I grew up going to a Roman Catholic church. Collection baskets were passed at Sunday services -- once for the church and, often, a second time for a special purpose (ranging from helping $disaster victims to buying a pipe organ). Members of the congregation were issued envelopes with an identifying number (not name) on the outside, so you could put cash in and still get a tax receipt at the end of the year. Children in religious school were also issued (small) envelopes; they were also numbered and I assume our coins were tallied with our parents' envelopes, but I never asked. Of course, some people (like visitors) just put cash directly into the basket, too.
This always struck me as dicey; how could an organization with regular expenses like heat and salaries and a building manage finances that way, other than by assuming that this year will be like last year? It occurs to me now that there might have also been a pledge system that I, as a child, never saw, but I'm just guessing here.
One of the things I found really refreshing about synagogues is that they have dues. When I found out about this I did a little happy-dance. Yay, no more guesswork! Join the congregation, get a bill, pay it, and everything's good. Right? (Aside: we couldn't pass a basket at Shabbat services even if we wanted to, because doing business and handling money are forbidden on Shabbat.)
Now that I've been part of congregational life for a while, though, I've realized that that's not the end of it by far. There are still special appeals, of course (we help $disaster victims too, after all), but there are also endowment campaigns, special appeals to supplement dues, fancy fund-raising dinners (with ad books, to draw contributions from non-members/businesses), and a myriad of other fund-raising activities. (I know that some congregations have a building fund with its own rules for member payments; we don't, so I don't really know how this works.) There are also fees for certain activities; the biggie here is religious school, which is a separate payment on top of dues.
My congregation -- and I assume this is true pretty much everywhere -- never turns anybody away for lack of ability to pay dues. We'll negotiate a reduced rate, sometimes quite nominal. Some of the other fund-raising is specifically to offset that. A draw from the endowment each year also offsets some expenses. I don't know if the proportion of our expenses paid for by dues is public information so I won't say, but we try to reduce that proportion by building the endowment -- through fund-raising, of course.
All of this makes me wonder when we risk hitting the point of "fund-raising fatigue" for members (I didn't grow up with this as normal so my perspective is unreliable), and what the mix of dues to fund-raising tends to be like elsewhere, and what other (fiscally-responsible) approaches are out there. What do others do? Are synagogues unique in having dues, or do churches have that too (perhaps packaged differently)? If you're a member of a church, does someone sit down with you and say "we expect you to donate $X this year"?
So, readers who belong to congregations of any sort, how do your congregations pay for expenses?