One of our foundation principles in stewardship is communication. It's important in personal relationships, and it's important in a person's relationship with his or her church. Putting together an annual report can seem like a big tasks, but the outcomes and benefits of transparency make it worth your while. Here we share what we love about a few of our favorite recently published annual reports from some Catholic clients.
This blog post we'll give you an example and cover the importance of including these key components in your church's annual financial report. Our samples come from recent church capital campaign clients and friends who utilize our Stewardship System resources:
- "Thanks" note from the Pastor
- Education about the meaning of stewardship
- Accounting data
- Numbers presented in infographic format
- Volunteer thanks and acknowledgement
- Faith stories
- Invitation to take action
1. Thanks from the Pastor
A personal note from the pastor is a great and pretty standard way to being a financial report. As the shepherd of the church, the pastor should model the gratitude that he is striving to facilitate in the hearts of parishioners. A heartfelt letter, (maybe with a personal story!) can go a long way in helping people to feel that their gifts are appreciated by the church as a whole.
"I want to express my deep gratitude and pride to all the parish members who continue to support St. Thomas More through the sharing of their God-given gifts of time, talent and treasure. As you will see, the faithful giving of our people has made it possible to maintain a high level of service to the community...."
2. Education about Stewardship
St. Patrick Catholic Parish of Scottsdale, AZ took their annual Stewardship Report as an opportunity to educate parishioners about the true meaning of stewardship. On the cover page of their report they utilize a "GPS" metaphor to expand members' understanding of the word:
"For us at St. Patrick Catholic Community, “Stewardship” is more than a word, it is a way of life. It is also one of the five pillars of our parish. Stewardship is lived through the action of Giving, the action of Praying, and the action of Serving. Stewardship is rooted in gratitude. It is a way of living one’s life, based in one’s sense of radical gratitude to God, creator of all things."
3. Accounting Data
Holy Trinity included a pie chart demonstrating income and expense breakdowns for the year.
Visitation Parish includes historical information going back 5 years to see the improvement in the church's ministries and appropriate designation of funding over time. They also use their annual report to present the budget for the upcoming year, which their finance council creates while accounting for historical trends. Good thinking!
4. Numbers & Infographics
While we all know that ministry is not about the numbers, having some tangible data to evaluate program and evangelization success can help parishioners feel like their efforts (personal and financial) are making a difference. Demonstrate the church's wins from the previous year with data, averages, totals, percentages, etc. and present these in a visually appealing way. You can use Canva.com, the same design software we use for our annual campaign kit or check out another of the many free online software options to make something nice to look at.
St. Patrick's Stewardship Report is full of images and icons that draw the eye and help the reader quickly interpret what the numbers are about. In this example, they share the numbers related to prayer and worship opportunities at the church.
Holy Trinity shared the impact of ministry in a bullet list of how many people were impacted in a number of ministries they highlighted from their long list. Photos accompanied the list to bring the numbers to life.
5. Volunteer Acknowledgement
Please, please, please, I beg you, don't ever forget about your volunteers! Dedicated parishioners sometimes put in a part-time-job's worth of hours toward growing ministries and bringing those around them closer to Jesus. This can be a huge sacrifice, even when the responsibility is taken on freely. Use your annual report as another opportunity to thank volunteers for their efforts by highlighting the impact they have made on the community. This also supports stewardship education as it emphasizes that stewardship is not just about funds but also about time and talents. Finally, volunteers are 11x more likely to contribute to a capital campaign, which is one reason why we recommend as much volunteer engagement as possible.
St. Patrick took an endearing photo of people of the parish and included it with infographic information about how many volunteer hours and positions were required to accomplish everything that happened at the church that year. Truly we couldn't do it without you!
Visitation specifically gave a shout-out to liturgical ministers, breaking it down by type of ministry in addition to total number. Liturgical ministers can be especially taken for granted, and many of them are children! Use this report as an opportunity to thank those who help with the Mass (maybe those who don't already will get inspired!).
6. Faith Stories
Truly, the church touches real people's lives every day, bringing us closer to the love God has for each of us. Many people experience God's love first, or primarily, through or in the church. It is easy to take this for granted, so sharing the impact that the parish makes can help communicate the importance of the ministries that are in place. Demonstrating the impact through real events in our neighbor's lives also helps to put faces to the numbers that the annual report shares. It puts context to dollar amounts that are reasonable for an organization but can seem extraordinary at the individual level.
Holy Trinity's annual report included an amazing story from a parishioner who recounted God's presence in his life through hardships and joys. He came into the church through RCIA at the parish.
St. Patrick's Parish shared the story of a family that shopped around for a church for a while before deciding where to register. Ten years later, their faith has grown and they are highly involved in parish life. Their personal prayer stories demonstrate the maturity of their faith which grew exponentially at St. Patrick. Success!
7. Invitation to Action
Information is valuable as an end, but it is also valuable as a means to an end. When people see all the ways the church is effecting the lives of their neighbors, friends, and children, a natural response is gratitude and generosity. Optimize your annual report as an opportunity to engage people more in the community. Include a call to action inviting parishioners to assess their participation in parish life and financial commitment.
St. Thomas More Parish did this by concluding their report with an invitation to live stewardship is a variety of ways. Prayer, volunteer, ministry, financial, capital campaign, and electronic giving opportunities highlighted some of the myriad ways to enter more fully into parish life through lived discipleship.
St. Patrick's included a giving chart doing the calculations for parishioners to see what an increase in giving would look like in dollars. They laid out changes by percentage increases (each level 2% increase) and calculated for hourly, weekly, monthly, yearly income levels. You can't make it easier than that!
Include some scripture related to stewardship, some photos of the awesome people at your parish and there you have it! To view the complete church annual financial reports mentioned in this post, click below. If you are looking to grow annual giving to increase your operating budget at your parish, look over the resources we have available through The Stewardship System™.