DESPITE AN UPCOMING reduction in staff and a budget deficit, Women of the ELCA’s executive director says she’s hopeful.
During the April 24 online meeting, the churchwide executive board approved a new Women of the ELCA special unit, recommended a 2022 budget, and participated in a lengthy discussion about what comes next after the staff dwindles to two full-time and one part-time in September.
“Women in our organization are flexible, adaptable, and creative,” Linda Post Bushkofsky reported to the churchwide executive board. “They have continued their financial support, though not at a level envisioned by 2020 budget.”
The organization has a “future filled with hope,” she said, explaining how women continued to gather “digitally.”
“Our synodical organizations developed online book discussions and Bible studies and fellowship events” during this last year of the pandemic and physical distancing, she said. “They’ve conducted virtual retreats and virtual programming.”
If the organization can continue to adapt in “clever ways to the reality of this pandemic, I think we’ll be equipped to see it into the next decade,” she said. “This ability to adapt gives me great hope.”
Budget and finances
“What a year we’ve had,” said Anna Sarver, executive board treasurer. “As an organization, we’ve had to deal with ups and downs resulting from the pandemic and quarantines.”
The status of the budget reflects why the decision was made to reduce staff, she said.
Though the organization does not have finalized accounts for fiscal year 2020 yet, she said, “we know expenses have exceeded revenue, even though staff underspent.”
At the time of the executive board meeting, total revenue was $1,929,313, and total expenses were $2,054,278. “That’s a difference of $124,965.”
“You can see budget compared to actuals how far behind we are,” she added. The 2020 budget had anticipated revenue of $2,366,000.
Sustainability task force
The executive board asked President Lisa Plorin to appoint an ad hoc task force to investigate what sustainable measures the organization can take to continue operation.
“In our [programs and communications] committee, we had quite a bit of discussion about the future of the organization’s programs and communications, and how are those going to get done with only two full-time and one part-time staff,” said Karen Voris, chair of the committee.
Sara Larson, chair of the budget and finance committee, said: “[The reduction in staff because of dwindling revenue] is not something new that’s all of the sudden appeared. It’s been ongoing forever.
“But now we’re at the bottom of the bucket. People just aren’t aware of the severity of the situation,” she said. “Unfortunately, people become aware when everything changes.”
“We have to change tactics,” she said. “We can’t continue to operate in the way we have been.”
In other action, the executive board:
- Recommended sending a 2022 budget of $1,636,250 to the Eleventh Triennial Convention August 3-5 for approval.
- Discussed the Eleventh Triennial Convention and how it will occur online.
- Approved the application of the Latinx Conference of the Northern Texas-Northern Louisiana Synod to form a non-geographic special unit of Women of the ELCA.
- Heard a report on the February Pivot Don’t Panic event, a two-day online event that replaced the annual Conference of Presidents.
- Said farewell to a retired Bernie Bresson who served as an advisor to the executive board from Lutheran Men in Mission.
- Heard reports from the Office of the Presiding Bishop, Conference of Bishops, Lutheran Men in Mission, and staff.
Feature photo of water lilies in Echo Park, Los Angeles, Calif., by Elizabeth McBride