Ask Mike

“Ask Mike” – Our new Q&A series addresses common questions Chicagoland Vincentians may have as they go about their work for the Society. Have a question? Email us at

January 2021

Q: What is an appropriate amount for a Conference to have as a reserve?

A: The typical Conference needs no reserves. The only time you need a reserve is if you have fixed expenses. For example, if the Conference is asked to give the parish $200 per month for the use of a pantry or office, then the Conference should have a reserve of $1,200 (six months). Most Conferences don’t have fixed expenses. Conferences are expected to spend the funds they have in serving the poor, including bringing their balance down to zero.

Q: We are wrestling with the question of for how long or how much financial assistance can be provided to someone–in a given period such as a year, in total–or whether there is necessarily any limit at all. Generally, the idea is to provide short term assistance or emergency assistance, get someone straightened up, and hopefully back on their own feet. You don’t want to become an enabler and generally can’t afford to be if you are going to have enough to assist others who need help. But you may have some people who are chronically in need and seem to have nowhere else to turn to except the local SVDP conference. Just wondering whether there are any formal guidelines on this question.

A: This question has been addressed many times over the years – in separate counseling as well as in National’s E-Gazette. There is no set policy on this. There is no set timeframe and no set amount of financial help. Everything depends on the individual circumstances and the resources available. The Society has never published in its writings the statement that we are to provide emergency or short term assistance only. Our Society was founded on the principle that our founders stayed with the families they assisted until they were out of crisis. Unfortunately, for some families, it takes a long time (even months and years) to get out of crisis. So:
  1. Help as long as you feel the need is real,
  2. Help as long as you have the resources to do so,
  3. Help to the best of your ability to get them out of crisis mode (which may take more than money),
  4. Do more than pay a bill and give good advice, and
  5. Love them to the best of your ability.