A good friend reminded me that today, November 19th is the 149th Anniversary of the Gettysburg address. Less than 30% of the people of the United States in 1863 supported President Lincoln. Over 95% of the newspapers in the United States, after the address was given, said, “…it is not worthy to read.”
Take a few minutes to read this address which along with the Declaration of Independence are the keystones of American Philosophy:
“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
According to GuideStar’s recent survey of nonprofits, for the first 9 months of 2012, 34% of nonprofits reported an increase in donations while 37% reported a decline. These mixed results are attributed to the lasting effects of the Great Recession and slow economic recovery.
The major cause cited by 77% for the decline in donations was smaller gifts from individuals when compared to previous years. The other major cause was fewer individual gifts.
In addition, 30% expected year-end giving to be higher than last year while 29% expected giving to be lower.
Surprisingly, 42% of nonprofits were planning on increasing their 2013 operating budget when compared to 2012. 32% will keep budgets the same and 24% will reduce their budget.
How are you and your ministry viewing 2013? Are you planning for an increase in donations? Planning for things to be about the same or lower? With so much in economic uncertainty right now, cautious and prudent planning for 2013 seems appropriate.
Grateful we can trust God for the just the right amount of resources we need.
An area often overlooked at ministries is the review and approval of senior leaders’ expenses. While we tend to trust our leaders’ integrity, small mistakes or outright abuse can lead to questions and mistrust by donors and diminish the reputation of your ministry.
While it is more common for staff within the organization to have their supervisor review and approve expenses, this is not often true of the most senior leader. Who should review his or her expenses? The business administrator, CFO, or accountant? Or should it be the chair of the board or corporate treasurer?
Here are some steps you can take to be sure your organization has sound practices to protect both your senior leader and your ministry.
- Make sure your organization has a clear set of guidelines that specify appropriate expenses for your most senior leader. These guidelines should clearly distinguish between organizational and personal expenses, even addressing expenses that are appropriate for spouses. This is an important document for your board chair and senior leader to discuss, then present to your entire board for approval. These guidelines help avoid misunderstandings and prevent reimbursement of questionable expenses.
- As a part of the annual budgeting process, be sure the board is aware of and approves the expense budget for your senior leader. This should be in addition to the overall annual budget of the organization.
- Create a process for the board chair or corporate treasurer to review and approve all expenses incurred by the senior leader each month. This process should be easy and consistent, and it should enable the board chair or corporate treasurer to immediately address any questions.
Taking these steps will help to ensure that your board has taken adequate responsibility and oversight to protect the organization and senior leader from scandal.
It’s time again for the federal government to announce next year’s rates and limits for various federal programs. Some of those most applicable to ministries and their employees are:
- The IRS limit for elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k) or 403(b) plans will increase from $17,000 to $17,500. Read the full announcement from the IRS.
- The IRS limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k) or 403(b) plans will remain unchanged at $5,500.
- The federal per diem rates for reimbursing staff for lodging, meals, and incidentals are listed by city or zip code at the U.S. General Services Administration website.
- Vehicle mileage reimbursement rates will continue at $0.55.5 per mile; the rate is expected to be revisited mid-2013.
- The foreign earned income exclusion rises to $97,500 from $95,100.
Notable tax changes that are set to expire or change in 2013 (unless they’re changed) include:
- Employee contributions to FSAs (flexible spending accounts) will be limited to $2500 annually.
- The reduced FICA payroll tax withholding of 4.2% on employees, which has been in effect for the past two years, is set to expire. The new rate will revert to 6.2%.
- Medicare tax rates are set to increase by 0.9% for all eligible earnings in January 2013 for higher income taxpayers.
As always, consult the IRS website for up-to-date information and changes.
In a study by Grey Matter Research, 43% of those who visit a church’s website do so to find the times of the services. Other common reasons include what activities are offered (29%), map or directions to the church (28%), watch a streaming video (26%), and listen to a streaming audio (26%).
If these are the main reasons people visit your website, how easy do you make it to find this information. After conducting the survey, Grey Matter randomly checked 20 websites of churches in Memphis, Tennessee and Grants Pass, Oregon. On half of the churches checked, maps or directions to the church weren’t provided. How about your church? Have you looked at your website recently to see if this information is available and to see how easy it is to find if you do have it?