CoGS hears of decrease in diocesan proportional giving in budget presentation, votes on 2021 contingency provision

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CoGS passed a balanced budget for 2020 November 9 after a presentation from General Synod treasurer Hanna Goschy. Photo: Joelle Kidd

Mississauga, Ont.

Diocesan contributions, which account for 87% of General Synod’s net revenue, have decreased by around 20% over the past 25 years, Council of General Synod (CoGS) heard Nov. 9 during a budget presentation by General Synod treasurer Hanna Goschy. Following the presentation, CoGS voted to approve the 2020 budget and a contingency provision for the 2021 budget that would see $250,000 made available from the church’s Ministry Investment Fund to balance that year’s budget, if required.

During General Synod in July, then-bishop of the diocese of Athabasca Fraser Lawton, a member of the financial management committee, reported that proportional gifts, the money forwarded by the dioceses to the national church every year, declined by $519,000 in 2018. This drop represented the largest single-year decrease in proportional gifts the church had suffered since 1994, Lawton told General Synod at the time.

In her presentation to CoGS, Goschy noted that because proportional giving makes up such a large portion of General Synod revenue, “that’s pretty critical, to understand where that’s coming from and the direction that it’s going.”

Goschy also said that it was important for the council to “understand exactly where most of our revenue is coming from,” and provided a chart detailing contributions from each diocese over a number of years. Goschy noted on a line graph how this giving has declined since 1995, with a much steeper decline beginning in 2017.

“In 1995, proportional giving was about $9.4 million. It’s $7.6 million in the 2020 budget. So, that’s a decrease of $1.8 million over 25 years, or about 20%.” Its level remained relatively stable at around $8.4 million in the period of 2008 to 2017, Goschy added.

She noted that, as CoGS had heard the previous evening, Anglican church membership and attendance has declined sharply in recent years. “The decrease in proportional giving actually is not as steep as those statistics indicated, and mostly that’s because there are fewer donors, but they are giving more,” Goschy said, adding that “despite decreases in attendance of the church, proportional giving hasn’t decreased as much. However, I think the story’s going to change very soon.”

Proportional giving is based on a target percentage of 26% of diocesan revenue, though not all dioceses commit to giving that figure. Annually, dioceses indicate their planned giving for the fiscal year around May. In the current fiscal year, Goschy told CoGS, a number of dioceses advised in September that they will not be able to meet their current commitment.

Goschy noted that the financial management committee is mandated to present a balanced budget. “It’s been possible to do that for a couple of years now because we’re monitoring expenses really carefully, and as staff positions become vacant through resignation or retirement, many of them have not been replaced. So up until the current time, there have been no program cuts or staff cuts due to decreases in proportional giving.”

The 2020 budget totals $7.6 million in proportional gifting, including a $240,000 contingency meant to cover a diocese that has not met its commitment in three consecutive previous years and a $60,000 undesignated contingency. Goschy noted in her presentation that the total budgeted proportional gifting in 2020 is $862,000 lower than the actual figures from 2016.

In response to a question from the floor about whether a diocese that had given considerably less than was budgeted would be able to meet its commitment, Goschy said that she has no authority to collect when dioceses do not give the amount they commit to giving.

“That particular diocese has not met their commitment for year 2018, [no progress toward] year 2019. For year 2017 they have remitted about half of the commitment. They maintain that they are still committed to forwarding that money.

“A proportional gift is a gift. So, I don’t have a constitutional hammer for them. I can’t send out a collection agency. I have to believe them at their word, that they’ll remit their proportional gift when they can. So that’s the soft answer. The fact is, it’s over $200,000, and that adds up, and that’s one of the reasons that giving in the 2020 budget is a lot lower. So I’m presuming that they’re not going to forward a gift in 2020—that would be the prudent, conservative [way] to budget. [There has] been ongoing conversation with that bishop.”

The remainder of General Synod’s net revenue comes from unrestricted contributions made through Resources for Mission (2%) and other sources (11%), including rental income from leasing space in the national church office to another charity and sharing space and services with the Anglican Foundation of Canada and Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund; investment income; and net revenue from ABC Publishing.

Revenue from the Anglican Journal was not taken into account because its expenses are higher than its income.

General Synod’s net expenses break down into program costs (51%), Council of the North Grants (24%), administration costs (10%), governance costs (7%), Anglican Journal expenses (4%) and building costs (4%).

Making up half General Synod’s expenses, $4.6 million, program costs cover the church’s national ministries, including Indigenous Ministries; the primate’s office; House of Bishops; reconciliation programs; communications; Anglican Healing Fund and statistics (under the General Secretary’s office); Faith, Worship, and Ministry; Global Relations; contributions to councils and affiliates; and Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice.

Council of the North grants are largest single program expense, at $2.15 million. Grants are approved by a subcommittee of the Council of the North called the Grant Allocation Committee based on submitted proposals, supplemented by statistic reports, proportional giving reports and audited financial statements. Goschy noted that a number of years ago, when General Synod was facing the possibility of significant deficits, “the Council of the North voluntarily offered a 5% decrease to the grant annually for five years. The General Synod accepted that offer for fiscal years 2012 and 2013, but years subsequent to that it was possible to balance the General Synod budget without taking up the offer to decrease.

“Now, given the downward trend in proportional giving, I’m not sure how much longer we can hold that line,” she added. “But at least for the purposes of the 2020 budget, the [grants are] level.”

While breaking down the revenue and expenses of each ministry of General Synod, Goschy noted projected changes to Anglican Journal revenues and expenses, namely that distribution costs would decrease and income from a Heritage Canada Grant is assumed will decrease. These changes result from a decrease in the Journal’s circulation based on an effort to confirm the paper’s subscription database. Figures for grant income as well as distribution and printing costs assume a 50% reduction in the number of Journal subscribers.

The General Synod budget also includes transfers from internally designated funds. These included $250,000 from the Ministry Investment Fund for project funding; $300,000 from a reserve for the next meeting of Sacred Circle in 2020; $150,000 to the reserve for General Synod 2022; and $150,000 to the reserve for the following Sacred Circle. It also includes a transfer from funds that were returned from the Anglican Church of Canada Resolution Corporation in 2015, the corporation set up to meet the commitments of the Indian Residential Schools Agreement. A return of funds from that corporation has been used to fund the ministry of the reconciliation animator; however, Goschy noted, the money will run out in 2021, and a new way to fund this ministry will have to be determined.

The presentation also included a list of projects that would be funded by grants from the Ministry Investment Fund—which annually supplies grants totalling $250,000 for one-time (not ongoing) projects. CoGS voted to approve the grants for 2020:

  • $100,000 to Indigenous Ministries for episcopal support in northern Ontario and northern Saskatchewan
  • $65,000 for the production of a video on reconciliation
  • $43,700 to Faith, Worship and Ministry for a second gathering of Anglican healthcare chaplains and spiritual care providers
  • $41,300 to the Episcopal diocese of Cuba to develop a vocational ministry study program sponsored by Global Relations.

CoGS also passed a motion to make an additional $250,000 available from the Ministry Investment Fund, if required, in order to balance the 2021 budget.

“It is a one-time request given that proportional gifts have decreased quite substantially on very short notice for 2019, and forecast in the 2020 budget,” said Goschy. “While General Synod is mandated to deliver a balanced budget, making up for, say, a couple of hundred thousands of dollars on very short notice would be very difficult, because as you can see a lot of the expenses are…staff expenses, meetings which we’ve committed to and the building. Decreasing any of those on very short notice would be really expensive, and it would be better if we could manage the decrease in revenue in a more structured way.”

In response to a question from the floor, Goschy stated that the Ministry Investment Fund, which is built up by unrestricted bequests, contained $3.9 million at the end of 2018.

Canon (lay) Ian Alexander from the diocese of British Columbia moved to amend the motion to reiterate that the contingency was a one-time request. The amended motion was passed by CoGS.

In total, CoGS approved four resolutions related to the budget: to approve the 2020 operating budget (with a surplus of $66,934); to approve the 2020 capital budget (with expenditures of $55,900); to approve four grants totalling $250,000 for 2020 by the Ministry Investment Fund; and to make an additional $250,000 available from the Ministry Investment Fund, if required, in order to ensure a balanced 2021 budget.

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Joelle Kidd
Joelle Kidd joined the Anglican Journal in 2017 as staff writer. She has worked as an editor and writer for the Winnipeg-based Fanfare Magazine Group and as freelance copy editor for Naida Communications.

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