
  • “The AT&T antenna on our tower is still there, and indeed being upgraded...that income remains constant and there is no indication this will decrease in the near future.”
  • “No Xmas Fair this year. Usually nets 10K but looking forward to offering a Christmas Unplugged-focus on simplicity, not frenetic energy surrounding fair, decorating, etc. Then everybody drops from exhaustion in Jan!! Hopefully more spiritual and reflective.”
*Alternative fundraising ideas mentioned: Curbside pasta dinner, cookie pickup, outdoor yard sale, virtual fair, outdoor raffle, online auction
Question 10: Looking ahead we project that in the coming year our income from all sources compared to last year will be:
(Answered: 265, skipped: 7)
  • Less than last year: 53% (140)
  • About the same as last year: 40.5% (108)
  • More than last year: 6.5% (17)
Here, in order, is a summary of some of the most common comments:
  • “We may end up a bit less than last year...but PPP and above referenced fund raiser will keep us relatively close to whole.”
  • “Not enough information to reply accurately at this time”
  • “The support from Facebook and Zoom has been more than we expected. And the members have stepped up to support additional expenses such as Wi-Fi in the church”
  • “Thanks to PPP. Again, 2021 looks much more bleak.”
  • “We draw the major portion of our income from invested funds -- they have not diminished, other than moderate fluctuations because of stock market.”
  • “More pledges, less rentals and fundraising.”
Question 11: Have you utilized webinars and resources of the conference related to stewardship and financial planning?
(Answered: 267, skipped: 5)
  • Yes: 52.5% (140)
  • No: 47.5% (127)
Here, in order, is a summary of some of the most common comments:
  • “Early on in the Pandemic our Treasurer attended several webinars on managing the church's funds during the pandemic which he found very helpful. The information was shared with our Trustees and was most helpful, especially in going after the PPP loan.”
  • “Hope to do more with stewardship committee and church leaders.”
  • “No time to see everything but we are trying.”
  • “Very grateful for the offer of these webinars and for being helpful through various avenues.”
*Resources mentioned: VANCO, webinars from Pension Boards and PRC

When asked the question “how are you doing?” one pastor answered, “Exhausted but feeling excitement of major adaptive change opportunities.” This quote best sums up the data from the survey and how so many of us are feeling at this moment.

In March we were forced to quickly adapt and make changes. At that point, we were getting through on adrenaline and it felt as if we were sprinting; hoping that the finish line was just a couple of months away. Today, we are starting to realize that this is a marathon. Sustaining and maintaining are exhausting.
We cannot take advantage of opportunities if we are not taking care of ourselves. I encourage you to embrace the adaptive changes of the future while recognizing that we are all experiencing a level of grief and sense of loss. Like one of our churches shared in their comments, use the cancelation of events like the Christmas fair to unplug and focus on spirituality and reflection!


Lee Gagen

Lee is the Major Gift Officer, Common Services, Philanthropy for the national setting of the UCC.  (She was formerly the Director of Individual and External Donor Relations at the Southern New England Conference.)  

Subscribe to our emails
Framingham, MA Office

1 Badger Road
Framingham, MA 01702

Hartford, CT Office

125 Sherman Street
Hartford, CT 06105

Toll Free Phone: 866-367-2822
Fax: 866-367-0860
General Email: