Scrap Story #10: Money

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Last one!

I’m sure you’ll miss me when I’m gone.

Given that this is a fundraiser, and I am the Treasurer for The Scrap Exchange, I decided to write this last story about money.

The Scrap Exchange is on a calendar year fiscal year. The way our budget process works is that Ann and I get together in the fall, late October or early November, and she tells me what she wants. Generally it’s more of everything, but mostly more staff so we can do more work and higher wages so people can work without feeling like they’re indentured servants.

I lowball what we’re likely to bring in and give Ann everything she asks for. Then I see how far off those are. Usually it’s about $40,000. (Out of a budget that has gone from $180,000 in 2005 to over $300,000 last year.)

We get together and talk about it and she says I think we’ll do more outreach than that and I think we’ll get another grant somewhere and I think the store will do better. We up the income. Then I bring expenses down by taking out some of the wish list items and adjusting some of the cushion I’d put in for utilities and gas for the vans and things like that.

Usually we get the gap down to ten or fifteen thousand dollars. And Ann doesn’t want to take anything else out, she says leave it like that, we’ll find the money.

I call that Jesus Money — the money we’ll get when Jesus walks in the door and gives us ten thousand dollars.

In 2005, I was not yet on the board of The Scrap Exchange and was mightily resisting all entreaties to join. I said I liked being involved at the level I was involved at, working and giving support but staying out of everything else. (It had a pretty complicated setup in those days; it wasn’t something I wanted to be in the middle of.)

It was November. Things were not so great with finances, they were way under budget for the year. I was talking to Ann about it. I said well budgets are funny, sometimes things seem worse than they are. I’ll take a look.

I looked. It was bad.

Ann’s friend Erica had convinced her millionaire boyfriend to donate his almost-new pickup truck to The Scrap Exchange instead of trading it in when he bought a new vehicle. Ann had planned on selling it, but had had it for a while and had been having trouble getting what she thought it was worth; there had been a couple of offers but they were low and the sales process had lost steam.

After I looked at the numbers, I told Ann she had to sell the truck — maybe she wasn’t going to get top dollar for it but she had to so something.

A week or two later, she sold the truck for $12,000.

They came out ahead for the year.

A couple of years later — when I actually was the Treasurer and was responsible for the numbers, not just someone looking at them to see what I thought — we were coming up to the end of the year and it was touch and go, didn’t look like we were going to make budget for the year. We got a call in mid-December from a foundation run by the family of one of our good friends and former volunteers. They wanted our address, they were sending us a check for $10,000.

We came out ahead for the year.

Jesus money.

The tracking portion of the fundraiser ended yesterday. We made around $22,000, which is not $60,000 but is $22,000 more than we had last month. This is some of our Jesus money for this year.

(And just to put things into perspective, that’s four or five times more than we normally make from individual donors in a year. We’re usually about ninety per cent self-sustaining through mission-driven earned income and fee-for-service programming. The other ten per cent is generally grants we get for specific projects or for general operating support. Income from individual donations is usually budgeted at around five thousand dollars.)

Also we have some procrastinators who never managed to send out their appeals and who say they’re going to do them now, so hopefully that number will edge up a little bit in coming weeks. As I said on the website and in the message I sent out to the Scrap Exchange mailing list, the tracking portion of the fundraiser is over, but the need for support is ongoing.

We will continue to work hard and do what we can and adjust what we have to in order to get through this. I didn’t see any way we could be self-sustaining this year with such a large increase in expenses in such a short time frame, but we know we want to get back to that as soon as possible. And hopefully we’ll figure out a way to pay for some upfit to our new space, heating and better electricity and a bunch of other things we need. But we’ll do what we’ve always done, work with what we’ve got and do the best we can. We’re a pretty resourceful organization.

Ann enjoys telling people that the organization’s treasurer was profiled in People magazine for eating for a dollar a day. She says who else would you want managing your money than someone who can eat for a dollar a day?

She has a point.

Thank you to everyone who made donations and replied with comments about the stories and sent me your good wishes. It was nice to know that people were reading and enjoying them.

And the next time you’re in Durham, stop by The Scrap Exchange. I promise it will be worth the trip.

2 Responses to “Scrap Story #10: Money”

  1. Terri Says:

    I have always liked your blog and have enjoyed The Scrap Exchange stories that have been posted lately. I had been going back and forth on if I should donate and decided tonight to just do it. Seems like a great organization.

  2. lessisenough Says:

    Thank you so much! It is a great organization, and I’m glad to have been able to share stories about what we do, and glad that people enjoyed them.

    Back to regular programming next week.

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