Finances at the First Church in Belmont: An Introduction for Newcomers (and Long Timers too!)

Finances at the First Church in Belmont: An Introduction for Newcomers (and Long Timers too!)

February 2015

This brochure is also available in PDF format here.

If you are a newcomer to the First Church in Belmont, welcome! Thank you for taking an interest in the subject of our church’s finances. Money can be a sensitive or even taboo topic within some church communities. Because ours is an open community of inquiring and often skeptical people, it is only appropriate that our church finances be managed and reported transparently. This brochure aims at removing any sense of mystery about this important subject.

Our church’s finances are, in fact, quite simple. Our total annual budgeted cost of operation for the current church year (ending June 2015) is $719,000. Roughly 80% of income comes from annual pledges, and roughly 66% of expenses are for staff salaries and benefits. Our twelve half- to full-time professional employees, plus additional part-time employees, support a wide-ranging and balanced program of worship, music, educational, and other activities that is designed to be responsive to the needs of our members. Among a large number of details, there are a few key income and expense items that warrant special mention:

  • Endowment income. The church has a modest $1.65 million endowment that provides some long-term stability to our operations. A portion of annual income (this year, $23,000) supports current operations. The balance is reinvested for long-term endowment growth and to repay a 2002 building loan from our endowment.
  • Rental income. We derive roughly $50,000 in annual income from rental of facilities, e.g., for outside groups, events, and summer use of our parish hall building.
  • Auction income. In recent years we have adopted the practice of conducting an auction every other year. It is a strong community-building event that can raise $40,000 to $50,000 in supplemental income, used to offset general church expenses over a two-year cycle.
  • Building mortgage expense. We incur an annual expense of $74,000 on a 30-year loan that was entered in 2002 to support financing of our beautiful parish hall and church basement renovation.  Of the original $5.6 million capital cost of the project cost, $4.1 million was raised through a capital campaign and $250,000 was taken as a grant from our endowment. The remaining $1.25 million was borrowed from our endowment ($250,000) or from a private foundation ($1 million). Today, roughly $750,000 remains outstanding on this loan.

The following two pie charts provide further detail on the budgeted sources of church income and planned expenses for the 2014-15 church year, as voted by members at our May 2014 Annual Meeting.

FY 2015 Budget Income

FY 2015 Budget Income

FY 2015 Budget Expenses

FY 2015 Budget Expenses

Here is a final key point: like other UU churches, we receive no outside financial support. It is up to us to pay for the staff, programs, facilities, and everything else at First Church. To support our annual operations fully and fairly, we therefore ask every active member and friend to make a generous annual pledge. Pledges are committed each year on the first Sunday in March, and can be fulfilled across the entire subsequent church year (i.e., up to fifteen months from the date of commitment). Many make a gift at the time of the pledge drive, but members are urged to think of their overall pledge in the context of their annual giving capacity – not simply what they can spare at the moment. Pledge payments can be made by check or by regular (e.g., monthly) automated transfer – an especially helpful way to support the church’s cash flow needs. As often as possible, we dedicate the Sunday plate offering to outside causes to support our social outreach.

What is an appropriate amount for a member or friend to pledge? Many churches ask their members to “tithe” or donate 10% of household income, but our UU denomination recognizes and encourages that we maintain other charitable commitments. In general, members and friends are asked to include our church among our primary charitable priorities, and to commit from 1.5% to 6% of our household income to church support, based on our giving capacity and level of involvement in parish life.

The March 2014 Stewardship Drive (supporting the church’s current 2015 fiscal year) yielded pledges of $577,000 from 279 “pledge units” or households, including families, couples and individuals. (The entire church community comprises roughly 450-500 active adult members and friends, as well as over 250 young people enrolled in children’s RE, youth, and other programs.)

For another view, this table shows the actual distribution of pledges from the March 2014 Stewardship Drive by “quintiles,” or equal groups of 20% by dollar amount:

March 2014 Stewardship Drive results

March 2014 Stewardship Drive Results:
279 Pledges totaling $577,000

The average of all pledges received in recent years has been a bit above $2,000, while the median pledge has been $1,200. To assure the sustainability of the church’s finances in the face of pledge attrition over time, it is important to progress those levels to $2,400 and $1,500. Larger gifts, where possible, are critical to ensure full funding of the church’s needs. In fact, fully half of all the church’s total pledge support comes from roughly 15% of the membership – with 43 leadership gifts of $3,600 or more. There is no minimum pledge, and all pledges are valued. The primary guidance is that your pledge should be generous in light of your personal circumstances.

The First Church remains committed to opening its doors to all. We all benefit from a balanced set of programs that serves the parish community across the entire lifespan – from children’s RE and youth programs to worship and music, adult programs, fellowship, social outreach, and denominational affairs. But we cannot sustain this lively community, and assure our church’s enduring presence in our lives, without broad, consistent, and growing support. Pledging is a once-a-year event – but stewardship is an attitude. It is an ongoing, shared sense of responsibility among all of us.

In light of these important realities, may we ask:

  • If you are newly involved with the First Church, can you consider a generous annual gift?
  • If you are an active member or friend and have been giving below the median ($1,500) or average ($2,400) pledge level this year, would you consider increasing your annual support to one of these levels next year?
  • If you find your connection to the church has deepened over time, could this be the year for you to step up to a higher tier of support and perhaps a leadership gift of $3,600 or more?

We, the members and friends of the First Church, provide its lifeblood – through our commitments of time, talent and, importantly, treasure. We are the beneficiaries of our church’s programs and services today, and we are the stewards of its future.  Thank you for taking the time to consider these important realities!

Questions? Please contact us at or visit


The First Church Stewardship Committee

Questions? Please contact us at or visit