The Financial Four -- February 28, 2018

The latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel Horwitz, is shared below.

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Dear Congregation Beth Sholom Community,

I am so excited to be writing this update as we are rounding the final bend on many of the objectives I communicated to the Board just two (short) years ago! So I'd like to put a stake in the ground right now so that everyone can be just as excited and forward-looking as I am.

1. Although picking up our financial situation in January 2016 was not easy, with the help of some wonderful Friends of the Synagogue like Joe Ratner and Todd Strauss, among others, we were able to create a new direction and financial models for the synagogue that are sustainable. No one is thinking we are done, but looking at our financials year over year, we can start again to make longer-term plans.

2. While staff changes are always hard, we made it through some tough personnel decisions and can now begin envisioning the synagogue and the services that we want. We've made some new hires, are out in the world collecting models from other institutions, and are primed for creating some new positions and creative new ways of thinking about customer service here. Talk about bang for your buck!

3. We have had a wonderful relationship over the last two years with our bank, and they have been super supportive of the work being done to keep them informed, to make sure they receive all their interest payments, and to prepare them for our loan renegotiation! Still, it would be remiss of me not to get some competitive bids; and I am happy to say I have had no issue getting other banks to the table. In that vein...

4. As I am sharing some of our financial data with competitive banks, I thought it would be a great time to share the exact same information with you, our congregation. On February 13, I spent two hours thoroughly going over all the CBS financial information with David Golden, Michael Samson, and Zohar Kaplan. While the protocols for corporate and non-profit accounting differ, I’m sure we all got something out of it.

Today, I am thrilled to to offer to you, from the Board, increased financial transparency. If you click through this link, you will be able to see our reviewed financials for the last three years as well as a recent Treasurer's report. In addition, we're sharing some other financial information the competitive banks have asked for in order to propose terms: see here, here, and here. Maybe even more importantly, as you click through, the Board will know this type of reporting is important to you; and how much you appreciate our (my and the Board’s) efforts to keep you informed.

As always, l’shalom,
Missy Sue

The Financial Four Five -- August 1, 2017

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our Interim Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel Horwitz.

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Hello, I hope you are having a wonderful summer!

As we at all prepare for the High Holy Days and 5778, I would like to give you an update on the ongoing financial picture at CBS.

1. End of Year Report. We completed the 2016-2017 year on June 30, and have replenished our cash reserves by more than $300,000. This was accomplished through the tireless efforts of the development committee, YOU – our generous community, and a staff who dedicated themselves to the reshaping of a more sustainable future. Special thanks to our Rabbi, the Board of Directors, and Beth Sholom staff, who gave of themselves and continue to make the synagogue’s financial health a priority.

2. Building Loan Refinancing. Our annual financial review is already underway and we have heard from several banks that we are on the right track to secure healthy refinancing options for the balloon payment due in May 2018. While we aren’t out of the woods, our community has waged an impressive effort to keep us moving forward. Thank you!

3. Community Building. Among our ongoing efforts to energize the shul’s relationship with our community is an effort to evaluate and maximize the role of our kosher kitchen. We would like to know from you how you use the kitchen and its services? For the next two weeks, if you step into the kitchen for any reason, or would like to — we want to know why and how we can assist. Please email me – we’ll be happy to arrange a tour, or talk to you about ways our members and the community already use our wonderful kosher kitchen.

4. Matching Gifts. Please check with your employer regarding any employer charitable matching gifts or other donation opportunity available. We have a list of all the matching companies in the United States, and if yours is one of them, you can easily double your gift to the synagogue! At a minimum, please make sure that the synagogue knows where you and your family members are employed. Also, please consider signing up for Amazon Smile and other online services with Beth Sholom as your preferred charity of choice. Call the office and we will be happy to help you set up all the necessary contact information.

5. Member Renewal. Thank you to the 65% of our membership that has already renewed! To those that have yet to do so, we are planning an extraordinary, multifaceted High Holy Day experience and a 5778 packed with celebration, education, and exploration — so please get your renewal in today!

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

The Financial Four -- March 21, 2017

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our Interim Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel.

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Dear Chaverim,

It’s March, and while it may have gone unnoticed to some, I’m proud to say that Scott and I celebrated our one-year anniversary of living together and working together at the shul!

It’s been an exciting year, and while we still argue about who has to get up and feed Luna (Scott, always), we also get to spend time talking about how best to serve you and the synagogue every day, and that means a lot to us both. It would be silly not to take this opportunity to say how much I appreciate all that Scott has done. Or to mention how lovely it is to hear this from you whenever we see you. But I would be REALLY silly not to acknowledge all the fantastic help Scott has had along the way, and I'll do so in the form of some financial updates!

1. Our Fabulous Consultants. – Some of you may recognize the names Steven Dinkelspiel and Susan Jacobson from so much of their great work in the Bay Area Jewish community. CBS has had the good luck of having them engaged in helping us grow a more fervent development culture here at CBS. Steven and Susan have been essential in helping us to focus on what you, the members of the synagogue, think is most important, and we have been able to raise more than $300,000 so far in donations this year, outside of membership!

2. Our even more fabulous Board. – Talk about people dedicated to a cause! These are the wonderful people who take the time out of their already busy lives to dedicate themselves to the synagogue. Some of our board members took on the mitzvah years ago without any clue of how things would progress, while others stepped up in the middle of a crisis and have pitched in to fill needs and gaps. I’m happy to say that I personally know of at least three more community members (I can’t announce their names just yet) who are applying to join our amazing board, and we could not be luckier to have them – they will continue what we have grown here so far!

3. Our amazing staff. – For those of you who came to Purimpalooza, our Purim carnival and spiel, it is almost as if I can see your faces soften as you remember that terrific afternoon. Our staff put in countless hours to make all those games, delicious food, prizes, and fun happen, and the community experience led to a lot of generosity that still continues. We made about $8,000 net on the event itself, but big businesses wish they could garner as much goodwill as the great event has. And the staff is so excited, they're dreaming up more programming fun...like the Fress Kosher for Passover dessert event that will take place at Brandeis.

4. Numbers. All kinds of numbers. – CBS is engaged in some new accounting best practices, including surplus budgeting, cash and accrual metrics, meaningful fund accounting, and sub-line budget to actual reporting. We are running projections that, mostly through some significant cost cuts, will allow us to show a surplus for the year, which is critical for our loan covenants. Outside of the accountant realm, I also like numbers such as: the (sold-out) upcoming Parnas members event at SFJAZZ; the number of members who have supported and sponsored our Shabbat kiddush lunch program; the number of new members (~30); and the number of new events and types of events we are hosting here. I could not be more enthusiastic about the way you are making the synagogue a place for your celebrations and gatherings – and I couldn’t be happier for you.

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

The Financial Four -- January 17, 2017

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our Interim Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel.

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Happy Secular New Year!

I think we're especially fortunate to have two New Year celebrations; I use one for my spiritual health and the other for my (and incidentally, the synagogue’s) financial well-being. Some people say spirituality and financial considerations shouldn’t mix. Don’t believe that for a second; they are inextricably tied together. At the synagogue, like everywhere else, you get what you pay for – we commit to supporting our synagogue and the synagogue is there when we need and want it.

A lot has happened in a few short weeks since my last post. So, with no further ado, let's look at our recent progress.

1. Commitment to Cash Flow – While we continue our bold push to create a sustained culture of giving, we are well on our way to making our projections for the year, coming in at or below budget on our expenses. This good news is a direct result of...

2. Our Commitment to Savings – Many of our Board members and volunteers have come up with great ideas to help us save money. We are investing in programming changes for our synagogue database, our telephone systems, and our postage and copying contracts in order to create more sustainable long-term cost structures. Some of you may have noticed some of our customer relationship management (CRM) changes, and may have experienced a glitch here and there. We are grateful for your patience and understanding as we work through these systemic changes and get everything working correctly while we continue to do our job of keeping your financials accurate and up to date.

3. Commitment to Staff and the Environment – So many people came to tell us how wonderful the High Holy Days services were at CBS, and many felt this was because of the hard work of our staff. We agree, so we have reworked our staff benefits to include Commuterchecks and Flexible Spending Account (FSA) benefits for anyone who opts in. We also scheduled some lovely back massages for the hardworking CBS Family Preschool and office staff just before our wonderful Light It Up! Community Hanukkah celebration.

4. Commitment to the Community – We all know that Beth Sholom is not an island, and we have been making a lot of plans to partner and work with other synagogues. Here, in the financial office, we are forging a CRM redesign for use by other congregations in the Bay Area. We thank Congregation Emanu-El and Peninsula Temple Beth El (San Mateo) for encouraging us to "boldly go where (few) synagogues have gone before." Stay tuned for exciting updates on that front!

Finally, thanks to you, our members, who give all of our commitments – and your commitments to us – meaning and purpose.

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

The Financial Four -- November 30, 2016

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our Interim Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel.

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Miss me?

Well, not to worry; things have been hopping around the synagogue, so much so that I haven’t had a moment to do my favorite part of the job – updating YOU, our generous community! But there's lots of good news to share, so let's get to it.

1. Our 2015-16 financials are in the bag. – Closing out the year presented a few challenges, but we were able to get our financials done and through the audit by September; a noble timeframe. The auditors were happy, the bank was happy, and the financials are available to anyone who wants to see them.

2. An unbelievable High Holiday season. – There is very little we could do without you, but this is particularly true of the High Holy Days. The services at CBS this year – joyous, moving, meaningful – were successful because of you. Now, following the High Holiday season, I’m in the fortunate position of seeing just how much you value our services and community experiences: $748,000 in membership dues, $238,000 in Kol Nidre pledges, and more and more of you coming to events all the time! Speaking of...

3. All the ways we celebrate together. – The Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat was packed this past Friday evening with congregants and amazing performers. The upcoming Hanukkah celebration (Light It Up!, December 15), our b'nai mitzvah and birthday celebrations (mazel tov on your 85th, Norm!), the December 6 new member event, which looks like it is officially "sold out" — all of these are ways we use the synagogue to connect as a community. CBS is not just charity that its members support. CBS is a place to see and rejoice with people we love to see and rejoice with.

4. But, yes, it is ALSO a charity. – We are doing some amazing things with the money you generously donate: we are focusing on improving efficiencies and workflows; finding better ways to engage you, our prized members; and utilizing technology that is creating a better customer experience. Starting this month, a select group of you will be receiving membership statements via email. In the next few months, we will be enabling powerful systems to allow you to make donations from wherever you are. Just imagine it – you see something happening in your world, and CBS can be an instantaneous part of your reaction. You can learn more about it by registering for a class, or you can make a donation that will help combat anti-Semitism, enable a community Israel opportunity, or sponsor a child’s Jewish heritage – all of this while you're on the go, boarding at an airport, in a ride share, or between meetings. We want to be wherever you are.

So...on that note, no need to miss me too much! Stop by the synagogue any time, and let’s discuss all the ways that you and I can make this place sing!

L’shalom,
Missy Sue

The Financial Four -- October 11, 2016

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our Interim Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel.

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Donation_CBSYellowsorcerorsapprentice Dear Friends,

It would be hard for me to believe that we are where we are today but for the fact that I spent the last six weeks bearing witness to the Herculean efforts of your Board, your President, and your synagogue staff. They've created magic. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, they have breathed new life into the unexpected, masterfully coordinated a concerted effort to achieve the improbable, and, of course, prepared themselves for the requisite clean-up to come (a heads up that your statements may NOT be perfect for another month or so!). You should be proud of what we have accomplished together.

It would be selfish not to share the good news, so (in order of personally-perceived awesomeness):

1. 23 new members. – Folks, what else is there to say? In a time when every synagogue is losing members, our community has responded to our year-long campaign with a resounding," Yes! We love the programming and the feeling of belonging at Beth Sholom — it meets a spiritual need for us." There are so many people to thank for this — the CBS Family Preschool directors, our Achshav Yisrael Committee, all the Thinking Matters volunteer teachers, Christopher Reiger, and of course, our beloved Rabbi — who greets every idea with "I have a friend/contact who..." Kol Hakavod to all.

2. $748,000 in membership dues (and counting). – You may have received your call from the Board in the last four weeks. Or you may have renewed your membership in March, without so much as a whispered reminder. No matter how or when you renewed, THANK YOU for allowing us to make 102% of our financial membership goals! As Sally Field and more recently, my husband have said, "They like [it]...they really like [it]!" It is an honor to be a part of this synagogue with you. (Special thanks to Steven Dinkelspiel and Beth Jones – nothing works unless there is some plan to the practice.)

3. 10% over projected building contributions. – When we built this incredible place, we knew it was going to take some serious dough to keep it running. And our membership has stepped up to make sure it does. For those of you who question or wonder about the efficacy of the building in today’s virtual world, all you need to do is come this month to see an Americana Jam Band Kabbalat Shabbat or listen to attendees of our Hardly Strictly Selichot Unplugged services kvell about (be proud of) how we were able to co-create programming with and host the Mission Minyan and The Kitchen. In order to congregate, a congregation needs space.

4. Speaking of...how about a grant to open a Kosher/Halal Food Truck? – Okay, I get it, it's not quite what you were expecting, but CBS is one of four finalists for an Earned Income grant from the Jewish Federation to use our already fabulous kitchen and chef to make Jewish food and culture more portable. Not since the exodus from Spain 500 years ago has there been this much excitement about Jews on the move! Thanks to Kim Hegg, Jane Sykes, Eric Silverman, and the coolest Federation ever for going on this vision quest with us. We’ll keep you posted.

The Financial Four -- July 26, 2016

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our volunteer Acting Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel.

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Donation_CBSYellow While the summer cold front raced in, I have been glued to my desk at CBS. For those of you who also follow the sun, it is not a great loss to be indoors these days — especially since I found an old space heater!

Here is what we’ve accomplished in the last short weeks.

1. Our First EVER On-time Close. – I admit I get a little choked up about this, but the draft financial statements for our fiscal year end (FYE) were sent to the reviewers today, less than four weeks from our official year end close on June 30, 2016. For those of you who are not fiscally-minded, this means that we are closing out our books in a timely fashion. Why is this noteworthy? Because it is the first time we have done so, at least in the new building!

2. Happy Vendors – All of our vendors have been paid in full as of FYE. We have no more liability outstanding from any prior year(s), excepting the line of credit on the building.

3. A $22,000 Fiscal Year 2015-16 Bank Balance – As you know from the February Town Hall meeting, we were hoping to break even for the second half of the year. I'm pleased to report that, after all the accruals and fund assignments were reviewed and corrected, the year closed with an extra $22,000 in our operating account. In January, when we first learned of our financial setback, we could only have hoped for such a result, but Scott promised it at the annual meeting, and thanks to an awesome staff and your generosity, we were able to make it happen!

4. A GREAT Start To The New Fiscal Year – Not one, but two families have now joined us as Rosh Pina (Cornerstone) level Parnas Fellowship members (a super generous $36,000/year commitment) – thank you SO much! Moreover, three excited and exuberant member families have talked to us about replenishing their named donation funds.

All that to say, with no intended slight to our unique San Francisco weather, we are no longer looking through a fog!

The Financial Four -- June 28, 2016

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our volunteer Acting Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel.

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Donation_CBSYellow Hi, there. I hope your summer is off to a great start. If not, I think the good news I have to share with you will help. I’m also excited about the summer blockbusters, so you might notice a theme.

1. Independence Day: Resurgence — As we enter the summer season, the shul's financial focus shifts significantly from managing monthly operations to budgeting for the upcoming year. Many of you know that we basically collect 75% of revenue in the months between June and September. This year, thanks to the generosity of our donors (not aliens), we have already collected more than $180,000 of dues, and another $20,000 in preschool summer payments. We are deferring this money to use in the new year, and have, thanks to other great donors (also not aliens), not had a need to touch any of these deferred revenues to complete the financial year. Go CBS humans!

2. The Jungle Book - The CBS Family Preschool faced some challenges in the first half of the year, but due to amazing oversight and restructuring helmed by Katherine Friedman Barboni and Dale Kleisley, the projected losses were cut by half. We are all set for a record-breaking year to come with only three spots left to full capacity for 2016-2017. Couldn’t happen to a nicer panther and bear.

3. Ben-Hur — It is no real secret that we had maybe more staff than we needed, and so we have spent a lot of this last month coming up with some deft reorganization plans. I would like to welcome Tim Fong, who is stepping into Billy Kwong's position, and Kim Hegg, who is now our CBS Operations and Events Manager. Kim will be our new go-to person to help monetize and maintain the building asset — keeping it rented and functioning. Can’t wait to see how this chariot race turns out!

4. The BFG — I have to offer a "big friendly giant" thank you to Joe Ratner and John Wekselblatt — who have been working with me to renegotiate our insurance policies to the tune of $25,000 in savings for the upcoming year, without any drop in coverage.

Keep your (X-ray) eyes peeled in upcoming HaLuach newsletters for more updates. I look forward to keeping you informed and answering any questions you may have.

The Financial Four -- May 31, 2016

Today, the latest edition of The Financial Four, an update from our volunteer Acting Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel.

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Donation_CBSYellowDear Fellow Congregants,

I don’t want to steal any thunder from this Sunday's Annual Meeting (June 5, 10 a.m., in Koret Hall), but there is plenty of financial news to share with you and not enough time to get through it all on Sunday morning (no matter how much coffee we brew)! With that in mind, I'd like to provide readers with a few highlights from the last two weeks.

1. Our very own Incredibles. Many people said we shouldn’t raise dues, but I'm humbled to say that in addition to quite a few families committing to higher-than-expected giving levels (and paying in full already!), we have our first family supporting CBS as Rosh Pina (Cornerstone) level Parnas members, an incredibly generous $36,000/year commitment! Like Dale Carnegie says, you can’t get what you don’t ask for. Lesson learned!

2. Our tiniest, freshest members are coming in droves. Although the current school year isn’t yet at a close, we have more than 60 of 71 possible slots filled for next year’s CBS Family Preschool. To say that we signed up 3 families last week and have 3 more tours scheduled for this week is a good indicator of just how well we are serving our community’s need for cost-effective, Jewish preschool. Someone should make honey cookies for the preschoolers -- surely their learning life is off to a sweet start!

3. Making our money count. Now that we have a better handle on our shul finances, our next step is to make them effective. New insurance quotes may result in $18,000 of savings, and we have already reduced facilities costs by more than $2,000/month through better maintenance and employee scheduling.

4. Who doesn’t love a good Kiddush? May marked our first month of financial profit in the kitchen. Maybe it was the brisket, but people have really stepped up to sponsor food and drink (I think I see hard liquor at our buffet tables, no?). The generosity involved in these sponsorships, for b’nai mitzvot and any other reason you can think of, is a gorgeous tribute to all the things we stand for in Conservative Judaism -- feeding the homeless, gathering as a community, and making the profane (like the aforementioned alcohol) sacred.

Keep your eyes peeled in upcoming HaLuach newsletters for more updates. I look forward to keeping you informed and answering any questions you may have.

Introducing The Financial Four

This week, we introduce The Financial Four, an update from our volunteer Acting Director of Finance, Missy Sue Mastel. Look for these financial updates going forward, which will appear near the lead of our weekly HaLuach e-newsletter.

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Donation_CBSYellowDear Fellow Congregants,

Not many people get excited about doing their finances, but I do!

Many of you only know me as the wife of the Board President, Scott Horwitz, or the mother of those two weird and wonderful b’nai mitzvot, Josh and Sara Horwitz, who again read Torah this weekend in honor of their father’s 50th birthday. However, I'm also your volunteer Acting Director of Finance, a CPA and a CGMA (Chartered Global Management Accountant), and I have run a successful forensic auditing firm for the last 20 years — the same 20 years we have been members of Beth Sholom. I have served on your Finance Committee and been a Board Treasurer, so when I say that your synagogue is my synagogue, I mean it with all my heart.

I thought it was time to share with you some of the financial highlights of the last few months, particularly those developments that have occurred since the Town Hall, so that you can have a feel for what we have accomplished together as a organization. Let’s call it The Financial Four — four things you should know about Congregation Beth Sholom finances and "where it all goes."

1. A+ on our 2015 review. Our 2015 financials were reviewed in March by the accounting firm of Crosby and Kaneda — we passed with flying colors. We have the beginnings of a new audit committee - two external, Jewish Community Federation professionals with extensive financial experience, who also reviewed and approved the report.

2. A Happy Lender. One week after our most recent bank meeting with First Republic, a set of March 31, 2016, financial statements were produced, including a profit and loss statement, a balance sheet, and a statement of cash flows. The bank thanked us for our super-quick and up-to-date turn around!

3. Cancel and pay off the credit cards! In January, we stopped use on all credit cards and began work to account for and reconcile credit cards and their misuse. Thanks to some great volunteers including Ruth Jaffe, Suzanne Lissak, Gail Ravitz, Sandy Goldstein, Harriet Sollod, and Willy Waks, we have been able to get the credit cards under control, and as of May 6, 2016, they are all paid off. We hope to create new expense policies and controls in the coming summer months.

4. April Fool’s - not for this synagogue! While all synagogues run at a deficit, in order to balance the losses from the first half of the current fiscal year, CBS needed to find a way to create positive months for the second half. April was the first month in the last 15 where we actually brought in more money than we spent. We could not have done this without generous donations from congregants and the Board's new fundraising objectives, which will transform and rejuvenate our synagogue.

We still have a lot of work to do to get all of our controls in line. Working together, we will do exactly that, and we will make our synagogue community more robust in the process. I look forward to keeping you informed and answering any questions you may have.