For centuries religious institutions were some of the most trusted organizations in most cultures. But in the modern era, suspicion of all authority figures and public institutions is on the rise. The “Me Too” era has shined a light into many dark areas of our culture, exposing abuse and corruption. (See here for an example of what not to do in 2019.) In this day and age, financial transparency at the parish is crucial.
How can your parish help restore trust? In a word, through transparency. Gone are the days when publishing a few budget numbers in the bulletin will suffice to keep your parishioners informed. These days, your faithful donors expect to receive regular updates on the parish’s financial position, including how every dollar is being spent.
This week, meet with your business administrator and look at your financial reporting processes. The following checklist is a good starting point for a parish committed to financial transparency.
- An annual report that details the recently completed fiscal year, including a comparison of the budget, costs, offertory, and ministry outcomes (ideally this includes written personal testimonies)
- A monthly financial update, published in the bulletin and archived online
- A quarterly update from the pulpit on parish finances
- Training for staff so they can easily direct parishioners to the resources listed above
Radical financial transparency is one of the best ways to improve your parishioners’ level of trust in the parish. And the benefits to your parish are significant and measurable. As we continued into the 21st Century, parishioners will expect financial transparency at the parish. And the benefits of providing this far outweigh the costs.