A Formula for Dues Relief
by Rob Berkovitz
URJ Congregational Finance Specialist
Has this ever happened to you? Hopefully it hasn’t happened in your synagogue!
Dear prospective congregant,
The Dues Committee of Congregation Aleph Bet has reviewed your dues relief request and your financial data. According to our financial formula, which is based on your annual income and your credit report, you do not qualify for dues relief.
Our decision was made partially from information received from the credit reporting agencies as well as information you furnished to us, such as your tax return and financial statements.
If you have any questions, please contact our financial coordinator at 555.222.1111.
Joe G. Treasurer
The majority of our synagogues do an excellent job of creating a policy stating that no one is denied the chance to belong to the synagogue community because of their financial situation. Many even make a point to add this statement to their website or membership application. This is great, but the important part is the follow through; not just saying it but really meaning it, and letting our actions show it.
We need to work hard sometimes to not judge each other. It can be achallenge for membership or finance chairs when people ask for duesrelief and the chair has a feeling that they have the capability to givemore than they say they can.
However, we don’t always know what is going on in someone’s personallife. A family that looks like they make a reasonable income on papermay have bills they are paying–for whatever reason–that makes paying thesynagogue difficult and they may not want the synagogue to know abouttheir financial struggles. Our energy is better spent on other thingsthan concentrating on who isn’t paying their “fair share.” Identifyingand cultivating members with a capacity to give to the synagogue wouldbe a better way to channel that energy. Also, concentrating onengagement and connection may help to gain more financial commitmentfrom members.
It may be that the member or prospective member doesn’t feel inclined togive because s/he doesn’t feel connected to the synagogue. When someoneasks for dues relief, finance chairs may want to consider ways toengage the member in congregational life. If the congregant feelsconnected to the synagogue, s/he’s more likely to see the value of thecongregation and give accordingly.
In all of this, the important thing is making that statement in yourmembership application a living, breathing policy. As the followingpassage from Mishkan T’filah suggests, no members or prospective members- regardless of their ability or willingness to pay dues – should beturned away from your house of worship.
May the door of this synagogue be wide enough to receive all who hungerfor love, all who are lonely for friendship. May it welcome all who havecares to unburden, thanks to express, hopes to nurture. May the doorof this synagogue be narrow enough to shut out pettiness and pride, envyand enmity. May its threshold be no stumbling block to young orstraying feet. May it be too high to admit complacency, selfishness andharshness. May this synagogue be, for all who enter, the doorway to aricher and more meaningful life.
The prayer highlights the importance of having a dues relief policy inplace that allows for acceptance for all without judgment and with trustand compassion so that all who want to may enter the door of thesynagogue and feel welcome.
Do you have a welcoming dues relief policy? Is it actually practiced? How do congregations balance running the business of the synagogue while remaining a welcoming community?