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No Volunteers for Finance? Consider Hiring It Done

Many congregations struggle to find volunteers to do their financial work. If that's your dilemma, consider hiring outside financial help.

When Heritage Unitarian Universalist (UU) Church, Cincinnati, OH (113 members), couldn't attract enough volunteers to perform its financial duties it divided the treasurer's job into two volunteer positions, an accounts payable treasurer and an accounts receivable treasurer. The former authorizes payroll and reconciles the checking account. The latter tracks pledges and makes deposits. Then Heritage went a step further, hiring a payroll service that pays staff, files state reports, pays withholding and FICA, and prepares W-2s. When the accounts payable volunteer left, Heritage assigned some of that position's paperwork to the office manager—making the accounts payable job easier for the next person who takes it on. Finance Chair Peg Fay Feder, is doing it temporarily.

"These changes, relatively small in scope, have turned our accounts payables treasurer job into one that is much less time-consuming. We went from being totally volunteer to having these two tasks done for pay and that improved our accuracy and timeliness," Feder claims.

UU Society East, Manchester, CT (264 members), had an assistant treasurer, a treasurer, and a finance chair. When it had trouble recruiting an assistant treasurer it shifted administrative financial record-keeping responsibilities to an administrative assistant, extending her hours from twenty to thirty (at a cost of $15/hour plus benefits). The treasurer writes checks, prepares the monthly report, balances the checkbook, does Quickbooks, and attends meetings. A payroll service handles payroll for $1,425 a year, says Philomena Sawyer, finance chair.

When a succession of paid managers quit at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, IL (500), because the job was too big, longtime member, Chris Isely, and senior minister, Ann Tyndall, recommended a reorganization. They added a 20-hour/week finance manager to handle all financial responsibilities. The church manager, still full-time, handles the newsletter and office tasks.

Isley, the current finance manager, says, "We have found that having someone accountable for all financial matters is worth it. We can be very responsive to members, bills get paid on time, people get accurate statements." He also took over the duties of a volunteer who handled payroll tax and church bank accounts. Creating the position cost $5,000 annually. "People are very comfortable now in talking to me about money," says Isely.

Still, there are benefits to using volunteers, says Louise Ferrell, at the UU Fellowship of Corvallis, OR, (276), where she and another person divide financial tasks. "It seems to me the routine parts that could easily be hired out—entering data and writing checks—are also the parts I am able to find volunteers for. I do not see how to hire out the hard parts," such as monthly and annual reports, providing information for committees and the board, and helping employees understand their benefits.

Wayne Clark, director of congregational fundraising services for the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA), says there are no hard and fast rules on when a congregation should hire someone to do financial data-keeping. "There are two issues: how complex is the work; and can you afford to hire someone? It also depends on your volunteers. Some congregations have good financial volunteers and others do not. If you struggle to find volunteers to do this work then certainly it's worth asking the congregation if it would rather pay someone to do it."

Resources

Fundraising questions may be addressed to the Director of UUA Congregational Fundraising Services: P.O. Box 378, Cumberland, ME 04021; (207) 829-4550.

About the Author

  • Donald E. Skinner was the founding editor of the InterConnections newsletter for congregational leaders and a senior editor of UU World from 1998 until his retirement in 2014. He is a member of the Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church in Lenexa, Kansas.

For more information contact interconnections@uua.org.

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