Finances and Stewardship
By tradition, many churches are accustomed to the practice of receiving gifts and offerings at worship gatherings, at other parish events, and from rental income. At this time when physical gathering is not possible and social distance is actively encouraged, the need for the church community to remain connected is more essential than ever. Giving is a reminder of God's call to community, to our common life, and to support the ministries that our central to our Christian identity. Giving follows and flows from participation in worship and ministry, so a request to give should not be the first time parishioners hear from the church, especially during a time when communal worship is not possible.
Even when we cannot be physically present, the need to continue to actively ask for and receive financial support is important for every congregation.
Without physical gatherings, consider reminding parishioners of the need to continue their financial support and try to fulfill their pledge obligation to ensure the church, its clergy and staff can continue to support them during and after the current crisis. The vestry or stewardship committee can reach out to parishioners by email or phone to make this task manageable. They should be prepared to provide follow up information on the response of each parishioner.
Members of the congregation can continue to offer their gifts by check through the mail, making monthly contributions rather than weekly if this is more manageable. If necessary, provide stamped and addressed envelopes to avoid vulnerable parishioners needing to make trips to the post office, or considering picking up contributions, or staging a collection drive by outside the parish with greetings from parish leaders.
An alternative option is for parishioners for the treasurer to set up direct deposit options, schedule checks to be sent by their bank to the church, or to schedule regular wire transfers to the church's bank account.
In addition to giving by mail, your parish will want to consider offering alternative electronic means of giving. These are easy to set up, and offer the means for parishioners to continue make their contributions using either electronic check (directly from their bank account), or by credit card.
As there are many giving solutions available, churches are encouraged to begin the process of selecting a giving system by contacting their membership system vendor (eg ACS Realm, Church Windows, Servant Keeper, etc) to see which system optimally integrates with their database. For most databases, Vanco Payment Systems is the preferred vendor and offers low fees and rates. Vanco offers online, mobile, text, kiosk, and swipe options. As an alternative, or if your membership system has no preferred online giving vendor, then consider using Tithely, as well established and affordable giving system.
Financial Grants, Loans, and Emergency Relief
- Maryland Small Business COVID-19 Emergency Relief Grant Fund: Small Businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 50 employees and annual revenues less than $5 million are eligible for grants to cover three months of cash operating expenses up to $10,000.
- Small Business Administration Loans: There are several opportunities for parishes, including: ability to obtain SBA loans on very favorable terms, including non-profits; unemployment compensation for those who don't otherwise have benefits; and deferral of FICA taxes for employees for up to mid 2021.