Figuring the Fiscal Year

John Handley, synod treasurer
John Handley, synod treasurer

We are preparing for the end of the year in the synod finance office. As in most congregations, we see an increase in activity; both in the number and amount of contributions as well as the reporting that has to be done so that everyone can know what happened during the year.

Why the odd fiscal year?
Unlike most congregations, our fiscal year ends on January 31st each year. At the ELCA’s inception back in 1987, both the new synods and the ELCA churchwide organization were structured with the odd end date for the fiscal year. The thought behind setting that point as the end of the fiscal year was that giving an extra month after the end of the calendar year and the Christmas season would allow more time for contributions to find their way from individuals to congregations to synod offices and then on to Chicago.

How do congregations do it?
But, of course, that makes our calendar out of sync with congregational fiscal years. Most congregations still have a fiscal (or budget) year that matches the calendar year. Of congregations that don’t have 12/31 fiscal year ends, the most popular end date is June 30th. The idea behind a summer date is that most church programs run in a natural cycle from September through June. A 6/30 fiscal year end helps leaders to run their programs since they know their budgets for the whole program year at a time.

Syncing with congregations
While January is usually a month when we see more contributions making their way into the synod office, I’m not sure that having our calendar out of sync with our congregations is always a good thing. The difference in dates sparks confusion sometimes. Congregation treasurers simply need to understand the difference between our fiscal year and that of their congregation.

In preparation for our coming fiscal year end, the end date for contributions to be recorded in FY10 is February 11, 2011. Contributions dated in January (or before) that are received before 2/11/11 will be counted as FY10 contributions. Any contributions dated in February, will be counted in FY11, even if they are received before 2/11/11.

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