There are those who can read accounts and there are the rest of us who cannot. Recognising that all of us are on a giving journey means that people start at the stage of ‘giving to need’ and move towards ‘needing to give’ over a period of time.
So, how do we communicate financial information? There are a few pointers that we can adopt that should make matters easier for all. Some seem quite obvious. However, the list has been drawn up from looking at parish accounts and identifying some common issues (and one or two less common ones!).
We have seen accounts which do not add up. We have seen accounts presented which appear to show a surplus whereas there was a shortfall. We have seen accounts which show what was paid and not what was not paid (so, if there was a shortfall in Parish Share, no one in the parish can see that this is the case). If people are going to respond to need, they need accurate information.
Use an annual report
There are some fantastic examples of annual reports available online. They explain what money does as well as where it comes from and where it goes. The annual report can explain all of these things and, if written in an appropriate style, can be used as a welcome to our community pack for people moving into the area.
Use the church magazine
It is not safe to assume that everyone knows everything about how the church operates. You could use a series of magazine articles which explain what money is used for and what it achieved. You can always ask the mission agencies that you support to supply articles. The Diocesan Office will supply information on the various functions undertaken there.
Make it interesting
This can be a challenge, as one person’s interesting can be someone else’s boring. Pie charts can cause glazing of eyes. Too much text can bore. Too many pictures can be seen as talking down. So, balance these and look at innovative ideas, such as:
- A short film – posted on You Tube and signposted from parish communications
- Make a big cake and slice it accordingly. What if the cake is not big enough for all to eat? That may send out a message
- Use visual aids other than cake!
Make it dramatic
Sometimes finance is a mystery but we are not suggesting a mystery play. But, (with the consent of the organist), switching the organ off just before you speak may grab attention; a service with no lights could be another means of gaining attention. If you are to involve people other than yourself in the drama, please ask them first. The choir (or your parish priest) may not appreciate a P45 as part of your presentation. A more positive statement could involve a series of film clips from agencies you support – have them running before worship.