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Center for Action and Contemplation

CAC’s Financial Philosophy

September 13th, 2021
CAC’s Financial Philosophy

Early last year, when we first started exploring a few key questions around how the CAC stewards its financial resources, no one could have anticipated that we’d be completing a comprehensive, board-approved financial philosophy by December. Our newly adopted philosophy, which captures Fr. Richard’s theological themes around money, the CAC’s key financial principles, and operational implications around how we budget, spend, generate, and invest our financial resources, embodies our commitment to align our financial decisions with our organizational values and spiritual lineage.

The process we went through addressed multiple dimensions of how we relate to money as an organization. For example, as CAC continues to grow in resources through generous financial support, one of the core questions with which we grappled as we developed our philosophy is this: How do we meet our financial needs from a place of love? From that question, one of our theological themes around money emerged: We must consider both our own organizational health and our responsibility to the common good as part of all our financial decisions. With the generous support and trust of so many individuals contributing to our mission, we feel a particular responsibility to live out our values as an institution as part of how we serve our wider community.

“Life is about discovering the right questions more than having the right answers.” 

—Fr. Richard Rohr  

One of the most inspiring questions that emerged centered around how we can utilize our financial resources to both support our mission in the traditional ways (by making more and more of our programs accessible, regardless of participants’ financial means), while also making all financial transactions into opportunities for deeper relationship and mission advancement. In other words, when we acknowledge that our relationship with money oftentimes acts as a mirror for our spiritual journey, how can we relate to it in ways that support the spiritual growth of CAC and our broader community? As part of our process of developing the philosophy, we reflected on our personal relationships to and family stories about money. This oftentimes added an important layer to the organizational conversation, centered in our mission while also deepening our understanding of each other as members of a team.

As a Franciscan priest, Fr. Richard, our founder, draws from a rich history and body of work in Catholic social teaching. We drew from that as well. We also benefited from wisdom offered by other spiritual traditions around the stewardship of financial resources and its relationship to how we care for creation and each other.

With so much to draw from and consider, one of our core conclusions was the need for processes that support ongoing, values-based discernment as part of our decision-making. For example, our recent auditor selection process considered aspects of our philosophy and resulted in a more inclusive approach, with the selection of a local, minority-owned firm we might otherwise not have considered. Given the complexity of some of the questions we were asking, we faced a humbling realization that the work we are attempting impacts more than one operational cycle and a wider network than the set of voices tasked with the responsibility to take this first step.

It bears mentioning that the “we” here encompasses a broad set of stakeholders, both internal and external to the organization, who participated in the process with us. Fr. Richard’s contributions, along with my and another key contributor’s past participation in the Living School, helped ground our work in our spiritual lineage. Ultimately, though, this work was the co-creation of the community, including voices that have forged paths and wisdom ahead of us, and for whose contributions I have the deepest gratitude. The generosity of all of those that spoke into this process still feels like a fresh gift as I write this, and the relationships formed were perhaps some of the first fruits.

Key Financial Principles

1) We operate from a clear definition of “enough.”

2) We practice transparency.

3) We seek for money to never be the barrier to participation.

4) We understand exchanges of money first and foremost as vehicles for advancing our mission and message.

5) We commit to spend simply, equitably, and sustainably.

6) We lead with giving and generosity.

At the same time, it’s clear that where we now stand as an organization is just the beginning. We have very big plans ahead. And, as someone trained as a business coach, where the primary tool is asking the right questions, the idea of finding the next right set of questions strikes me as the best place to begin to discern what comes next. Some of those next steps are clear, as we translate the core operational implications into practical, tangible policy and procedures, but there is much to consider that we don’t yet know. I hold trust that the next steps will emerge in the ways and timing that will best serve us all.

I want to express particular gratitude for each of you reading these words. By reading them, you join us on this journey, and I know that your finding them means you are meant to be on this road with us. We are grateful to be partners with you in this process of stewarding our collective resources in alignment with our spiritual lineage so that we can move forward together in a unity of spirit and purpose.

Each day, I work to honor your support—financial, spiritual, relational—and I thank you for the generous ways in which you each offer them.

Cindy Kroll
Managing Director, Finance & Business Analytics
Center for Action and Contemplation

Cindy Kroll joined the CAC in 2019 as the Managing Director of Finance and Business Analytics. She is a 2019 Living School sendee and has also served on CAC’s Finance Committee. Cindy lives in Bloomington, Minnesota with her two children, Kaitlyn and Evan. This article originally appeared in The Mendicant.

The Center for Action and Contemplation, its Core Faculty, and Board of Directors invite you to accompany us on this journey of transformation as we do the challenging work of reclaiming our founder’s vision for action and contemplation in a time of global change and contemplative renewal.

Returning to the Center will be an opportunity to reflect together with our community on our discoveries and growing pains as an institution on the path of praxis and prayer, action and contemplation. You can expect regular updates on our progress in this work as well as institutional history, community stories, staff essays, videos, and even opportunities to contribute. You will find the latest posts on our website as well as social media and in the News from New Mexico, the CAC’s monthly newsletter. We welcome your feedback!

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