Let’s talk about money

Quakers in Indiana would almost rather talk about sex. Money is such a non-subject for discussion, but it’s been building up almost as much tension over the last 10 or 20 years as the battles over sexuality which are the “official” reason for our division.

For the last hundred years we have been locked in to a system of assessments based on the number of members in each local meeting. As assessments have relentlessly gone up, this has led many meetings to reduce the number of members, or even discourage people from joining, because each new member also meant adding another $150 to the yearly meeting assessment.

This is the first time in a generation when we have really been free to start over and think fresh. We are free to imagine a new organization, a whole new way of being Friends. We have no budget, which means we are free to think about what we really want to do.

There was general agreement that we don’t want or need to re-create the old structure, staff, and programs of Indiana Yearly Meeting. For years we heard Quakers complain, “What has the yearly meeting done for us?” Now we need to turn that around and plan a new organization which will do what we want. We need to live within our means, but also spend mo more than we are ready and willing to.

Not all yearly meetings are funded by a per capita assessment based on the number of members, though that is the most common practice. Some ask for a percentage of the local meeting’s budget, while other yearly meetings ask meetings to pledge whatever they can.

I’d like to suggest that instead of continuing with a tax based on the number of members, that we use an average of membership and worship attendance. This would help to remove the disincentive for meetings to add members, and include the folks who come to worship but haven’t joined yet. (To see what these numbers might be like, see “What Numbers Are We Talking About?”, posted last November.)

I’m not suggesting that Friends go all the way to zero. Most of our meetings have a long-standing interest in missions, and Quaker missions depend on steady funding, no matter what conniptions Indiana Quakers are going through.

The Indiana Yearly Meeting budget for the last few years has been built on an assessment of $75 for yearly meeting expenses and $75 for missions. As meetings move out of Indiana Yearly Meeting, they’re asking what they should be doing during this time of transition. Some meetings are probably calling it a “tax holiday” and enjoying a little relief in their local finances. Other meetings are including the old assessment in their 2013 budget and setting the funds aside, assuming they will contribute a similar amount to whatever new group they join.

As the New Association of Friends (that’s at least our interim name) start thinking about who we are and what we want to do, we could simply continue the old pattern of $75 for organizational costs and $75 for missions. But here are some other possibilities:

  • $50 for organizational costs
  • $50 for missions
  • $50 for development – intervisitation, scholarships to attend workshops and conferences, visiting speakers, advertising, programs for youth and young adults

Or:

  • $50 for missions
  • $50 for local programs
  • $50 to build up some new long-term funds

Or:

  • $50 for missions
  • $25 for Quaker organizations
  • $75 for organizational costs

Or:

  • $50 for missions
  • $25 for youth and young adult programs
  • $25 for outreach and advertising
  • $50 for part-time staff

Whatever we decide, let’s have some lively discussion from our meetings about what things we really want to do and want to support. Let’s see what we’re willing to contribute, and plan what we positive things we can do with the funds we have. Let’s think about growing, not declining. Let’s not be tied down by the past, but freed for our future.

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2 Responses to “Let’s talk about money”


  1. 1 Bill Samuel February 15, 2013 at 7:32 pm

    I used to be a member of a YM that when I was a member had a basis for YM apportionments which used 3 factors to the best of my memory: number of contributing units (above a de minimis level), amount contributed and endowment. This was a much healthier way than a per capita assessment. It attempted to capture the ability to pay of the meeting.

  2. 2 Jay T. February 17, 2013 at 9:44 am

    My yearly meeting (North Pacific) keeps YM organization fairly minimal. Mission and service work is done in local meetings, which usually also contribute to AFSC, FCNL & FWCC. I’m unaware of any meaningful mission budget at the YM level.

    I like it. This helps keep ministries vital, connected to a set of Friends that are called to the work and cared for by a worshipping group that knows the ministry well.

    What advantages are offered by pooling money for ministries at the YM level? Having only small familiarity with the ways of pastoral Friends, I am interested in the answer. I also ask to let you consider another way of working.


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All of the posts on this blog are my own personal opinion. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the members and attenders of the meeting where I belong or any organization of Friends. For more information, click on the "About Me" tab above.

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