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First Unitarian Church of Philadelphia

2023 Stewardship Campaign

Frequently Asked

Questions

 

 

Why make a pledge? How is my pledge used?
Pledges support the annual budget of our congregation, providing worship and music, lifespan spiritual development, social justice work, pastoral care, congregational events, and much more. Pledge income also pays the salaries of our ministers and staff, pays for the operation and maintenance of our facilities, and supports the technology that makes our new “hybrid” way of being possible. Our pledges allow us to project the funding for our operating budget for the coming year. 

Do I have to pledge to be a member of First Unitarian Church?
Our bylaws require that we have a record of an identified financial contribution within the past year in order for you to retain status as an active member of the congregation (an active member can vote in congregational matters, or serve on the board or nominating committee). Most members choose to do this with a pledge, which is also the most helpful choice for the congregation to be able to financially plan. However, there is not a required pledge amount. If your financial situation does not allow you to make any financial contribution, please reach out to one of the ministers to discuss the possibility of a pastoral waiver. 

Do I need to be a member to pledge?
Anyone can make a pledge to the congregation, member or not. Non-members who choose to pledge are usually considered “friends” of the church. We have lots of Friends, and are very grateful for them!

What is the difference between pledging and automated giving?
A pledge is a promise to contribute a certain amount of money over the course of 2023. 

Automatic giving is one way to fulfill your pledge – you set up a monthly automatic withdrawal from your bank account or recurring credit card payment. If you have already set up automated giving but haven’t made a formal pledge, please still make a pledge so we officially know that you plan to continue giving this way.

How do I fulfill my pledge once I’ve made it?

  • Automated giving: you can set up secure automated giving on our database Breeze, by clicking here and selecting “Give to Pledge Payment.” Most people choose monthly giving. Some people choose to set up an auto-payment with their bank instead. This year, we are working on moving all electronic giving from our long-time online payment system, Vanco, to Breeze. Feel free to reach out to us at info@philauu.org or (215) 563-3980 if you have questions, need help getting set up, or need help moving to Breeze. 
  • Single gift: you can choose to pay your pledge in one or more lump sums securely online on Breeze, or by sending a check to the church at 2125 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia PA 19103.
  • Other types of payments: Congregants may find that they are able to meet, or even enhance, their pledge by taking advantage of the following tax benefits that may be available to them. Please note that congregants should always consult with an accountant or tax professional to determine what tax benefits, if any, are available to them! Reach out to us at info@philauu.org or (215) 563-3980 to talk through options.
    • Donating Stock:  First Unitarian is able to accept stock as an alternative to a cash donation.  Congregants may find, after consultation with an accountant or tax professional, that they are able to reduce taxes on capital gains when donating stock directly to the church.
    • Qualified Charitable Distributions:  Congregants who are taking required minimum distributions out of certain tax-deferred accounts, such as an IRA or 401(k), may find, after consultation with an accountant or tax professional, that they can reduce their taxable income by making a Qualified Charitable Distribution to the church directly from a tax-deferred account.  


Can I change my pledge if my circumstances change?
Yes! We understand that things change, especially in these unprecedented times. If you need to adjust your pledge down or up, just contact info@philauu.org or (215) 563-3980 and we will take care of it, no questions and no judgment!

How does a pledge relate to the weekly offering at Sunday services?
The money received in the weekly offering also goes towards our congregation’s annual budget (and is sometimes shared with outside organizations), but does not count towards a pledge unless specifically designated by the giver. If you wish to pay your pledge during the weekly offering, the easiest ways are:

  •  text 215-709-5095 with the amount you want to give followed by the word “Pledge” [for example, to pay $20 towards your pledge, text “20 pledge” to 215-709-5095 during the weekly offering],
  • log into Breeze and designate your gift as a pledge payment, or, 
  • if you are in the church Sanctuary, you can put a check or cash in a special envelope from the back of the pew in the offering plate that designates a pledge payment. 


What is this year’s pledge campaign goal?
The calendar year 2023 pledge campaign fiscal goal is ~$330,600, which accounts for the growth in our membership over the past couple of years, our commitment to pay our staff according to fair compensation guidelines, and the technical demands of our new hybrid model of congregational life. More important than our fiscal goal, however, is as many people participating as possible! 

Should I pledge alone or with my partner/family?
We track pledges from “pledge units” which can mean individuals, couples, or families. Some couples choose to pledge separately, though most pledge together. The choice is yours!

How much should I give?
Everyone’s financial circumstances are different, but we ask that people pledge an amount that feels generous within their means. It costs about $2,000 per adult to sustain the church for the year, but that number is far beyond the means of some of us, and for others of us with greater means, $2,000 wouldn’t feel generous. If you are looking for a guide based on income, the table below might be helpful.

How do I balance my pledge to First Unitarian with other causes I support?
Many of us support several non-profit organizations and issues. Thankfully, many of these causes are supported by thousands of people!

First Unitarian Church is supported only by us – generous members and friends. Our values - radical hospitality, humanity’s inherent worth and dignity, respect for the web of life, religious freedom - our life nourishing community of care - our soul-moving worship - and our spiritually grounded justice work - are not at the center of any other organization.

For all of this to thrive, it is we who must support it.

May I volunteer instead of pledging?
Our volunteer gifts and financial gifts both make this church powerful and sustainable. We depend upon both to live out our mission.

Is it possible to earmark a pledge for a specific purpose?
As a democratic community, our budgets are created to serve the whole of our work together. All pledges support the entire congregation.

Are my payments to First Unitarian Church tax-deductible?
To the extent you itemize deductions, yes. Donations to Churches are the same as donations to any 501c3 charity – fully tax deductible.

How does it work for the stewardship campaign to run on a different calendar from the fiscal year?
In years past, we would only pass a Spring budget for the coming fiscal year based on the amount the Spring stewardship campaign had raised. This helped the congregation feel fairly confident that we would be able to pay our bills and not go into a deficit.

In recent years, however, we have moved to drawing up a budget based on an estimate of what we believe we can receive from pledges in the coming fiscal year, rather than using the pledge campaign as a firm budgetary number. This reflects the reality of our membership; in other words, while some people need to adjust their pledges down during the year due to unforeseen circumstances, and some people move away or leave the congregation, we also have new people joining the congregation during the year and others who overpay their pledges when their finances are good. 

Given that our budgeting has, for several years, been made upon an estimate of anticipated pledging, rather than a firm pledge campaign number, our Finance Working Group, Administrative staff, and Board felt confident in their decision last year to separate the fiscal year and calendar year without inhibiting our ability to make wise budgeting decisions. In fact, we are finding that, in some ways, this new system even helps us to predict our financial situation further in advance than our old system. Systems like our database Breeze also enable us to track financial giving more easily than in the past (though we are still working on using it to its fullest extent).

Bottom line, we want our stewardship campaign to be as easy as possible for our congregants, and we trust that this new system will not harm our ability to make wise budgetary decisions.

Who do I contact with questions?
For most questions, our dedicated administrative staff will be able to help. Contact them at info@philauu.org or (215) 563-3980. They can also connect you with a member of the stewardship team if you prefer (Carol Orme-Johnson, chair, Phyllis Belk, Wendy Jastrzab, Anne Slater, and Rev. Abbey Tennis). We are all happy to help with any questions you have!

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