Fall 2019 Membership Drive

Testimonial: Why I became a member of the Austin Zen Center

I began to sit at AZC when I moved to Austin in the late summer of 2013. After several years of on & off attendance, particularly in the evenings, I began to attend morning and Saturday sittings regularly in the summer of 2017, during a time when my life was falling apart a little bit. As I put my existence back together, I found refuge in buddha, dharma, and sangha, and decided that it was time to give back to a community that had given very much to me. I’ve been a member of the Austin Zen Center since that fall of 2017.

– Current AZC Board Member, Josh Kopin

About Membership: Austin Zen Center is a member-supported sangha, which means that we rely on membership for the bulk of our support. We already have a rich and vibrant community of practitioners, and the best way to ensure our future is to grow both the number of people who attend events at AZC and our membership base. At our recent Membership Giving Brunch in late September we launched a Fall Membership Drive that will run through the end of 2019.

If you think of yourself as a part of the AZC community, but haven’t yet signed on as a member, now is an excellent time to join!

Membership has many benefits, which include invitations to members-only gatherings, Austin Zen Center library privileges, opportunities to meet with our teachers for Practice Discussion, and discounted rates on retreats, classes, & workshops. Perhaps the most important benefit to becoming a member of AZC is supporting the practice of whoever wants to sit, chant, and learn with us. Keeping our doors open to all and making the dharma available to people in Austin and beyond is core to the mission of the Austin Zen Center, and membership is the best way to ensure that our doors stay open to all who need them well into the future.With gratitude,

Josh Kopin, Austin Zen Center Board of Directors Membership Committee Co-chair.

Dear Sangha Member,

In this Fall 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.