• Finance and Stewardship

    “A house in order…”

Through careful and intentional planning, Trinity operates on a balanced budget, is debt-free, has six months of operating reserves in the bank, has allocated ample expenses for the transition process, and is growing a modest endowment. The Rector, Vestry, Treasurer, Investment Committee, and Stewardship Committee have worked diligently to:

  • create financial systems that track sources of gifts and uses of spending,
  • communicate clearly the full cost of funding our ministries and programs to the parish,
  • provide regular updates on the budget and be transparent in how monies are spent,
  • adopt prudent fiscal policies that reflect our desire for growth while remaining fairly conservative in our investments, and
  • appoint an annual audit committee to review our accounts to reflect the leadership’s desire for fiscal transparency.

Our vision of stewardship is grounded in the belief that everything we have is a gift from a generous and abundant God. The spiritual practice of stewardship empowers us to share in building God’s dream of love and justice in our hearts and world through our gifts of time, talent, and treasure. Stewardship brings many blessings, among them deep satisfaction that we have faithfully responded as best we can to God’s call, and gratitude that we are able to support one another in fulfilling our various ministries. At our Stewardship dinner in 2015, we celebrated our blessings and shared with humor, our history.

Trends in our annual operating budget

Despite all the good news, challenges remain. Pledge income has remained fairly flat, while expenses have increased. The chart below indicates the income and expenses over a 10-year period, highlighting three years: 2005 (actual), 2010 (actual), and 2015 (projected).

historical operating income expenses2010 was a particularly challenging year for Trinity. Like many religious and charitable organizations, Trinity faced a downturn in pledge income following the 2007-08 recession.  That same year, many parishioners were continuing to pay off their pledge to the church’s capital campaign, making it more difficult than usual to secure adequate operating pledges needed to fully fund our ministries and mission.

In 2013, when Mark Asman announced his intention to retire in 2016, he led the charge to create a sustainable balanced budget for the incoming rector.  Over a three-year period, through a combination of controlling expenses and increasing pledge income, the church eliminated its annual operating budget deficit and now operates in the black.  The Vestry is committed to preparing balanced operating budgets and communicating to the parish the need to live within our means.  At the same time, many in lay leadership have expressed our desire to increase both the pledge base and the average pledge.  Increasing the size of Trinity’s operating budget is a goal, as many of the church’s aspirations cannot be realized without additional pledge income to support growth in programs and services.

2015 budget: incomeLike most parishes, Trinity’s sources of income are fairly straightforward:  pledges, loose plate, festival (special events), gifts from organizations, legacy and special gifts from current or former parishioners, interest income from our reserves, and income from our endowment.

2015-budget-expensesLike most parishes, salary expenses represent our single largest expenditure. Although plant maintenance represents only 14% of our operating budget, a recently completed capital campaign (discussed later in this section) provided significant funding for our capital and maintenance needs. The leadership at Trinity is especially proud of our commitment to justice and outreach. For many years, we have traditionally disbursed 5-10% of our income to support social justice organizations. This year, we are allocating nearly $30,000 to our Justice Fund, which will focus on one of the Jubilee Justice themes. In 2014, the Justice Committee, with direction and support from the vestry, undertook a prayerful listening and review process with significant input from the parish. This resulted in increasing the size of our grants, reducing the number of community organizations receiving the funds, and connecting the parish more to our grantees, thereby maximizing the impact of our giving within the Santa Barbara community.

Pledges for 2015

Trinity enjoys a broad base of support for its annual operating budget.

2015-distribution-of-pledges

How stewardship is organized

The Stewardship Committee is a standing vestry committee. Chaired by a parishioner, usually a member of the vestry, the committee consists of several parishioners, and is staffed by the Rector, Associate Rector, and Coordinator of Shared Ministries. Parishioners typically serve one or two years on the committee, then rotate off. The rector has traditionally played a very active role in managing the stewardship effort, recruiting new members, setting goals, identifying additional volunteers, and spiritual practice. The role of the vestry in stewardship involves:

  • setting the annual budget,
  • approving the strategy and theme selected by the Stewardship Committee for the annual fundraising effort,
  • serving as volunteers in the annual effort,
  • setting an example by making a personal pledge each year in advance of the stewardship season, and
  • thanking others for their pledges.

Over the past two years, the stewardship effort involved personal canvass: meeting with each pledging family/individual to share stories of their own giving journey, ask about the parishioner’s connection to Trinity, explain the financial and programmatic goals for the year, and frame stewardship as a spiritual practice. This approach to the annual stewardship effort resulted in:

  • further bonding members to each other,
  • increasing parishioners’ understanding of the total costs to fund the church’s ministries and the need for increased pledge income,
  • slight increases in pledge income from prior years, and
  • helping parishioners develop the language to talk about why they are called to give and how this practice supports their spiritual growth.

Capital campaign

With the intention of maintaining our historic building and restoring its beauty, the “Looking Beyond Ourselves” capital and endowment campaign, which ran from 2008 to 2014, deepened our commitment to providing a welcoming place of worship for generations to come. This $2.3 million campaign raised approximately $2.15 million for capital purposes. Another $300,000 was raised through our Trinity Legacy Circle planned giving program to establish a facilities endowment called the Looking Beyond Ourselves Endowment.

Because our historic building stands as a physical representation of God’s love and provides a home base for our many shared ministries working toward an eco-friendly world, our capital projects made use of low-impact, green building materials, high efficiency lighting, and sustainable landscaping.

Some noteworthy capital projects included installing a new roof; gutting, enlarging and replacing the kitchen; replacing our plumbing; installing new heating, lighting, and sound systems; reconfiguring classrooms and installing new floors in the church school building; upgrading our electrical systems; replacing and re-leading windows; improving storage space in the sacristy; and complying with ADA requirements with the addition of new elevators. While many of these improvements are not as visible or “showy” as other capital expenditures, they speak to the parish’s willingness to fund what’s necessary for the long-term future of the church, not just what’s most visible.

Endowment and reserves

For the period ending June 30, 2015, Trinity had $456,000 in reserves. We also have two endowment funds. First is the Brackenbury Fund, a $1.1 million unrestricted endowment. The fund was established by the sale of a property donated by a former parishioner. Although unrestricted, the vestry has allocated a portion of the income from this endowment to provide clergy-related needs, such as maintenance of the rectory, housing assistance for the associate rector, and clergy benefits. The second fund is the growing $312,000 Looking Beyond Ourselves endowment, which is designed for the long-term maintenance of our 31,000 square foot campus.

Trinity utilizes a professional investment management company for our endowment and reserves and works with a lay-led investment committee that reports to the vestry on the status of our endowment and reserves. Unlike many Episcopal parishes, our business manager, who is a part-time employee, is not a part of our investment committee nor has the rector been intimately involved in its work.

Our endowments are invested in a wide range of asset classes designed to reduce risk and provide moderate returns. A tangible expression of living into our values, the investment committee, with support of the vestry, adopted a socially responsible investment policy for our endowment funds in 2015.

Our near-term future

The vestry has recently formed a Finance Committee to assist and support the treasurer and business manager in overseeing our operating budget. In the spirit of our shared ministry model, Trinity parishioners wish to partner with our new rector to:

  • review our endowment policies,
  • analyze our investment performance,
  • consider alternative structures for managing our finances,
  • decide on the focus and form of our 2016-17 stewardship effort, and
  • determine how and articulate why we are called to grow our operating budget.

While challenges remain on how to grow our operating budget, Trinity is on solid financial footing. We have laid important groundwork for our next rector to build on our past successes, and are deeply committed to this continuing journey as we explore new and deeper pathways toward being faithful stewards of God’s abundance.

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