Monday, July 13, 2009

VOTF is in the Tank - Revenue Slides - Updated Post


Got this urgent fundraising message today from Voice of the Faithful (comment follows):
With great heaviness of heart, we write to inform you that VOTF is at the crossroads of financial survival and we need your immediate help in order to keep it going.

No U.S. business or organization (from the biggest corporate entity to the smallest non-profit) has been immune from the devastating downturn in the economy over the past 1-2 years. As we know all too well from unyielding media reports, that downturn has rippled into communities and households, confirming worst expectations and fears.

During the past two years, the Board of Trustees approved substantial reductions in VOTF's operating budget as decreases in revenue reflected the emerging and now full economic downturn in our country. Between FY 08 and 09, the Board approved a budget reduction of over 30%. As the economy and our revenue stream worsened appreciably, in April 2009, the Board reduced the FY 09 budget by another 35% (nearly $235,000 more). To accomplish this huge drop, the Board made painful cuts in staff salaries and contractor support; relocated the office to a smaller facility at about half the monthly rental costs; and curtailed costly mailings intended to raise revenue. Throughout this period, staff, contractors and volunteers demonstrated remarkable resolve in doing even more with less.

At the same time, the Board continued an aggressive outreach to members, friends, and donors to raise more revenue, as you are no doubt painfully aware from a variety of appeals and fund-raisers communicated in emails and editions of In The Vineyard.

Cash reserves allowed VOTF to continue operations but only by a very thin margin. The Board's plan was to generate a substantial infusion of revenue when the Officers rolled out a comprehensive Strategic Plan in early August. Based on the enthusiastic response from dozens of VOTF members who have been bringing the Strategic Plan to life for several months, we expected that it would result in a revitalization of members' energy at regional and local levels, and with it, a level of necessary revenue as members and donors recognized the opportunity for a renewed voice and influence in achieving VOTF's mission and goals. Previews of the Strategic Plan have been included in several recent editions of In The Vineyard.

Unfortunately, our financial condition has deteriorated before the rollout the Strategic Plan. As of early July, VOTF's reserves have all but been depleted, and it faces the prospects of not being able to pay for recurring costs during July and beyond. After meeting in an emergency session on July 9, the Board foresaw two realistic options: (1) declare that VOTF could not continue to operate and begin to wind it down, or (2) appeal to members to fund operations in the short term and seek sustained funding based on an anticipated enthusiastic response to the Strategic Plan. If the latter is successful, the Board will develop a downsizing plan commensurate with sustained funding expectations, supplemented where feasible with additional volunteer help. . .

I suspect that more than the economy, decline in receipts for VOTF is reflective of the fact that most big priest sexual abuse cases are now settled. Being able to stage a protest / press photo-op on the front steps of any chancery in the U.S. whenever a settlement is close seems to be a lot more lucrative than holding conferences on church management structure.

SNAP has also seen a major decrease in revenue from $930,985 in annual income for 2006 to $437,407 in 2007 (the last year figures are available). The group which previously concentrated exclusively on abuse by Catholic priests has now branched out with new affiliates - SNAP Native American, SNAP Baptist, SNAP Orthodox, SNAP Presbyterian and SNAP Boy Scouts.


Michael Paulson at the Boston Globe reports:
I just spoke with Bill Casey, the chairman of the VOTF board, who tells me the existence of the organization is not in doubt, but that at stake is the organization's national headquarters, which recently moved from Newton to Needham in an effort to save money.

Which doesn't exactly comport with VOTF's fundraising email which warns that failing a large influx of dough, the board might:
declare that VOTF could not continue to operate and begin to wind it down . . .

The first to comment on Paulson's post is David Clohessy, national director of SNAP:
In spite of the wealth, power and opposition of many bishops, VOTF continues to do admirable work. We are grateful for their courageous efforts and are confident they'll continue to succeed in giving voice to so many Catholics who desperately want and clearly deserve a more accountable church hierarchy.

Speaking of Clohessy, I've seen him numerous times on the front steps of numerous chanceries. His organization is far from transparent in its finances. Despite federal law requiring non-profits to file a 990 tax form each year, SNAP failed to turn in 990s for their most active years, 2004 and 2005.

Even so, tax forms from subsequent years are illuminating. For the years 2006 and 2007, travel expenses for SNAP were 19 and 25% of expenses and officer compensation amounted to 36 and 39% of expenses respectively.

Some enterprising secular reporter might investigate what dope or maybe trial lawyer finances that kind of operation? Probably not.