One of the things I always hated about meetings when I was a board member of a non-profit organization was that data from any report we received was almost always a month old. We had our meetings on the last Monday of the month, so the “stop-point” was always the end of the previous month. The board received a finance report two weeks prior to that, but the general membership was apprised of what was happening in an “untimely” manner – at least by today’s technology’s standards. The data reported was almost a month old, and there were always special financial situations that occurred during the current month that the membership wanted to know about.
I remember when I was a kid, my aunt was a housekeeper for a priest. One of her jobs was to put the bulletin together…which included a detailed report of who gave how much the previous Sunday. The contribution list filled one and a half pages of an 8 1/2 by 14 sheet of paper, single spaced, and typed on a manual Underwood typewriter. I just marveled at how many people gave a dollar a week, but back then, that was a sacrifice for many of the people in the parish.
I sometimes wonder if parishes today don’t publish information in the same manner because it would be embarrassing – because there are still people giving a dollar a week – if that! Perhaps parishes don’t publish what an individual gives because it would be an invasion of their privacy, and members of the parish might leave, claiming what they give is between them and God, and shouldn’t be public knowledge for the community. While that’s very true too, there are still many families that simply don’t attend Sunday Mass, and therefore, simply don’t contribute to the support of the parish. Even faithful attendees and contributors have stopped giving since they aren’t attending Mass in person due to the pandemic.
Whatever the reasons, waiting a month or more to report on the aggregate state of financial affairs to a finance committee provides ample time to “cook the books,” so to speak. In fact, there are situations of abuse, embezzlement and fraud that go undetected for years in today’s parishes. A number of years ago, a “nice, elderly woman” from the Archdiocese of New York was found to be one of those people, keeping millions of dollars intended for the schools, allowing her to buy dolls (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/31/nyregion/new-york-archdiocese-bookkeeper-charged-with-stealing-1-million.html).
So, consider using the power of today’s technology to provide “real-time” weekly reports. Export the data to a file that’s printed with a time and date stamp. Updates are provided with just a few mouse clicks. It’s 2022, and the days of paper ledgers and pencil-written entries are over. Using today’s technologies, we can aggregate the data quickly too! Sure, some parishes do publish weekly aggregate totals in their bulletins, and that’s a great first step, since totals track progress if you’re aiming for a goal…not when you’re reporting budgeted income versus realized revenue to your constituents. If you’re looking to increase contributions, encouraging members of the parish to be better stewards of their treasure, then show some groupings too, like non-profits do in their gift reporting. Printing a weekly report in the bulletin that details how many $20, $10, $5, and $1 contributions were received for a weekly total report wouldn’t take up much room, either. Something like:
Target to make budget: $5,000
Total collected: $4,572
$100 – 8
$50 – 10
$20 – 40
$10 – 75
$5 – 200
$1 – 501
Loose cash collected – $221
We need to be good stewards of the funds entrusted to us, transparent about how we report them, and do so in a timely manner.