Carlops Parish Church is a charity (SCO40340) registered with the Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator (OSCR) as are all churches in the Church of Scotland. Our financial practices are designed to satisfy OSCR rules, applying accounting guidelines established by the Church of Scotland Finance Department.  

The Treasurer will be happy to discuss any of the matters addressed here; contact the Treasurer at

The following articles explain our finances and how we manage them.

What is income?

To be financially prudent, what may be spent in any one year depends on the income generated during that year.  As a small congregation in a small parish, we seek to avoid debt and aim for a modest surplus of income over expenditure each year.  We have no overdraft facility and do not wish to establish one.


Our income consists of voluntary contributions from supporters of our church donated by: monthly standing order; cash donations in church on Sunday; one-off gifts and/or contributions to specific fundraising events.  The greater the proportion of income received via standing order, the more certainly can we estimate future income flow and the more confidently we can plan our work in the parish.  


Currently, most donations are eligible for Gift Aid, which enables us to claim an extra £0.25 in every £1 from Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs.  In most years, the money reclaimed from HMRC is essential to our avoiding a deficit of income against expenditure.


Some funds, though part of our turnover, do not feature as Church income per se in our accounts, but are still a measure of our activity as a caring community. These are monies we collect for other charities, eg Christian Aid, donations at the Christmas Eve carol service. 


A further category, not included in turnover in an accounting sense, yet still related to our work, are funds donated by our community to causes which they learn about and contribute to via church projects.  Examples include Mary’s Meals, to build two school kitchens in Malawi and support their school feeding programme (£25,000 over nine years); projects to train a midwife in Malawi (£1,000 in both 2014 and 2019).


What accounts for expenditure?

Our expenditure is the sum of what we must spend to remain in existence (ie, our costs), plus what we choose to spend to achieve our aims as a community church.

Some costs are fixed, being set by the Church of Scotland and insurers; others are obligatory: electricity, maintenance of the church building and our share of maintaining the manse.  We must meet all of these simply to exist and hold services each Sunday (£17,468 in 2019).


Other expenditure is technically discretionary: the cost of undertaking our work in church and community (£2,940 in 2019).  But it is this category that really expresses our work as a caring community. This category (which can be embarked upon only after all essential costs have been met) includes our support for other charities, activities to support people in the community, and events to engage them, Eco Group work, and projects such as the Newsletter.


So, less expenditure need not be “better”.  Cutting unnecessary costs is good, but in the critical discretionary category, spending more is actually better, because it indicates a larger contribution by our church to the community.  And expenditure is not all about money; our supporters’ effort, skill and time constitute a substantial “hidden economy”, which is analysed in the next article in this series.

Our hidden economy

In addition to the figures which appear in our accounts, our church has a hidden economy which delivers many benefits: providing services free of cost, saving money, and generating income directly and indirectly.

Our active supporters give generously of their time and energy, as well as money. An article in our church Newsletter listed 54 roles required to keep the church functioning.  No one person has all these skills; and if such a person did exist, we could not afford to employ him or her!  We function because people pitch in, free of charge.

The same is true of our community and development work. To be effective, our efforts must focus on real needs in our community and the wider world.  These efforts require imagination, thought, planning and execution.  We benefit from the contributions of people with ideas, who offer them in ways which spark enthusiasm.


The added value is much more than expenditure not incurred.  There is companionship, fun and stimulus in being involved.  There is satisfaction in doing what one can do and doing it well; of seeing contributions generating significant impact and being appreciated.  But above all, the activity and evident energy serve the community, a major reason for churches’ very existence.

The resultant community goodwill manifests itself in many ways: things people say and do; support for services and other events in the church; and tangibly in the whole-community support for our 2008-09 refurbishment appeal.  People said then: “I may not go to church but I believe it is important to have the church in the village” and “I may not go to church but I support the things it does.”  That goodwill is a priceless asset; it brings support for our charitable and social work, as well as monetary donations.  And it fosters fellowship in our community. 

Our hidden economy enriches all aspects of our church life. It is what makes us what we are and it helps keep the accounts healthy!



A budget is a plan for managing money. It identifies what income is required to fund planned activity.  It requires thought, debate and decision; what is to be done, when, at what cost, and how funded?


Our refurbishment in 2008-09 and the later patio-garden between the church and the village hall both provide a good model.  Planning through discussion and debate; considering the designer’s proposals; agreeing what we wanted to achieve; deciding how much we would spend; deciding how to raise funds; then keeping a tight rein on spending.


The same process applies as we budget annually to support all our work.

Each autumn, we consider what is to be done in the year ahead; set priorities and agree what is affordable; and plan to balance income and expenditure through the year.  Some costs are predictable (eg, fixed overheads), but two issues need specific consideration each year …

First, a rolling programme of maintenance to keep the church in its present excellent and welcoming condition and avoid reaching a stage when everything needs done at the same time.  Where will wear and tear show?  How quickly?  What role can routine cleaning play?  Work is scheduled so that we spend affordably and evenly each year, rather than have to find large sums occasionally; for example, we take regular care of floor, paintwork, windows and furnishings.

Second, how to fund our work in the community. We are committed to the building being in frequent use for many activities.  How do we plan to engage and support the whole community?  What are the cost implications of communication, publicity, catering?  What contribution should these events make towards the maintenance of the building?  When should entry be by set-price ticket, and when by voluntary donation?  These questions may not be about numbers but they are still part of budgeting.

Plans to broaden our work in the community, use the building frequently and maintain it in good condition, mean that Property Committee, Kirk Session and congregation all have a role in determining how efficiently we generate and apply our resources.

Reserves; whys and wherefores

In addition to annual income, Carlops Church has financial reserves with a value in 2020 of about £72,000. This seems substantial and people might say, “Why worry about income – we have reserves?” or, “The reserves can cover deficits on annual budget.”  No! This article describes the role of our reserves.


The reserves are held as £22,000 cash, plus investments in the Church of Scotland Investors Trust, currently worth about £50,000.  This balances the safety of cash deposits and the higher returns obtainable in the longer term from the stock market.  The reserves derive largely from the sale of Carlops manse in 1968.  They are a once-only benefit; no such future resource is foreseeable.


The reserves have two purposes: to cover major expenditure (planned and emergency) on the church building and our shared manse; and to smooth cash flow in the current account.


First, addressing major expenses which cannot be met from one year’s income.  Refurbishment is an example; we raised funds for it, but cash reserves were used as a temporary bridge between payments due for work done and grants secured, but received only once all work had been completed, and donations promised, but paid in instalments over some months.  Reserves would also pay for emergency work not covered by insurance, and for upgrades required by new regulations, for example, linkage-wide investment in significant upgrading of the manse.  Failing a capacity to meet such occasional, large and unavoidable expenses, our church would face severe financial difficulties.

Second, smoothing cash flow.  Income flow is uneven: weekly offerings; monthly and annual standing orders; quarterly tax refunds from Gift Aid; occasional fund-raising events.  Expenses however (eg, ministry, electricity, insurance), arise throughout the year.  Consider a current account empty at the start of the year; expenses would exceed income almost immediately.  Uneven cash-flow could place the church in debt during much of the year, even though it may have a small surplus at year end.


Reserves are not a luxury, not a pot to dip into at will, but a resource with a clear purpose and a vital role in keeping our church healthy.

Carlops and the national church

This series of articles is specific to Carlops Church, but our church is a partner in a three-parish linkage and an integral part of the Church of Scotland.  Our financial activity is influenced by our relationships with these bodies.


In the linkage, we share equally the cost of maintaining the manse, and the minister’s administrative and travel expenses.  We also share the cost of pulpit supply (to provide a third service leader every Sunday) but currently pay only one-fifth of that, because several Carlops members lead services at no cost to the linkage.


All three linkage churches make payments to the Church of Scotland for the services of our minister. The annual stipendiary and employment costs of a minister with at least ten years’ service are currently set at £33,899.


Each church in the linkage contributes annually to the Church of Scotland to defray its operating costs and the services it provides to individual churches.  This amount is based on our average income during the previous three years and the size of our congregation. Our contribution for 2019 was £13,309.

Our financial management policies

This final article in the series on our church’s finances outlines the policies which guide the management of our funds in the longer term.


1.Observe sound financial management practices and satisfy the accounting requirements of the Office of the Scottish Charities Regulator (OSCR).


2. Plan and budget ahead, so that foreseeable major costs (eg, large-scale maintenance) can be met without undue short-term difficulty.


3. Avoid deficit budgets and debt (our financial and population bases are too slight to bear them), except for occasional, planned borrowing for predetermined purposes.


4. Safeguard our financial reserves and purchase appropriate insurance to protect against major accidents and costs resulting from them.


5. Ensure that our voluntary expenditure is targeted on our spiritual, social and cultural objectives as a parish church; this includes making contributions to selected charities.


6. Seek funding actively and imaginatively from our congregation and the community.


7. Seek grant-aid and other financial awards actively when appropriate.


8. Review these policies and activities regularly to ensure that we continue to use resources responsibly and apply sound financial practices.

How to give
The life and work of our church is funded entirely by donations from our supporters – congregation and friends – in cash, by cheque, or by standing order.  

Donors who pay income tax are encouraged to make donations under Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) Gift Aid scheme, which allows the church to reclaim the income tax already paid by the donor.  By this means, the church receives 25% more, at no cost to the donor.  Most of our regular income qualifies for Gift Aid, delivering an extra 18% of total income annually.  

Maintenance of our church building and the manse in West Linton is funded by interest and dividends on investments and occasional fund-raising events.  Major works require special efforts to raise the necessary funds.

Some social and cultural events contribute to general income, but more frequently, they are held to raise funds for charities.