Well, according to our synagogue’s by-laws, 72 is the number of members who need to be present at the Annual Congregational Meeting to have a quorum. Not sure where this number even comes from. Maybe it is a percentage of the number of adults based on the number of members? I guess I need to have a closer look at the bylaws for a full understanding as to how this comes about.
Anyway, the bottom line is this: we needed 72 members and we reached that magic number at 7:30 PM, 30 minutes after the meeting was called for.
I have been at several annual meetings before, and at board meetings of organizations where I have worked where the budget is voted upon. More often than not, the budget is presented in great detail and with great fanfare, both the process and the budget itself. Standard procedure has often been that little discussion follows and it passes quite quickly. At this congregational meeting, there were many thoughtful questions.
There were questions about being able to pay their dues by credit card and the costs of credit card processing. I have written a few blogs about online payments. One thing to do is ask people who pay by credit card to make an extra donation of 3% to cover their costs. Or maybe even give a discount for people who pay by check. Or encourage people to use electronic fund transfers that have no bank fees. And our electronic invoice for our 2016-17 dues came today and electronic fund transfer is now an option with no fee.
There were also several questions related to the budget process and projecting membership for the following year when there always seem to be several congregants who remain on the membership roles who don’t seem to be paying their dues.
In this way, synagogues are not like other membership organizations like JCCs, museums, and even the local health club. If you don’t pay at those institutions, your membership lapses and you can’t take advantage of that particular service. Maybe synagogues show such leniency as part of a welcoming culture.
Synagogue leaders prepare the budget in the spring to commence on June 1 or July 1. For some, High Holy Day tickets no longer seem to be as big of an enticement for some to pay a portion of their dues. It is certainly a welcoming thought to want people to remain a part of synagogue communities. Letters and emails are sent, voicemail messages are also left. Still no response. If congregants don’t call back or send in a partial or full payment in order to receive High Holy Day tickets, and the letters, emails and calls continue to be unanswered, maybe by October it is time to hand deliver a final letter, or send a registered letter, saying in a nice way that unless they respond to this final outreach, their synagogue affiliation will end.
Kind of cold, I guess. But necessary.
Of course there is still a budget challenge. But with the knowledge that the membership is actually 30-40 less than projected, a special fundraising campaign can be implemented before the end of the calendar year. In addition to the limited budget tightening you can do.
Maybe it works in political campaigns, but the budget should not be based on hope and a dream.