Do you know how UU Asheville supports itself? We don’t charge for participating in our worship and programs, so where do we get money? I know you know the answer to this: people give us money. Sure we raise a little bit of money through rentals and interest, but the vast majority comes from you.

Do you know why we annoyingly ask you EVERY year to please consider increasing your commitment? I bet you know the answer to that one, too: prices rise (inflation). That doesn’t even take into account new ideas that might take more resources. Even in the best of low-inflation years costs go up 1 or 2 percent. That means at the very least our salaries go up (and don’t even get me started on health insurance costs). And salaries make up 60-65 percent of our budget.

As the most obvious example of rising costs, we pay our childcare workers (they are the only “minimum wage” workers we have) the Asheville Living Wage. Between 2019 and today, that hourly rate went from $13.00/hour to $17.70/hour (a whopping 36 percent increase over 3 years). Believe me that no other employee got anywhere near that size increase in that same period. But still, we do keep up with the cost-of-living increases published by the Social Security Administration and that still means our costs go up every year. For our 2022-23 budget, the cost-of-living increase that will impact salaries is 5.9 percent.

So far, this lovely congregation—YOU!—has managed to keep donations pretty steady so that we are not seeing any dramatic drop-off in giving. But we sure don’t expect that our giving will increase, either. But if our costs keep going up, even marginally, and our income does not go up, or worse goes down, then something’s gotta give. Due to the nature of our budget, what usually “gives” in that situation is employee hours.

UU Asheville’s 2021-22 budget splits out this way:
Personnel – 62%
Administrative costs – 27%
Program costs – 7%

Personnel costs can be decreased by reducing employee hours. This has most recently been done by letting employees go, but it can also be done by hoping an employee is willing to drop some duties in order to work fewer hours. Either way it results in staff doing fewer things than they do now.

Administrative costs cannot be decreased. These are the costs for insurance, computers, software (much software!), supplies, copier leases, cleaning, mowing/snowplowing, facility repairs, banking fees that we pay for the wonderful luxury of accepting payments other than checks, and fundraising costs.

Program costs include the costs for RE supplies, volunteer background checks, our amazing Coming of Age program, membership, worship (occasional guest worship leaders and supplies we need), music, justice ministry, and congregational events (don’t we all love Halloween treats, hot cocoa bars, flower communions, and more?) I frankly don’t have the heart to cut any of these costs, and since that little 7 percent is spread across all these items, it would take a lot of cutting to make an impact on the budget.

UUA GIFT is our donation to our denomination. Our Interim Lead Minister points out that ministers in search often look for congregations that provide the support that the UUA asks from each congregation. That would be 6.5 percent of our budget. Right now, we donate 4 percent ($31,600) so it’s unlikely this can go down. (Nicely understated, don’t you think?)

I know that the best fundraising happens when I can tell you all the wonderful things that this organization does to “change the world,” which includes directly impacting the lives of our congregants. That kind of messaging will happen when the annual budget drive starts. But I also think it’s important for you to know how the numbers will work.

The congregation is in no danger of going under because we have a decent amount of savings. Still, deficit spending is not a long-term solution. This interim period will be a good time to talk about the future of UU Asheville, including its long-term financial sustainability.

Linda Topp, Director of Administration