WHY DO WE PLEDGE? What initiatives are we focused on for 2011-12?
First Unitarian Universalist Church has been a unique religious institution for over 110 years. It is the diversity of belief, the search for truth, and the richness of fellowship that makes this church community so beautiful.
From the religious education programming for children, youth and adults to the social change efforts of our activist members, our church serves both our immediate and larger communities. From the UU Singers to the Gallery art show to the published works of our writers’ group, our church is a strong supporter of the arts. From the board of directors to the program council to the wide variety of committees and councils, our church is a democratic institution run for and by its membership.
When you become a member of First Unitarian Universalist Church, you are invited to contribute your time and financial resources. Both are important. Churches exist because friends and members do the necessary volunteer work and pay the bills. If everyone does a little of the work it gets done in good order. If everyone pledges his or her fair share the church thrives.
If everyone makes a responsible financial pledge our church can expand and grow, with new programs and community outreach and social justice programs. Remember, your pledge is responsible for keeping the lights and heat on in the church building; your pledge is responsible for providing the curriculums for our children, youth and adult religious education programs; your pledge establishes First Unitarian Universalist as the base for liberal religion in central Virginia.
Your financial pledge is a serious commitment to the place you have chosen as your spiritual home, the place where your children will be or have been educated in religious matters, and the place where you will continue your own search for religious meaning.
We are the First Unitarian Universalist Church of Richmond, Virginia – we must continue to serve our members and be the Unitarian Universalist presence in Richmond. Your financial pledge makes this possible.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER FUNDING FOR THE BUDGET?
There are a variety of fundraising events and programs going on all the time. We have also been working to build up the First UU Endowment so we can draw on that resource in the future for our operating expenses. However, the annual pledge of our members and friends is, and will always remain, the bedrock of our church finances.
An annual financial commitment is a requirement of membership at First Unitarian Universalist Church. In addition, we have a small number of people who have chosen not to be members but make an annual pledge anyway. It is also useful to know that pledge units may consist of individuals, partners or family.
WHAT ABOUT NEW MEMBERS WHO JUST RECENTLY PLEDGED?
As mentioned above, a financial commitment is a requirement of membership. When new members join they make a pledge. The pledges of new members are for the period of time from when they join until the end of June of that same fiscal year. They then participate in the annual stewardship pledge drive and make a pledge for the upcoming fiscal year.
WHAT IS THE FISCAL YEAR?
Our fiscal year runs from the first day of July to the last day of June. This is also the period for participation in the elected lay leadership positions in the church such as the board. It is also commonly referred to as the “church year.”
WHAT ARE MY CHURCH’S NEEDS?
Your church needs your time, your talent, and your money. You have many opportunities throughout the year to contribute your time and talent. Because budgeting is an annual event, you are asked to pledge money only once. The money we pledge during the canvass pays for our Sunday services and all the programming that occurs at this church every day of the week.
WHAT IS THE ANNUAL STEWARDSHIP CANVASS AND WHAT ARE ITS GOALS?
The annual canvass for stewardship pledges usually takes place in March of every year for the upcoming fiscal year starting in July. Pledges are collected from members over a period of several weeks. The finance committee puts together an operating budget based upon this information and presents it to the board of directors. The board will then present this budget or a revised version to the congregation at the annual meeting in June.
The first goal of the annual canvass is 100% participation by members and friends. This is the true mark of success – the acknowledgement by all members and friends that we are responsible, collectively and individually, for supporting our church financially.
The second goal of the canvass is to achieve a reasonable pledge from every member and then to build upon that every year. How much should you give? We require no minimum pledge to become and maintain membership in this congregation. Many traditional churches expect a 10% tithe as a biblical charge. We are not a traditional church and recognize different members have different incomes and different financial obligations. However, our church community still has its financial obligations and depends upon our members for support.
The third goal of the pledge drive is to make sure everyone then meets the financial obligation he or she has committed to. Your pledge is your word and expenditures are made based upon what you said you would give. Financial circumstances do change unexpectedly and if they do simply call the church office and say you have to change your pledge. Otherwise, we do need your annual pledge paid within the fiscal year (between July and June) it was pledged.
IS MY PLEDGE THAT IMPORTANT IN SUCH A BIG CHURCH?
Yes. Every person counts.
HOW MUCH SHOULD I PLEDGE?
We have some generous members who pledge in five figures and we have some who pledge in three. If you are unsure of how much to pledge we would recommend you start at 2% of your gross income if you are a new member and to increase your pledge annually by 1% of your gross income if you are currently a member. Click here for a chart showing what a weekly and annual pledge would look like for two, five, and ten percent of your income:
CASH: The most common way for members to fulfill their Annual Pledge is through payments of cash or checks (including automatic withdrawal from checking account); however, for some people this may not be the best way to pay their pledge.
Those who wish to maximize the tax benefits of their giving may want to consider the following options for all or part of their annual pledge:
STOCKS: Your pledge need not be unusually large for you to benefit from paying a pledge with stock. Currently, donors are allowed to transfer ownership of stock to the congregation and claim the appreciated value, (current market price), of the stock as the amount of their gift. Donors must contact the financial secretary or treasurer before they actually convey the stock.
If the ownership of the stock is transferred to our congregation, then the donor is not responsible for any taxes that would be due if the stock was simply sold. Our congregation sells the stock without responsibility to pay taxes since it is a 501(c)( 3) corporation.
For example: A member paid $300 per share for XYZ stock when it was purchased three years ago. The stock is currently worth $500 per share. The donor transfers ownership of 4 shares of XYZ stock to our congregation. When our congregation receives ownership of the stock, it can sell it at the market price of $2,000 and our congregation is not responsible for any taxes on the stock sale.
The donor can claim a charitable donation of $2,000 and since the donor simply transferred the stock to our congregation and did not sell the stock there is no tax liability.
1. If the stock was sold by the donor, the taxes on the appreciated value of the stock (4 shares x ($500-$300) = $800) would be 20% or $160.
2. The donor takes a $2,000 tax deduction. Depending on the tax bracket, this could lower taxes as much as $400. (Note: this varies with each tax circumstance)
RESULT: Our congregation received $2000 and the donor gave an asset worth $1440 net after taxes. ($2000-$160-$400).
LIFE INSURANCE: A member may give an existing life insurance policy to our congregation in payment of a pledge. This applies only to Universal Life or Whole Life Policies that have cash value. Once our congregation has been made owner of the policy it will sell it back to the company for its current cash value.
Typically life insurance policies that are given to a congregation are ones that are no longer needed for the purpose for which they were purchased. For example, a parent with a young child might purchase a life insurance policy to cover their child’s college education if something happened to the parent before the child had completed her/his college study. If the child has completed college and is now gainfully employed and on her/his own, the parent may consider making our congregation the owner of the life insurance policy.
The benefit to the donor of making the congregation the owner of a life insurance policy is that the cash value of the policy becomes a tax deduction for the year in which ownership was transferred. Since the policy has been paid for over time, there is no additional current expense for making the gift. Thus the donor can enjoy the deduction without a corresponding tax expense in that same year.
A CAUTION TO THE DONOR: When making a large pledge, it is always advisable that you speak with your tax advisor or financial planner.
MY SIGNIFICANT OTHER AND I ARE BOTH MEMBERS. DO WE PLEDGE INDIVIDUALLY OR TOGETHER? You have the option of pledging either individually or as a household. If you opt for the latter, make sure the pledge information you provide includes the names and contact information for all members.
CAN I ARRANGE FOR AUTOMATIC PAYMENTS OF MY PLEDGE?
Yes. You may have your pledge withdrawn weekly or monthly from your checking account. Simply print the attached form, fill it out and mail it to the church at 1000 Blanton Avenue, Richmond, Virginia 23221. Or, an easier method for you may be the online pledging function. Click the chalice below to begin the process.
HOW DO I MAKE MY PLEDGE?
You may participate in the annual stewardship canvass in the spring and provide your information at that time, or you may complete the pledge form by printing it and turning it in to the business office. You can print that form here.
PLEASE NOTE: If you have filled out a pledge form with EFT information for the current year, submitting the information electronically here will NOT replace that pledge. In other words, only fill this out if you are donating above your normal pledge, or you are not having EFTs done now. Remember, your pledge information is confidential, and you will receive a confirmation email from Vanco Services after you pledge using this service.