Meetings and Economic Resources
The guidance offered Friends in the disposition of their own economic resources (see pp. 75, 80-85) applies equally to the exercise of economic power by Meetings.
Meetings are encouraged to give heed to the power for good or evil inherent in the money and property in their possession or in the possession of institutions under their care. They should review regularly their policies and practices to ensure the socially responsible investment of endowments and working capital, ecologically responsible management of real property, caring management and equitable compensation of employees, and socially responsible use of the power to purchase and consume.
Meetings as well as individuals can act, in the words of John Woolman, so that “to turn all the treasures we possess into the channel of Universal Love becomes the business of our lives.”
Financing yearly meeting activities
The services provided by Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (PYM) to its members and constituent monthly and quarterly meetings, including the operation of its standing committees and working groups, are supported by the covenants of monthly and quarterly meetings, by the voluntary contributions of individual members and others, and by restricted and unrestricted income from bequests and investments.
Making the budget is a cooperative effort. In the spring of the preceding year, the Financial Stewardship Committee (FSC) sends a survey to the monthly and quarterly meetings requesting their discernment on the relative merits of existing and proposed services and projects. The FSC provides this information and financial data to the standing committees, which then evaluate the proposed budgets of the working groups under their oversight. The budgets of approved projects and services are sent by the standing committees to the FSC, which then prepares a preliminary budget for all PYM activities by making adjustments to proposed expenditures to fit the expected income. In the fall of the year, the clerk of PYM convenes a Meeting for Worship and Financial Stewardship to receive the voluntary covenants of the monthly and quarterly meetings. If a discrepancy between income and expenses exists, Friends attending give guidance to the FSC, which then prepares the final draft budget. After Interim Meeting concurrence, the final draft is mailed to monthly and quarterly meetings for their consideration prior to its presentation for approval in March to PYM in session. Implementation begins the following July.
The Financial Stewardship Committee is also responsible for the oversight of income and expenditures during the budget year and for making adjustments as needed. It is accountable to Interim Meeting and Philadelphia Yearly Meeting in session.
Financing monthly and quarterly meeting activities
Monthly and quarterly/regional meetings are expected to forward their covenants of support of the yearly meeting budget in timely fashion. Otherwise, they have broad discretion in the raising, custody, and spending of money. They are encouraged to conduct their affairs so that money for routine operating budgets is raised from the current generation, without undue reliance on the generosity of past members. They are also encouraged to take care that their fund-raising activities spread the burden of financial support suitably. Monthly meetings rely mainly on the contributions of members, but encouragement of contributions from regular attenders is also appropriate.
Broad decisions about the raising, custody, and spending of money are policy matters affecting the welfare of all members. They should be made within the framework of a budgetary process in the monthly or regional meeting for business, rather than a less representative body.
The accounts of all committees and programs of quarterly/regional or monthly meetings should be audited annually—and whenever there is a change of treasurer or other custodian—by a committee of the Meeting appointed for that purpose. The auditors should report to the meeting for business, and the substance of the audit report should be recorded in the minutes. Monthly and regional meetings may encourage institutions under their care to employ professional auditors, and ask that the audit report be a part of the institution’s periodic reporting to the Meeting.
Monthly and quarterly/regional meetings may utilize the investment management services of the Friends Fiduciary Corporation for their endowment funds. Meetings should give thought to the establishment of their own “social responsibility” criteria for the investment of endowment funds not placed in the hands of the Friends Fiduciary Corporation.
Monthly and quarterly/regional meetings holding endowment funds established by gift or bequest should take care that the income is put to the uses specified by the donor. Should that become difficult or impossible, the Meeting may ask Interim Meeting for advice.
Real Property of Meetings
Property endows its possessor with power. Meetings are encouraged to use the power inherent in their real property to enrich the spiritual life of the Meeting and to contribute to the welfare of the surrounding community.
Four options are available for formal ownership of Meeting real property. Legal counsel should be consulted before making a choice. Property may be:
- Held in the name of an unincorporated Meeting.
- Held in the name of an unincorporated body of trustees appointed by the Meeting. The Meeting must take care that the board of trustees is kept in existence by the timely replacement of trustees lost through resignation, disability, or death.
- Held in the name of an incorporated Meeting.
- Held in the name of an incorporated body of trustees appointed by the Meeting.
Options 3 and 4 require at a minimum the adoption of bylaws, the holding of annual meetings of the corporation, and the election of directors. Those meetings and elections should follow Friends’ procedures to the extent possible under the state law. Directors need to be sensitive to the desires of the Meeting as they carry out their statutory responsibilities.
The Friends Fiduciary Corporation of Philadelphia no longer undertakes the role of formal holder of record of properties of active monthly or quarterly meetings.
Monthly meetings and their successors have a responsibility in perpetuity to maintain burial grounds and memorial gardens in good order, and to devote to their upkeep any income from perpetual care endowments in the charge of the meeting. A committee of the Meeting should be empowered to authorize interments of bodies or ashes or scatterings of ashes, keep accurate records of the location of the interred, and maintain the grounds. The procedure for recording interment or scatterings of ashes should be consistent with the procedure for recording burials.
Friends have traditionally expressed their commitments to simplicity and the equality of all persons by discouraging the use of elaborate grave markers. Graves should be marked by plain stones that bear only the name of the deceased and dates of birth and death. When opening a new section of a burial ground, Meetings may wish to require that stones be flush with the ground to facilitate maintenance.