Saturday

Letter to Flushing Meeting

This letter asks a small Monthly Meeting to break its cycle of dependence on trust funds and other people’s money, and take 'ownership' of its life. This would be done by each member making a substantial increase in financial commitment of themselves in addition to asking members to consciously know that they have to grow in number over a period of time.
Flushing Monthly Meeting (NYYM) is housed in a historic meetinghouse (built in 1694) with relatively large operating costs spread over its 27 members. Flushing Meeting owns large trust funds. Members do not have a direct connection to the Meeting because they feel they don’t need to or ' can't ' give of themselves in a larger monetary way.
In 2007, Flushing Meeting has successfully petitioned the City and State governments to help them with their capital improvements. This process is rife with ‘red tape’ with labor and time needed by the small number of members to accommodate government bureaucracy, which will fund the necessary long-term building projects. The hypothetical financial plan noted below does not include capital items. My letter merely deals with the operating environment which up to this time, has been funded mostly by other people’s money. (Operating Budget ~ $33,000, member contributions ~ $11,000)

QiN-Friend

6/11/2006
Dear Flushing Friends,
Thank you for the opportunity to worship with you today. My succinct message is that each member of Flushing Meeting is a part-owner of the Meeting. The Testimony of Equity, or Equality, as some call it, might say that we are all part owners of the physical assets, as well as the spiritual process in the manner of Friends. So then, the physical expenses of the Meeting are an outline for the expression of the Life, in your local community. The Quaker ‘Rule of Thirds’ is meant to allow any Friend, whether that person considers themselves ‘financial’ or not, to ‘see’ how costs are apportioned more easily than by looking at full pages of numbers, which no one really likes to do.
After some inability to hear my message right away– or mistakenly hear my portrayal of the Flushing budget as criticism - I think is due to disproportionate cost of maintaining the magnificent physical structure - the historic landmark – the meetinghouse. This is a large responsibility for a small group of people, and this responsibility does affect your Meeting life – there is no denying this. We sometimes admire those who take what life hands them cheerfully, as remarkable persons. For what are Friends thankful about the building? I drank in the scent of centuries of history today while hearing sounds of modern hurried life outside during the 4 hours I spent there. Value – priceless.
So, in effect, the life of your Meeting is affected by the cost of maintaining the meetinghouse. But the expression of the Life – as outlined in the size and apportionment of other expenses relative to the building, and relative to the number of members – need not be affected by this responsibility all at once. And Flushing Meeting cannot go on indefinitely in this mode of living on bequests and other people’s money. The alternative, make plans to end the cycle of dependence, and make definite plans to change it slowly,
My recommendations can be summed up in the following:
  1. Try not to ever say, ‘we can’t do that’.
    1. Getting ‘atop’ of our problems in this world is a Quaker suggestion to - think out of the box. There are solutions to problems, which are not always evident when one is enmeshed in the affairs of the Meeting. This is why it is good to have visitors from other Meetings come from time to time. (not necessarily me in this visit, per se, but visitors in general.)


  1. Increase membership
    1. Consciously announce as well as possible, in free and paid ways, the existence of your community, in non-partisan, Testimony-diverse ways, to the general public.
§ Website enhancement to help traffic direct to your site
§ Published Meeting phone number with voice mail and message (not someone’s home number)
§ Maintenance of the sidewalk in front of the building (weeds growing next to stone wall makes it look like it might be an old abandoned building)
§ Tasteful lighting in and on the building or sign at night
§ Outdoor tag sales / used book sales for extra income, also are outreach for new attenders
§ Classified display ads similar to http://DowntownMeeting.org in a local Queens newspaper
§ Hang a banner announcing the Meeting on the front of your Meetinghouse – ‘We’re the Quakers’
§ Hire an actor to dress in plain dress and stand in front waving an orange traffic flag into the parking lot on First days. (OK, that last one was a little off the wall).
  1. Create a direct connection to the Meeting through financial giving by members and attenders that means something to the giver and to the community. Create more unity, or give occasion for more peace, through a unified vision for the mission and purpose of Flushing Meeting.
    1. Create a unified Operating Budget plan over a 5 year period
i. Budgets are plans, they can be modified as time goes on. However, having a plan - a vision of mission and purpose of the Meeting, as outlined in the size and proportion of the costs - allows decisions to be made sooner than later, and more easily, with less pressure to make last minute decisions. Having a unified, approved plan allows week-to-week conflicts to be taken more in stride.
ii. Consider temporarily taking Caretaker and Utility costs out of the operating budget and placing these costs in the care of the Building Fund,
1. Until membership grows to a sufficient size to ask members to volunteer to take over the Caretaker’s duties, or to ask the larger number of members to contribute the full cost of the Caretaker and the utilities, temporarily place these costs off the operating budget. Friends would then reimburse the Building Fund each year in increasing quantities over this five year period (as membership grows and as more Friends feel moved to give more of themselves, to the unified Operating Budget which includes Nurture and Witness Costs – see below) . Each year Friends would be apprised by the Treasurer, the size of the deficit, the annual contribution to the Building Fund, over the actual costs incurred. The Meeting would consider increasing the donation, or self-rent back to the Building Fund each year to balance the Caretaker and Utility costs with the donations from the Meeting operating budget at some point.
2. Take some time and look over the Five Year (hypothetical) budget plan and use your imaginations as to what the Meeting will look like in 5 years with 20 new adult members and an operating budget of about $60,000 –80,000 per year – at which time the costs of Caretaker, Utilities, and other Administrative costs will be fully paid from member and attender contributions. (right now the annual operating budget, including the off budget funds of PSA and another, as well as the costs of Caretaker and Utilities is about $40,000, member and attender contributions are only $13,000).
iii. In light of advocating a unified budget:
1. I encourage Friends to integrate the two off-budget witness funds back into the operating budget, as well as to remove temporarily the maintenance costs above.
2. I discourage Friends from creating more earmarked, off budget funds for special witness or nurture needs of the Meeting.
a. This is an accounting slippery-slope, creates disunity in the Meeting, and more complexity for the Treasurer and Auditor, especially with the addition of more earmark funds as time goes on. Please do not go down this road any further. The unity of the Meeting, as portrayed by a circle, the integral whole should be just that, something that every member feels in unity with.
  1. Thresh out during and after the expenses are re-apportioned for a five year plan, how Friends feel about giving to Flushing Meeting – the whole Meeting - building, maintenance, utilities and all – the best of their abilities – no matter what the amount given will be in relation to others. What is important – and I didn’t speak to the income side of a Meeting’s life on 6/11/06 other than to give the Clerk copies of writings from FGC on how this might be done – is that each Friend gives to the best measure of his or her ability, or the household’s ability. This might mean giving up something many times - which has profound importance in changing our community as well as us as individuals. Where the physical and spiritual worlds meet, is a remarkable faith called the Religious Society of Friends.
Again, on my visit, it was very gratifying for me to see those of you I’ve met before, and to meet those whom I haven’t.
God Bless.
QiN-Friend







2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
Flushing Meeting Expense Projection








Adult Members
27
28
30
35
40
45
52

Member Contributions
$11,000
$11,500
$12,400
$20,700
$32,700
$47,500
$55,000

Avg. Member Contrib.***
$407
$411
$413
$591
$818
$1,056
$1,058

Attender Contributions
$2,000
$2,500
$3,000
$4,000
$5,000
$6,000
$7,000

Investment Income*
$6,300
$10,000
$8,000
$7,000
$7,000
$6,000
$6,000

Other Income**
$500
$500
$500
$2,500
$4,000
$4,000
$4,000

Total Income
$19,800
$24,500
$23,900
$34,200
$48,700
$63,500
$72,000











Total Operating Expense
$35,750
$39,750
$23,900
$34,200
$48,700
$63,500
$72,000



2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011
* Investment income will go down due to draw down of building fund to pay for Caretaker and Utilities Insurance, etc in the transition period when member contributions do not equal expenses. During this transition period, these costs will be removed from the operating budget. In 2012 the costs of operating the building will be integrated back into the operating budget and the investment income will go up again.
** Book Sales, Bake Sales, Tag Sales, Event Sales
*** Average Member Annual Contribution will go from $407 in 2005 to $1,056 in 2011. Each member will have more reason to give to the Meeting due to the more integral proportion of expense in the operating budget. This concept of member equity participation, or ownership should enhance members and attenders desire to give. By 2011, a larger number of members will be able to support a self-sufficient operating budget.


Wider B.
NYYM Payment
2,500
3,500
4,000
6,000
10,000
13,000
17,000

NYQM Payment
200
200
500
1,000
1,500
3,000
4,000
Total QM/YM

$2,700
$3,700
$4,500
$7,000
$11,500
$16,000
$21,000




















Building/Admin


















Operating Expenses



15,000
20,000
28,000
34,000
30,000

Labor

17,000
18,000
0
0
0
0
0

Utilities

14,800
16,800
0
0
0
0
0
Capital Expense








Finance Exp.










Treasurer



200
200
200
200
200

Insurance



200
200
200
200
200
Clerk's Exp










Newsletter

400
400
200
200
200
400
400

Directory









Web Site



600
200
200
200
200




















Total Building/Admin

$32,200
$35,200
$16,200
$20,800
$28,800
$35,000
$31,000



2005
2006
2007
2008
2009
2010
2011






















Witness
Queens Homeless


200
500
500
1,000
1,500

Counter Recruiting


200
500
500
1,000
1,500

Protest March



100
200
200
1,000
1,500

Meals on Wheels


300
500
500
500
1,000

PSA

500
500
700
700
1,500
1,500
2,500

AVP



200
500
1,000
1,000
2,000










Total Witness

$500
$500
$1,700
$2,900
$4,200
$6,000
$10,000




















Nurture
Religious Ed.

100
100
400
800
800
1,200
2,500

Quaker 101



100

200

500

Advancement/Outreach
250
250
600
1000
1000
1500
1500

Fair









Library




400
400
800
1000

Hospitality



400
800
800
1000
1500

M&O




500
1000
2000
3000










Total Nurture

$350
$350
$1,500
$3,500
$4,200
$6,500
$10,000




















1 Comments:

Anonymous reception venues in los angeles said...

When I first read this I was really thwarted but the more I wonder about it the more I’m persuaded of this.

July 14, 2013 at 11:53 PM  

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