Inspiring Generosity: “Overhead” is NOT a Dirty Word


“Overhead” is NOT a Dirty Word

It’s time to go over the river, through the woods, and over another mountain for a wee little vacation. We’re heading to central Oregon to see friends and to hear Pink Martini in concert. What fun! While I’m gone, enjoy this refreshed post that bears repeating.

Just this morning my friend sent me a hilarious piece from The Onion. For those of you who don’t know, The Onion is a satirical (i.e., funny) website that pokes fun at just about anyone and everything.
Here’s the mock headline:

Report: Majority of Money Donated at Church Doesn’t Make It to God
The “article” goes on to state:

A shocking report released Monday by the Internal Revenue Service revealed that more than 65 percent of the money donated at churches across the world never reaches God.

“Unfortunately, almost half of all collections go toward administrative expenses such as management, utilities, and clerical costs,” said Virginia Raeburn, a spokesperson for the Lord Almighty, adding “another 25 percent of heavenly funding is needed to cover payroll for the angelic hierarchy…”
(emphasis added).

Pretty funny, right? Except, there’s something that’s not. Underlying the humor is a serious take away:
Stop being defensive about your overhead costs.
You, if you are clergy, are not an “add on.”
Your Administrative Assistant is not an annoying extra.
Your utilities are not boring.
You, your clerical help, and utilities are all part of ministry.
Without you, without someone helping in the office, without light, water, or electricity, ministry would cease…at least ministry as most people in your congregation recognize it.
Another example: I was at a fundraising dinner last night for camps (not United Methodist ones). The Executive Director proudly stated that 100% of all donations would go directly to kids and none would go for overhead costs. I disagree.

Giving donors the impression that “overhead” is bad doesn't recognize the benefits of administrative costs. Costs – as in this example – like camp counselors, someone to hire camp counselors, someone to run background checks, accountants, building maintenance, the list goes on and on. Each of those directly and indirectly helps kids.
That’s the benefit of a narrative budget. It gets people away from thinking “line item” (that’s for your Finance Team) and more about overall ministry. By focusing on the bigger picture, your mission becomes much clearer to the people who will be moved to give to your good work. Not sure about a narrative budget? Here are a couple of articles to get you started: Telling Your Story through a Narrative Budget and The Narrative Budget – Take 2.
You can let The Onion create all the chuckles it wants (and believe me, it does) but don’t let it, or anyone else, make you feel embarrassed about your worth – especially as it’s associated with overhead costs. You and your ministries are far too important to be silenced or mocked.
Originally posted October 10, 2018.

Photo credit: Josch13 @ Pixabay

Making Stewardship a Joy: Starting on August 30, I will be providing a series of three webinars (one per month) for Practical Resources for Churches. The webinars are intended for church cohorts but individuals are welcome too. Interested? Want to sign-up? Get more information here.

Cesie Delve Scheuermann (pronounced “CC Delv Sherman,” yes, really) is a Stewardship Consultant for the OR-ID Annual Conference. She is also a Senior Ministry Strategist with Horizons Stewardship. For 25 years, while working as a volunteer and part-time consultant, she has helped raise over three million dollars for numerous churches and non-profit organizations. Want to hear another song of Pink Martini? She’s glad you said, “Yes!” Here’s Amado Mio.

You can reach Cesie at inspiringgenerosity@gmail.com, at CesieScheuermann.com, or at cesieds@horizons.net. Want to schedule a meeting? She’s got you covered!
Schedule a meeting now.
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Cesie Delve Scheuermann
Cesie Delve Scheuermann is consultant in grant writing and stewardship/development working with the Conference. From 2008-12 she was the Conference Lay Leader for the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.