2020 Treasurer's Report Released

2020 Treasurer's Report Released

The following Treasurer's Report has been prepared for the Annual Meeting, to be held Sept. 26, 2020:
Southern New England Conference, United Church of Christ
Treasurer’s Report to the Annual Meeting by Calvin Price
August 24, 2020
As I write this report, we are eight months into operations as a new Conference.  New banking and accounting systems have been established. Business procedures based in the three historic conferences have been integrated, updated, and brought online – a move that proved particularly valuable as the COVID-19 pandemic arrived.

2020 Budget Update
The 2020 budget presented to the joint Annual Meetings of the three historic conferences in 2019 was a composite of three historic budgets brought forward.  It assumed a kind of continuity that has not been the reality in 2020.   As of the time of this writing, 2020 actual income and expenses have diverged from the budget in several key ways:

Loss of Income from Camps, Conferences and Retreats
During the spring, we closed our retreat centers at Silver Lake, Irons Homestead, and Edwards House.  As summer approached, it became clear that we could not safely operate summer camps and conferences, so we cancelled normal operations at Silver Lake and at Pilgrim Day Camp.  We regretfully released from their commitments the summer staff we had anticipated hiring.  As fall approaches, it is clear that retreat business will remain significantly curtailed through at least the end of this year.

Although we did not pay summer staffing, food and program costs, expenses such as maintenance, insurance and year-round staff continued.  We anticipate net losses of about $600,000 for 2020 due to the pandemic.

Paycheck Protection Plan loan
The Conference applied for and received a Federal Paycheck Protection loan in the amount of $718,300, which we anticipate will be fully forgivable under the terms of the CARES Act.  This has allowed us to weather the camp and retreat losses without laying off any year-round staff.  It will prove crucial to the continuity of our outdoor ministries, assuming they are able to go forward in 2021.

Proportional Giving and Economic Uncertainty
As a new Conference, we have adopted a new process for supporting the ministries we carry out together.  Rather than contributing per capita dues and Basic Support, our churches are asked to give a proportion of their regular operating income to the Conference, as the Conference will give a proportion of its regular operating income to the National setting. 

This change is grounded in Biblical theology and consistent with our Vision.  More information, including guidance for making the transition is available at the Conference website here.  For 2020, churches are asked to give, at minimum, an amount equal to the per capita dues and Basic Support they contributed in 2019.

It is too soon to determine how the COVID-related economic crisis will affect our local churches and their ability to contribute to our shared work.  The Finance Committee of the Board is keeping a close watch on both income and expenses as the year progresses.

Cost Savings Due to Pandemic
As all our churches pivoted to remote ministries almost overnight, our Conference offered immediate guidance and support.  Conference staff led the way in adapting their own work,  replacing in-person meetings and gatherings with phone calls, Zoom teleconferences and Facebook live streams. The result has been significant savings year-to-date in areas such as travel, meetings and site costs as of the end of July.

In summary, assuming that most churches are able to keep their Proportional Giving commitments, we believe that the Conference resources will be sufficient to support our shared ministries for the remainder of the year.

2021 Budget Projections
The 2021 budget adopted by the Board of Directors represents our best guess in the midst of great uncertainty.  Here are key things to understand:

Giving from Churches
The 2021 budget adopted by the Board of Directors assumes that Proportional Giving by the churches will decrease by four percent, continuing the gradual downward trend of the past 15-20 years.

In the face of this trend, the Board is actively cultivating other revenue streams, including grants, program fees, and individual donor development.  The Conference currently benefits from a 5-year, $1 million grant from the Lilly Endowment to fund the ecumenical Together We Thrive clergy development program. Fundraising and development strength are built into the new staffing model adopted for 2021 as well as the job description for the Executive Conference Minister.

However, these efforts take time to bear fruit, and the Board is not assuming significant amounts of new revenue for 2021.

Camps, Conferences and Retreats
The budget makes the optimistic assumption that we will be able to run our summer camps and conferences.  This is an area of great risk and uncertainty.  If we cannot return to near-normal operations for 2021, the Board will be faced with very difficult choices.  Even with painful cost-cutting, some short-term use of invested assets will likely be necessary.

Staffing Costs
The budget reflects a smaller staff structure than the one with which we began 2020.  Given the downward trend in giving from our churches, it was clear to the Bridge Conference Ministers and the Board that the new staffing model would need to be smaller in order to be sustainable.
While the new structure includes some new resourcing for churches, such as a Digital Minister, the overall level of staff time available will inevitably be less than in the past.  As always, staff will attempt to align all their efforts with our shared Vision, Mission and Purpose statement, prioritizing those activities which will best help our local congregations to make disciples of Jesus, make God’s love and justice real, lead adaptive change, and work with others for the common good.

The significance of our Conference ministries has been vividly apparent in recent months, as the pandemic laid bare our interdependence.  Our clergy and lay leaders have leaned heavily on the research and wisdom of the wider church, even as each has contribute to our growing body of shared knowledge and adaptive capacity.   The ministry of the UCC remains a light and a lifeline in over six hundred communities in southern New England.

I speak for the whole Board in thanking each of you, and your congregations, for your Proportional Giving contributions that make our Conference ministry possible.  Your Board is profoundly grateful to be with you in this new journey as we seek to live the love and justice of Jesus.  
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