This month I would like to introduce you to a new Stewardship ministry at First Unitarian: The Benevolent Society. In 2016, the Prudential Committee approved the creation of this legacy giving program to encourage members to provide financial support to the church through provisions in their wills or through other planned giving arrangements. For years, Bob Schacht and Herb Fried have advocated for such a program, and last September, Ralph Mero and Tony Allen assembled a team to make the program a reality. To date, eleven individuals/families have made end-of-life donations or long-term charitable gifts to the church.
You may ask yourself why endowments such as the Benevolent Society are important. Besides providing a safety cushion in lean times, endowments provide a way to offset annu-al operating expenses of the church. For example, if our endowments totaled $1.0M and returned an annual investment return of 5%, the church could prudently use a portion (3–5%) of the total endowment to help fund operational needs; the greater the endowment, the more money can safely be deducted from the endowment to meet those needs. Today, our endowment stands at about $5.0M, which seems like a lot of money, but is really rather modest, given the church’s 300-year existence. Each year, we take about $250K from the endowment to pay the difference between the amount raised during the pledge drive and our actual expenses; some years we dip into the principal of our endowment, some years our investment income barely covers the spread. The principal way to overcome this dilemma (assuming we don’t want to slash programming and employees) is to grow the endowment. The best way to grow the endowment is through legacy giving as represented by the Benevolent Society.
The benefits to growing the endowment are many: weaning ourselves off of paying today’s bills with tomorrow’s dollars; placing less pressure on the Commitment Drive to fund our annual obligations; growing the church by meeting our personnel needs – a new Assistant Minister, additional administrative staff, and increased salaries for employees; upgrading technology and sound equipment; and fostering new congregational programs.
For those of you capable of doing so, becoming a member of the Benevolent Society is a relatively pain-free way to contribute to the long-term financial stability of the church. Future generations of fellow Unitarians will thank you for your generosity.
President, Prudential Committee