FRANC, Financial Representatives of Australian National Churches

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Writer Janet Woodlock, Federal Coordinator of Churches of Christ in Australia

Over a water cooler conversation at the CCVT office, Stuart Campbell and I mused on the potential savings and income opportunities that might come about by churches sharing information and working together in business and finance. How much money could be released for Kingdom good through closer cooperation?

At the next National Heads of Churches meeting I suggested the idea of a church finance meeting. This was warmly received. CCFS volunteered to coordinate this, and Stuart Campbell did a wonderful job organising the meeting, including the venue, invitations, and guest presenters.

The inaugural FRANC meeting (Financial Representatives of Australian National Churches) was held on October 30, 2017. Around 36 church representatives from a wide range of denominations met at the NAB office in Melbourne.

Dean Pearson from NAB gave an economic update, including measures not only of GDP but of community wellbeing. He spoke of the role of the church in promoting wellbeing and in addressing the levels of anxiety experienced by young people. It was a very pastoral plea from an economist!

John McLeod gave a keynote address on trends in philanthropy. He spoke of growing demand for Impact Investment (investments that provide both an economic and a social return) and suggested the church welfare sector may be well placed to innovate in this area. He also noted the rise in demand for ethical investments. He spoke of the areas of philanthropy/fundraising that provide a strong return on investment (such as bequests) compared to those with a weak return (such as lotteries and raffles). Some international trends in philanthropy were highlighted. Of concern is the shrinking percentage given to religious causes in the philanthropic pie.

Two round table groups from Religious Charitable Development Funds discussed their responses to the revised APRA and ASIC guidelines and AusTRAC requirements. Another round table group from other church funds discussed the challenges and opportunities they are experiencing.

The afternoon involved a brainstorm of areas for possible collaboration around church business and finance. A very long list was developed! Four round table discussions were then held around:

  • Organising future FRANC meetings
  • A ‘Register’ for Church Financial Organisations—who we are, what’s our structure, business model, what technology platform do we all use, etc.
  • Property Services—organisations that offer property services—better scale, marketing, leasing, development
  • Collaboration around technology platforms

Each of these groups developed recommendations, and four volunteers offered to do further work in the areas discussed. The Uniting Church Synod of Victoria offered to organise and host the next FRANC meeting.

Each participant shared a highlight from the day. Many reported on the sense of unity of purpose and celebrated the willingness to work together.

I feel we can be very proud of CCFS for suggesting and organising this meeting. My sources (Stuart and Russell!) tell me there are many follow up conversations occurring, and Stuart is setting up channels of communication between churches. There are huge potential savings to be made through group bargaining power in areas like insurance, procurement, and investments, and there seems to be much good will around this. I invite your prayers into new initiative. 

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