The True Cost Of Ministry

Last week I posted about 5 difficult things we learned at Impact! Ministries this summer. One of those things was that we needed a new model for funding the outreach to the impoverished along with the regular fixed expenses that comes with the day-to-day operations of a ministry organization. In an effort to be completely transparent and open, I thought it might be best to post what our actual costs are on a monthly basis. These totals are based on Impact! Ministries’ costs from June 2019. They are pretty indicative of our normal monthly expenses these days. During that month we had 3 families in hotels as temporary housing, was working with 7 more families to get them into permanent housing, 11 families going through the assessment process, provided 17 homeless vets with transportation to the VA hospital in Tampa and made countless trips to deliver food, clothing and supplies to those in need. It was also the month where 85% of our donations were designated by the donor for specific homeless families. That means that only 15% of the financial donations we received in June 2019 could be used for the expenses listed in this blog post. All totals have been rounded down.

$3150.00 – Temporary Housing

In the month of June we had 3 separate families needing temporary housing. When we got the referral calls from other area agencies we found one family living in their van, another family living in an abandoned home and another family sleeping on park benches at night. At the time, every temporary housing option in Central Florida (Tampa, Lakeland and Orlando) was full. As a result we cut a deal with a local hotel in Winter Haven to put these families up for a set price of $350 a week. Only one of the families needed to be housed for the entire month, so we ended up only having to pay for 9 weeks total for all 3 families to be off the streets until we could get them into permanent housing.

$2100.00 – Permanent Housing

In the month of June we worked with several other area agencies, ministries, and churches to help 7 families get into permanent housing. While other organizations helped with the costs of rental deposits, initial housing costs, furniture donations, groceries and cleaning supplies, Impact! Ministries was responsible for finding the housing, getting the families moved in and covering the deposit cost for utilities (electricity, water and trash pickup). We have a going rate with the City of Lakeland to pay a set deposit of $300 for each family we help.

$350.00 – Co-working Office

On any given month Impact! Ministries is taking 10-15 homeless families and individuals through the process of obtaining permanent housing. This involves quite a few meetings, assessment sessions and office work (filing forms, making calls, receiving mail, etc.). We also have monthly staff meetings, volunteer training classes and quarterly board meetings. Having an office at a local co-working organization (meaning several business share office space, conference rooms and post office boxes in the same building) means we have a central location to work from. When dealing with single mothers or women that are homeless, being able to meet in office space where there are plenty of other people around provides comfort and a sense of safety. It also provides accountability for other male volunteers and myself when we have to meet with a female for assessment purposes.

$325.00 – Storage

Impact! Ministries maintains two storage units in town – one small air conditioned unit and one large non-air conditioned unit. We are constantly receiving donations of food, clothing, furniture, cleaning supplies and appliances that need to be stored until they are distributed to those in need. There are also times when we have to put a homeless family’s personal belongings in storage until we can get them into permanent housing.

It was also the month where 85% of our donations were designated by the donor for specific homeless families. That means that only 15% of the financial donations we received in June 2019 could be used for the expenses listed in this blog post.

– Rev. Chris Elrod

$650.00 – Insurance

When dealing with the homeless, volunteers and staff there is always the potential for physical injury or loss of resources. As a result, Impact! Ministries carries liability insurance as a financial safety net if someone gets hurt or injured. Every day we are going into the woods, abandoned buildings and walking the streets to find new folks to help. Every month we have projects that involve volunteers providing clean up, moving furniture or fixing property. You never know when an accident will happen and when an ER trip is needed. We also carry insurance on the contents of the storage buildings since we always seem to be storing a homeless family’s personal belongings.

$237.00 – Meals

Many times when we find a homeless family they have not eaten any proper food in days. Taking them to get a meal is a great way to build trust, develop a relationship and meet an immediate need. Since there are children involved we find ourselves at Chick-fil-A (great food and a wonderful play area for kids) quite a bit for these meals. Also, we have a great relationship with the managers of both of the Lakeland Chick-fil-A restaurants and they will comp the meals when possible. In the month of June 2019 we took 9 families out for dinner.

$425.00 – Fuel

Each month Impact! volunteers and staff use our personal vehicles to take homeless veterans to the VA hospital in Tampa, deliver food or clothing to homeless camps, run donated resources between other Lakeland agencies, drive throughout Polk County looking for new homeless camps and transport homeless families to meetings for obtaining permanent housing. When finances allow, we do our best to reimburse folks for the fuel used in these ministry opportunities.

$1400.00 – “Salaries”

“Salaries” is.a pretty loose term around Impact! Ministries. Our goal is to cover everyone’s health insurance and make sure they get around $1000 a month as a “salary” for the work they do. To say that Impact! Ministries is beyond a 40-hour-a-week job would be an understatement. Most of us are putting in well over 60 hours per week. It leaves little time for outside sources of income. Unfortunately, in the month of June 2019 there was not enough to cover ministry expenses and a salary for our staff. In the end were only able to cover the health insurance for everyone. As a result our staff members were forced to look elsewhere for income to support their families. By August everyone had found other jobs and were no longer working for Impact! Ministries. Since then I have been the only “employee” of the ministry still working “full-time” on reaching the impoverished and incarcerated. To date, health insurance is still being covered, but there has not been enough income to cover a salary (more on this in a future post).

$421.00 – Basic Business Expenses

With every organization comes basic business expenses. Phone service, postage, printing, office supplies, etc. For the month of June 2019, Impact! Ministries’ total for basic business expenses came to $421. $68 of that was a cell phone from Metro PCS that we use as a our main phone. We rent a P.O. box which is $55 per month. $40 went to postage and stamps. $173 was spent on printing postcards that we give out to the homeless. Each card lists the resources available in the area for the homeless as well as the contact information. We have to constantly update these cards as the information changes almost monthly. $62 was spent on basic business supplies (pens, pencils, paper, tape, printer cartridges, etc.). $23 was spent on new padlocks for our storage buildings as the old ones had become too rusted to use.

$9058.00 – Total Expenses

Impact! Ministries’ total expenses for June 2019 were $9058.

$7200.00 Total Donations (kind of)

Throughout the month of June 2019 we received a total of $7200 in financial donations via online giving, text-to-give and mail. However, as I stated above 85% ($6120) of those donations were designated by the donor to be used only with certain families. All of those families had already received assistance or had failed the assessments by June 2019. Essentially, these were donations that could not be used. We made contact with many of the donors to explain the situation – some allowed us to put the money toward wherever it was needed (about $1755) – but the majority asked for us to return the donation ($4365). As a result we only really received $2280 for the month of June 2019 that could be used for any ministry expense or outreach. Technically that left Impact! Ministries with a deficit of $6778 for the month of June 2019.

How did we financially make it?

Luckily Impact! Ministries had a little over $6248 in savings. Our financial buffer going into the second quarter of 2019 was a little over one full month of expenses (around $12,000). Unfortunately, the same thing we experienced in June (people designating their financial donations and more homeless families needing temporary housing than expected) also happened in April and May. Thus we had to dip into our buffer on two previous occasions by the time June 2019 rolled around leaving only $6248 in savings as a buffer. We applied the entire amount to pay for the rest of the $6778 in fixed and ministry expenses for June 2019. Not paying salaries helped us eliminate $2000 we usually paid each month. Even with the buffer applied, there was still a deficit of $530 owed. How did we pay for this? I sold a personal electric guitar on Craigslist and applied the money to the deficit.

Conclusion

As I stated in the previous blog post, we have taken steps to resolve some the financial problems we experienced this summer. I’ll explain more in a blog post coming up next week. In the meantime, if you’d like to financial contribute to the mission of Impact! Ministries please click here.

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