Thursday, November 8, 2012

'Steady' Wins the Race

By Garry J. Moes
Director of Development 

"Slow and steady wins the race," according to the "moral" of Aesop's famed fable of "The Tortoise and the Hare."

The story you are now reading is not in praise of "slow," but it is in praise of "steady."

As some within our constituency know, Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, unlike many other such institutions, depends heavily on gifts for its financial foundation. This comes from an early commitment by our founders and trustees to keep tuition low, a policy based on their belief that a man called to the Gospel ministry should not be shouldered with a burden of debt in order to answer that call. We therefore depend for more than 70 percent of our budget on the voluntary gifts of Christians and their churches who believe as firmly as we do about the mission to which this seminary has been called.

By God's grace, this policy has provided the resources we have needed for more than a quarter of a century; but, by its nature, it has frequently pushed us to a troublesome financial brink. Dependence on voluntary gifts subjects us to the natural vagaries of charitable giving: circumstances in the personal lives of our supporters can change; churches, from time to time, face new challenges within their own ministries; the economic climate of the country may give rise to many uncertainties.

Yet, we are called upon daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to meet our divinely ordained mission to teach students called to preach and shepherd or to serve the Lord in other ministry capacities. Meeting the regular obligations of this mission demands a steady flow of income.

For this reason, the governors and administration of Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary wish to highlight the great need we have for a steady, reliable cash flow. This comes from donors who commit to a schedule of regular, perhaps automatic, contributions each month. Many of our supporters send checks, one by one, every month. Others have set up mechanisms through their banks' "bill pay" systems or other electronic payment options. Donors making these monthly commitments currently provide us with an average of about $11,550 per month. We need approximately $22,000 per month, almost double the current level, to supplement the more sporadic gifts (one-time, quarterly or annual) that we receive to meet our current monthly budget of approximately $75,000 in contribution income to our General Fund.

Here's the bottom line: We urgently need many more supporters to prayerfully consider making a commitment to give each month as they are able and as the Lord blesses.

To illustrate the benefits of such giving, we ask you to review the following table showing monthly giving by steady donors for the 12-month period ending in October 2012. As you can see, having a cadre of regular givers assures us of a relatively reliable stream of income each month. We just need to at least double the level of this stream.

Month No. of Donors Total Given Avg. Amt./Gift
November 89 $12,822.76 $133.57
December 92 $15,804.52 $146.34
January 84 $10,612.86 $120.60
February 84 $5,948.33 $70.81
March 92 $11,406.48 $111.83
April 93 $11,499.81 $112.74
May 92 $13,046.89 $131.79
June 87 $13,517.62 $139.36
July 88 $8,839.66 $96.08
August 87 $11,575.33 $128.61
September 93 $11,275.79 $112.76
October 91 $12,493.70 $137.29
Total 12-mo. period
$138,418.05 $124.03
Sporadic giving is traditionally highest in December and May/June when we conduct our annual year-end appeals at the close of the calendar year and our fiscal year. Giving also goes up when we issue "emergency appeals" in times of cash-flow crises; we are always amazed at how God's people respond with generous outpourings of support in particular times of need. All of our income, of course, does not come from gifts. Tuition, for example, plays a role; but this is also a highly seasonal source of income, with spikes at the start of each semester and troughs at other times. It is these fluctuations that we hope to level through steady giving by more and more supporters. The following chart shows total General Fund income from all sources for 2011 and so far in 2012.

The chart below shows all donations to our General Fund for last year and thus far in 2012. These figures include one-time extraordinary gifts and results of emergency appeals.

When extraordinary gifts are removed from the equation, regular giving is shown in the following chart.

These charts show substantial fluctuations from month to month and highlight the need for a stream of income from reliable monthly commitments. We have created two ways to set up automatic monthly contributions.
  • Donating monthly via automatic Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT). If you would like to begin giving to the seminary in this way, please click here to download a Monthly Debit Authorization Form. Fill out the form and mail it to the seminary with a deposit slip or voided check. For more details and options on this method, visit our web site by clicking here.
  • Setting up a recurring gift schedule through PayPal. A mechanism for doing this is found on this page of our web site. Click on one of the green Donate Online buttons to set up an automatic payment of one of the indicated amounts. This method is quicker and easier than option 1 above, but, because of small PayPal processing fees, we do not receive the full amount given. It is a convenient option for many, including international supporters.
In our December E-newsletter, we will be sharing information about our annual year-end financial campaign. Our goal this year is to raise $170,000 by the end of 2012.

Thank you for considering our need for a more reliable monthly flow of income, and may you reap ten-, fifty- or a hundredfold in harvest blessings from whatever you sow.