Pledging FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

Should everyone pledge?
Definitely yes, regardless of amount. Everyone should aspire to Be Counted!  Here are some important facts to note:

  1. John’s has been running a significant annual deficit for several years. Annual expenses are approximately $1.1 million, and income from all sources (donations, nursery school fees, etc.) covers only $700,000-800,000 of this.  Further details are available on each line item of the expenses, but in short, there are significant fixed costs to staff and maintain St. John’s.
  2. The approximately $300,000 annual shortfall is being funded by our $6 million investment fund. Currently 4-5% of the investment fund is being withdrawn each year, and the church leadership is concerned that this is not sustainable.  There are a number of scenarios (such as a stock market decline, unforeseen church expenses, etc.) that could trend towards the fund going into a downward spiral in which it’s depleted over several years.  We don’t think that is likely, but there is a chance.
  3. As an example of unforeseen expenses, we are currently assessing unexpected water damage to several areas of the church and parish hall roofs and structures. This will likely well exceed $500,000 to repair.  We intend to begin the project using funds from our investment portfolio.  As the scope and cost of the project become clear, we may look at other financing options, including a capital campaign.  The higher the withdrawal from our investment fund now, the more difficult it will be in the future for the fund to cover annual deficits.
  4. John’s has approximately 320 member households, of which 145 submitted a pledge for this year. Even if you can only make a modest pledge, please do so and let’s get the participation rate to a higher level.

What dollar amount should I pledge?
Here are some numbers to consider

  1. The actual cost to fund the church’s annual operations (after factoring in other sources of income) is approximately $3,000 per member household.
  2. The median pledge for this past year was approximately $2,000. Some people give significantly more than this, and many people give less.
  3. If you are a current pledger, we ask that you consider an increase of 3% over last year to cover the impact of annual inflation. In 2018, expenses will be up significantly more than inflation due to the addition of our new curate plus the significant costs for the building repairs.
  4. Beyond an increase for inflation, we also ask that you take a moment to reflect on whether you would be able to increase your pledge to a materially higher level to help us close the gap we have in our annual deficits. Just as we are benefiting from the prior financial contributions of former parishioners, we would like to ensure the continued survival and success of St. John’s for generations to come.
  5. Annual bonuses: if you happen to work in a role with a year-end bonus, please consider at the end of the year whether you would be comfortable with an additional contribution beyond your initial pledge.

Why is pledging important? Why shouldn’t I just contribute cash to the weekly collection plate?

  1. Pledging is important for a variety of reasons. One practical aspect is that it allows for the Church to prudently forecast its expenses and manage cash withdrawals from the investment portfolio (sometimes referred to as the “endowment”).  If, hypothetically, total pledges for this coming year were to be down, then the Vestry would need to look at ways to reduce expenses.
  2. Pledging symbolizes many things. In one regard, it is an expression of gratitude for the blessings that one has received from God and the role that St. John’s serves in your spiritual life and those around you.  It also creates a concrete moral and spiritual connection between you and the parish – just as your spirit is fed by God and the church, you in turn are feeding the church and ensuring its continued existence.  Finally, on a practical level, when people set goals, they meet them, just like other parts of personal and professional life.
  3. Finally, if you simply put cash into the weekly plate collection, there is no way for the Church office to know that the money comes from you, so you will not get an annual statement for all of your donations, which might reduce your tax bill. Note that checks are recorded and included in annual statements.  Please Be Counted!

Is a pledge a binding legal commitment?

No.  There is nothing tangible that happens if someone does not meet their pledging commitment.  Everyone understands that personal financial circumstances can unexpectedly change.  However, it’s important to remember that St. John’s annual donations in total are not supporting its annual expenses currently, so shortfalls create a need to withdraw even more from the investment portfolio, which is not sustainable.

I forgot how much I pledged last year. Or, I’m not sure where I stand currently in my pledging year-to-date.

If you normally receive pledging statements, please look out for an updated one that is also being mailed out.  You may also contact Laura Rawlings in the Church office by phone at (914) 834-2931 or by email at [email protected].

What are the payment methods available?

  1. You may mail personal checks to the Church office or put them in the weekly plate offering. Envelopes are available by request.
  2. Some parishioners prefer the convenience of their bank’s auto-pay service, which automatically mails computer-printed checks to St. John’s at their chosen frequency. Please contact your financial institution for more information on such a service.
  3. Contributions of securities. Depending on your circumstances, there may be tax benefits to you from this approach (which you can readily research on the Internet or with your tax advisor).  Contact Laura Rawlings for further details on the logistics of such a donation.
  4. We have decided to not use PayPal or credit cards due to the cost of the transaction fees (approximately 3% for each transaction, which adds up).

Do other people know how much I’ve pledged?
Only 2 people know the donation amounts by name: Fr. Joe and the Laura Rawlings (the Parish Administrator, who handles logistics of payments and mails to pledgers regular statements for tracking and tax purposes, etc.). Even the Vestry does not know what you pledge.

How is my pledge money used?

  1. 27% of the church’s expenses are funded by the investment portfolio, and 61% are covered by donations. The rest of the income is from the nursery school, facility rental, and miscellaneous.  So again, donations alone do not cover all expenses.
  2. The following are the percentage splits of expenses: 48% clergy, personnel, and benefits; 19% on utilities and typical property maintenance (excluding large capital improvements, such as the pending Bell Tower and roof repairs); 11% on programs (outreach, Christian education, choir/music, flowers, childcare, etc.); 13% assessment by the Episcopal Diocese; and 9% miscellaneous.
  3. More financial details are readily available in the annual meeting documents posted on the Church website (contact Laura Rawlings if you do not already have the password). Frank Pierson (the Treasurer) is also available to answer any questions.

In addition to annual pledging, we ask that you consider making St. John’s part of your estate planning. The church’s current investment portfolio, which is funding the annual deficits, is primarily from several large bequests made by parishioners.  Right now, St. John’s is on solid financial footing due to the size of the portfolio ($6 million), but the annual withdrawal rate of approximately 5% is not sustainable.  If the investment portfolio were doubled, the church would be in a much better position to weather all financial storms.

Adding St. John’s as a beneficiary is relatively simple.  You can either update the beneficiary designations for (a) individual financial accounts or (b) make a change to a will to include St. Johns for either a specific dollar amount or for a percentage.  Of course, please consult with your financial, legal, and tax advisors.  For more information contact Frank Pierson.