AZC Fall Membership Pledge Drive

Dear Sangha Member,

In this Autumn Membership Pledge Season, our fundraising committee is requesting that the sangha consider raising their yearly giving by 25% (and/or becoming a pledging member if you haven’t done so already). This letter provides some background for this ask. As part of our transparency commitment, we think it is important that the sangha knows the financial status, and how money is spent.

At our February Annual Membership Meeting, we proposed the goal of breaking even in 2019. It may seem a modest goal, but we’ve had two years where expenses exceeded income significantly. We are happy to report that we expect to be break-even this year.

In addition to our sangha providing necessary revenue this year, we must acknowledge and thank our leadership team, Head Teacher Rev. Mako Voelkel and Director Tim Kroll, who made sacrifices and ran the Center by skillfully cutting expenses* in ways that did not affect the core practice, the teaching, and the programming for the sangha. The board is gratified by the generosity, the efforts, and the sacrifices that everyone made to meet our goal.

You may remember that in February we also initiated a fundraising campaign headed by board member and development chair Mary Meagher. The fundraising committee has a long-term goal of bringing AZC back to robust financial health so that we can address the following goals:

* Provide a fair wage for our Head Teacher & Director
* Fund outreach efforts to further AZC’s mission of providing a safe place to practice zazen for all beings. This includes scholarships given to those with financial need who wish to participate in AZC’s paid programs.
* Fund our Visiting Teacher Program, which brings in Buddhist Teachers from around the country and compensates them with modest honoraria.
* Finance the professional services required to keep our website, member database, and payment-processing functional.
* Supply our rainy-day fund with 10% of yearly income. The rainy-day fund is for large maintenance expenses (out-buildings & grounds), and unexpected expenses. We currently have more than one year’s worth of operating expenses invested in safe CD’s. Our long-term goal is two years of normal operating expenses saved.
* Keep up with increasing operational expenses of utilities, zendo supplies, repairs, and insurance.
* Continue to subsizide our residential program, which attracts interested and committed Zen practitioners who support AZC’s temple life through their residency.

In September, as a first step towards launching our Fall Campagign our development chair invited members of the board to lead the giving, and to increase their commitment. The board stepped up.

At the end of September, our Membership Brunch included 38 attendees who responded or are responding to the same request. Now, we are asking the approximately 60 additional members that regularly give to AZC, and those that are considering membership, to increase their commitment as well.

The finance committee, the board, and the leadership believe that two things must happen for AZC to reach robust health – an incremental increase in giving, and an incremental increase in membership. We think that the Center can support a 25% increase in membership with the current facilities without overcrowding. We are also working on cultivating support from other sources, including a wider membership base and appropriate business & corporate giving.

We are part of a generous sangha, and that generosity is woven into the heart of our practice. When considering your pledge, we ask that you carefully consider your giving capacity, the impact that AZC has had in your life, and the impact that AZC has in the life of the community. While we have a goal as a community, there is no “right amount” for an individual member. Give what you can, and be at peace.

Warmly bowing,

Dave Pietruszynski

Board President

Austin Zen Center

*As an example, our annual operational budget was reduced from ~ $200K to its current $164K.