Friday, November 15, 2013

Georgia Baptist Convention Cooperative Program Accounting

The GBC has made a welcome and needed change in their Cooperative Program accounting. This is something that is helpful but rather obscure to any but SBC and GBC geeks and insiders.

As a pastor, I seldom had any laypeople ask me about CP percentages except to ask what part of Cooperative Program gifts went to international or North American missions. If you are trying to explain a state convention CP pie chart it is easy to get lost in the high weeks, and that rather quickly.

Here is my simple summary of how GBC Cooperative Program allocations may be presented, in order of increasing complexity:

The Georgia Baptist Convention divides each church's Cooperative Program gifts in this manner:
60% is kept in-state for Georgia Baptist causes.
40% is forwarded for SBC causes mainly IMB, NAMB, seminaries, ERLC, and Executive Committee.
While our oustanding leader, Robert White, said this verbally. This is seldom if ever presented to the public in this fashion. No GBC/CP pie chart will have just two slices, GBC and SBC. There is always a third, shown in the 2014 version below:

The Georgia Baptist Convention divides each church's Cooperative Program gifts in this manner:
40.00% is forwarded for SBC causes.
48.97% is kept in-state for GBC causes.
11.03% is for Georgia Baptist Mission Extension Ministries
Quickly now, what is the "Georgia Baptist Mission Extension Ministries"? Who knows? It is about as generic as any label could be. This is the $4.6 million spent in-state on our three Georgia Baptist colleges, our retirement communities, and a couple of other tiny allocations. All of these are traditional state convention items - schools and ministries to aging. But why the budget carve-out for them?

I see no reason other than to avoid describing the CP allocation budget as 60/40 with the sixty staying in state.

Wouldn't it be more straightforward to put it to Georgia Baptist churches, ministers, and laypeople in this manner. "We do good work in this state with many ministries. In doing that we use 60% of every Cooperative Program dollar for a broad panoply of the Lord's work here in our state."

Here's the final method of explaining CP allocations:

The Georgia Baptist Convention divides each church's Cooperative Program gifts in this manner:
40.00% is forwarded for SBC causes.
48.97% is kept in-state for GBC causes.
11.03% is for Georgia Baptist Mission Extension Ministries
Note: The Southern Baptist Convention has historically requested that a portion of their Cooperative Program funds remain in Georgia to be used for the Promotion, Support, Accounting, and Distribution of Cooperative Program Funds, which equals 9.82% of the 2014 budget. 
Aha, the dreaded footnote further complicating things. Almost a century ago when the SBC and states adopted the wonderful system of fund allocation we have always called the Cooperative Program, it was understood that the states would do the promoting, collecting, and distribution of the money and that they were entitled to keep a portion for this work. Various state conventions handle this differently. The GBC puts a good bit more under this rubric than most, perhaps all, state conventions.

The dollar total of the footnote is about $4.1 million. So how is the CP promoted, collected, and distributed with this $4.1m? You have to ask. It is not shown.

I asked three years ago but haven't updated the information. In the 2011 budget more than half of the money was for debt service, plus the entire budget for the communications department and some other stuff. I believe that GBC decision makers have shuffled budget items in and out of this. If it were easily understood then why not llist one-by-one the budget items that are "counted" as CP promotion, support, accounting, and distribution? Then we would all know. Guess it is not that simple.

But I do commend the GBC for the change they have made in this regard.

Formerly, the GBC presented the CP as sharing CP monies equally with the SBC. The rationale for this was that about 20% of CP spending, all of which was in the GBC portion of the budget and not forwarded to the SBC Executive Committee, was labeled "shared ministries," or "jointly funded causes." CP promotional materials would have a graphic of a dollar bill sectioned into a 40/20/40 portions. The two '40s' were meant to convey that the GBC and SBC share equally, when in fact the GBC kept 60. Good move to drop that. It was completely misleading.

I like my state convention. I like my state convention leader, Robert White. He is an outstanding leader and administrator who has presided over the GBC in the roaring days of CP increases and in the depressing days of the CP's steep decline. He is a wonderful servant of Christ and our churches. He has shown wisdom and insight in his view of and reaction to some of the convention changes, most notably the steep reduction in North American Mission Board kickback funding to legacy southern state conventions.

The changes in budget presentation techniques are an improvement but my view from the GBC hinterlands is that all the caveats, provisos, and footnotes should be eliminated. Give a budget pie chart that has two slices: GBC causes, SBC causes.

We can all understand that.

But I do understand the historical precedents on all this.

Readers are welcome to inform me what I don't understand, what I am seeing incorrectly, or how I am all mixed up on this. Make a comment or feel free to email me. There may well be things I need to know but I don't.






6 comments:

Anonymous said...

If I am following the post correctly, the following is kept in GBC: 48.97 + 11.03 + 9.82 or 69.82% and the remaining 30.18% is sent to SBC.

However, Georgia gets credit for 40% SBC CP (30.18 + 9.82 = 40.00%).

Is the 9.82% the SBC portion of what it takes to raise a 30.18% offering, and if so, what additional expense is needed to raise the other actual ministery usage amount? More specifically, does the 9.82% expense cover efforts to raise all funds in the state notwithstanding subsequent GBC and SBC allocations, or does this percentage just cover the 30.18% that is actually sent to Nashville?

If the latter is correct, would the administrative expense for raising funds be considered a bit high?

William Thornton said...

No you are not correct but it is understandable that you are confused. The 9.82% is a different way of accounting for the same money.

There are no standard guidelines for states to compile their CP promotion, collection, and distribution expenses. The executive committee cannot dictate to the states; hence, there are variations among states.

The 9.82% is made up at the discretion of state leaders. It may include or exclude most anything, though I'm sure leaders rationalize their decisions. It eluded me, for example, how debt service should be viewed as such an expense.

As for administrative expenses, it should be viewed that the promo percentage is for the entire CP budget.

In a way this is all irrelevant and I will attempt to explain why Monday.

Anonymous said...

"No you are not correct but it is understandable that you are confused. The 9.82% is a different way of accounting for the same money."

OK, let me ask another way: For every $100 CP dollars raised in Georgia, does GBC send a check for $40 to SBC?

William Thornton said...

Yep. That is the figure, 40% to SBC causes.

Anonymous said...

Is this what you call straining at a gnat?

William Thornton said...

No. I wouldn't call it that. Check today's post.