February 21, 2013

The Cost of Having an Orthodox Church in America

Now Jesus sat opposite the treasury and saw how the people put money into the treasury. And many who were rich put in much.
Then one poor widow came and threw in two mites, which make a quadrans.
So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury;
for they all put in out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood. (Mark 12:41-44)

Jesus’ observations about money and the treasury are especially apt for the OCA these days. Tuesday was the meeting of the diocesan treasurers and chancellors, next week we have the meeting of the Lesser Synod and Metropolitan Council, and this past week the Financial Development Committee had a conference call. The practical questions that are front-and-center are how do we promote the outreach and growth of our parishes? How do we balance the needs of a central church with those of dioceses and parishes? In funding the central church, what combination of stewardship (tithing, pledging, proportional giving), assessments and fundraising is reasonable?

The central church administration has responsibility for administration of the whole OCA, covering some 700 parishes in the United States, Canada and Mexico. It provides a central administration for all the dioceses, including the six dioceses that do not pay formal assessments (Romanian, Bulgarian, Albanian, Canada, Mexico, Alaska). While the central church does collect funds for departments, mission and outreach—this is the purpose of the Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards—its main work is administration.

What should the cost of that central administration be, as a percentage of income? The Better Business Bureau advises that charities should be spending less than 35% on administration.

We don’t have income statements for most parishes, but let’s take a very conservative average figure of say $100,000 per parish annually. Some will have less income, many will have much more. That means that the total annual income for parishes across the OCA is roughly $70,000,000 (700 x $100,000=$70,000,000.)

The central administration projected budget for 2013—a decrease of 28% over the last 5 years—is $1.974 million (by comparison, consider that the Greek Archdiocese budget is $25 million). As a percentage of total OCA parish income of $70 million, the estimated cost of having an OCA is therefore less than 3% (2.82% o be exact). That means that OCA-wide, more than 97% of parish income stays in the parishes and dioceses. And we should feel pretty good about that.

Nevertheless, while some parishes and dioceses are doing well financially, others are not. And therefore we have to look at ways to share the burdens and come up with creative ways the OCA as a whole can be sustained and developed. The Metropolitan Council’s Financial Development Committee met last week in a conference call to discuss proposals for funding the Central Church administration, departments, missions and outreach programs. The committee’s charter is to offer guidance, suggestions and support to the central administration for annual, major, and planned giving programs. It assists the Metropolitan and Giving Officers/ Staff in identifying, cultivating and soliciting donors to the OCA. It reports to the Metropolitan Council, presenting appropriate recommendations for action concerning the OCA’s fund-raising policy and activity.

David Yeosock
David Yeosock, chair of Financial Development Committee

Today I’ll be consulting with David Yeosock, chair of the committee (Diocese of Eastern PA), about revitalizing the existing Fellowship of Orthodox Stewards as part of the OCA’s financial development plan.  But ultimately, all financial questions come back to each of us as individuals as the basic question of the widow’s mite: how much of our livelihood are we willing to put into the treasury?