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Fiscal Matters: Writing Congregational Bylaws
Governance for Congregations, Bylaws & Policies

Bylaws may delineate many or few of the details of the financial operation of a congregation. At a minimum, the bylaws should set out the fiscal year for the congregation, who has responsibility for financial matters, and what happens to the congregation's assets upon dissolution of the congregation. (In this manual, provisions denoting responsibility for financial matters are under the section "Responsibilities of the Treasurer," and provisions for dissolution are under the heading "Dissolution Clause.") However, other matters can be included, such as the process for budget preparation and audit of the financial records.

Fiscal Year

How the fiscal year is defined varies from congregation to congregation. Some congregations find it useful to have their year-end be the same as that of the Unitarian Universalist Association (June 30), because it allows easy comparison, calculation, and payment of the congregation's contribution to the Unitarian Universalist Association. Other congregations prefer to follow a calendar year, and still others find other dates more appropriate for their congregation. In the business world, the fiscal year-end generally follows the end of the most significant activity of the business.

Sample Provisions

Example 1: The fiscal year shall end June 30.

Example 2: The fiscal year of the Church is from July 1 to June 30.

Example 3: The fiscal year is July 1 to June 30. The budget for said fiscal year shall be adopted by a majority vote of those present and voting at the annual meeting.

Example 4: The church year shall begin on July 1 of each year and end on June 30 of the following year.

Example 5: The fiscal year of this Association shall begin on May first of each year and end on April thirtieth of the following year.

Other Financial Provisions

Sample Provisions

Example 1: Budget Process: At each annual business meeting, the Church Board shall submit an operating budget for the coming fiscal year. The budgeted expenses may not exceed the anticipated income. A budget is adopted by a simple majority vote of the voting members present at the meeting. Once a budget is approved, the Board may authorize and expend the funds as budgeted. The Board may reallocate funds, as long as the reallocation does not exceed ten percent (10%) of the approved obligation or indebtedness that exceeds $5,000.

Example 2: Financial Indebtedness: The Corporation shall not become indebted in an amount greater than Fifteen Thousand Dollars ($15,000) unless said limit is increased by a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the voting members present at a duly called special meeting.

Example 3: Income received from the ________________________ Endowment Fund shall be used for purposes other than general operating expenses.

Example 4: Church Funds: All funds and property received by or coming into the custody of the Church belong to and are trust funds and the property of ______________________ congregation, to be held and expended only for the purposes authorized and only in accordance with the regulations and/or written agreements prescribed or accepted by the Board of Trustees of the Church.

Example 5: Loans: The Board of Trustees may make short-term loans to the General Fund up to the total of thirty percent (30%) of the restricted funds.

Example 6: Social Responsibility: In keeping with Unitarian Universalist Association guidelines, expenditures and investments must meet social responsibility criteria. All such purchases and investments shall be from companies: that do not produce products, offer services, or operate in a manner which might be unsafe to the consumer or threatening to our environment; that are not predominantly involved in the production of war material; that are not dependent on discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, disability, affectional or sexual orientation, age, national origin, or religion; that do not exploit the poor or deprived for their business success; and that provide safe and healthy work environments and fair and equal employment opportunities for all persons in their labor force.

Example 7: The accounts of the Church, including all endowment funds, shall receive an outside financial review or limited audit each year by a certified public accountant. The annual financial review or limited audit shall be available for Church members' inspection.

Example 8: Audit: At the end of each fiscal year, the Finance Committee Chairman, with the Board's concurrence, shall arrange for an audit of the books of account and shall report thereon to the Board and to the congregation in a newsletter or other communication.

Example 9: Execution of Instruments: Checks and other orders on the funds or credit of the church, and all contracts and instruments in writing by the church, shall be valid and binding upon the church only when executed by such officers as shall be designated and authorized by the Board.

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