by L. Mark Stone
Bet Ha’am is an incredibly vibrant community and, like many other non-profits these days, we are facing serious challenges to our long-term financial health.
First, however, I want to say a heartfelt “thank you!” to our immediate past treasurer, Tom Rosen, for the incredible amount of hard work over the years bringing clarity to our finances and shepherding the charge to pay off our mortgage. You are a tough act to follow!
Second, to introduce myself, I have a long history in finance: a BS in finance and an MSc in economics, followed by thirteen years of mergers and acquisitions for media and technology companies. This lead to an entrepreneurial career in technology, with one company founded and sold, and another company started two years ago.
Somewhere in between all that, my wife, Deb, and I raised two fantastic kids, both of whom attended religious school at Bet Ha’am and became B’nai Mitvah.
Our Financial Challenges
The key challenge to our financial health is not our balance sheet: we have no mortgage; indeed, we have no debt at all, other than the $65K Paycheck Protection Program loan, which we expect to be almost entirely forgiven.
Our key challenge is that our annual expenses exceed our annual income, depleting our cash balances. Our current forecast for this fiscal year (July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021) is a projected deficit of nearly $94,000. While COVID-19 has eliminated income from facility rentals, our projected deficit is mostly from reductions in giving by members over the past few years.
As a board member now for five years, I’ve watched the board work hard to trim expenses. While there are always incremental cost savings to be had, to continue to operate as we have and to maintain all of the services we provide to our members and the community, we need to raise revenue.
We have a nascent Legacy Giving program (you can download a copy of the pledge form here) you’ll hear more about in the fall, and we are assembling a “Close the Budget Gap!” task force to consider sensible ways of raising revenues that do not compromise our wonderful, inclusive culture.
Our situation is not unique among congregations. Many have seen a cultural shift from members’ traditional moral commitments to support their temple toward a more “fee-for-service” model. Rabbi Saks reminds us that we are a “Reform” congregation, not a “Reformed” congregation, because we are not done yet. So, with past-treasurer Tom Rosen graciously having offered to continue to do much of the number-crunching behind the scenes, that leaves me with more time to work with the budget task force and the board, to make sure we mind our expenses but also thoughtfully consider needed revenue-enhancing initiatives.
I’m always keen to hear from members about Congregation finances, so if you have an idea, or anything else you want to talk about, please feel free to email me treasurer @ bethaam.org.