Fair Share Giving Guide is stewardship aid

Looking for a way to help congregants understand responsible levels of giving now that it’s time for the annual stewardship campaign? Share the UUA’s Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide with them.

It suggests a minimum financial commitment of 2 percent for congregants earning up to $25,000 and goes up from there, all the way to a full tithe of 10 per cent at the other end of the scale.

The guide can be especially helpful for new congregants who may be accustomed to different giving styles. Those who have been unchurched will appreciate knowing what appropriate levels of giving are. The guide can also be a reminder to longtime congregants who make small financial commitments that one of the responsibilities of membership is appropriate giving.

The amounts on the guide are suggestions only, of course. Congregants should also be made to understand that these are not goals to necessarily be achieved in a year, but goals to work toward.

New books about congregational fundraising, storytelling in worship

The following Skinner House titles are now available for pre-order through the UUA Bookstore:

The Generosity Path: Finding the Richness in Giving, by Mark Ewert, (available Dec. 20, $14). Ewert is a UUA congregational stewardship consultant. He writes about stewardship issues on his blog, Generosity Path.com. From the book description: “Financial giving can be a spiritual path. We have a deep potential for meaning-making and life satisfaction when we transform ourselves from occasional, haphazard donors to deliberate, ambitious philanthropists.”

A Good Telling: Bringing Worship to Life with Story, by Kristin Maier, (available  October 9, $16). Using the art of storytelling to enrich worship. Includes workshop materials to build storytelling skills, and resources for appropriate stories.

Other new books, suitable for adult education or book groups, include the following:

Where Two Worlds Touch: A Spiritual Journey Through Alzheimer’s, by Jade Angelica, (available December 16, $16).  Angelica chronicles her mother’s journey through Alzheimer’s and her own experiences with grief and the unexpected gifts that can come with this disease.

Jewish Voices in Unitarian Universalism, edited by Leah Hart-Landsberg and Marti Keller, (available Jan. 22, $14). A collection of reflections from people who are both UU and Jewish. From the book description: “While there has been a long and consistent presence of Jewish culture and people in Unitarian Universalism, this poignant anthology is the first to give voice to this community’s struggles, wisdom, and contributions. Essayists include born Jews who came to Unitarian Universalism, Unitarian Universalists who adopted Judaism as a spiritual path, and Unitarian Universalists who have encountered Judaism in diverse ways.”

Discounts are available for multiple copies.

Why is their budget drive successful?

The blog Congregational Stewardship, produced by the UUA’s Congregational Stewardship Services staff group, currently features a two-part series titled “So Why is Their Budget Drive Always So Successful?” It’s a good primer or refresher on how to approach a stewardship event, whether it’s an annual fund drive or a capital campaign. The articles, by Bill Clontz, a UUA stewardship consultant, include the following advice: that stewardship is ministry, that the best campaigns are “continuous yearlong open discussions and references to resourcing our values,” and that people give not to “keep the lights on,” but to realize their values.

Other articles currently on the stewardship blog include one on a group of workers from the Unitarian Church in Harrisburg, Pa., that repairs houses, and another on “changing ourselves” before asking others to change.

Resources for congregational governance, leadership, conflict, stewardship

Earlier this year Annette Marquis, district executive for the Unitarian Universalist Association’s Southeast District, compiled several lists of books she believes are useful for congregational leaders. She created lists for the following topics:

• Good governance in congregations

• Congregational leadership

• Leadership tools

• Covenant, conflict, and right relationships

• Congregational stewardship

She notes, “Although you probably can’t read them all, engaging your congregation’s board and leadership in a planned course of study of at least one of these books a year will help to build a culture of commitment to best practices in your congregation.”

The lists are on her blog, Vital Congregations. While you’re there, check out some of her other blog posts on Technology Resources for Congregations and Right Relationships in Congregations.

Congregational leadership articles on blogs

Here are two useful congregational leadership articles posted recently on blogs:

Church Leaders Need to Be the Grown-ups, says church consultant Margaret Marcuson. She recommends not taking other people’s anxiety personally and paying more attention to your goals for yourself rather than your goals for the congregation.

• Shane Raynor, on the Ministry Matters blog, gives reasons for Losing the Offering Plate. They include: many people don’t use cash and checks anymore, it reinforces negative stereotypes about churches and money, and it gives the impression a dollar or two is enough. He suggests other ways of giving—a credit card kiosk in the foyer and an online giving option. He adds, “Even if you choose to retain the collection plate, pushing alternative ways of donating gives people who don’t use the plate permission to be more comfortable in your church.”

Planned giving supports the future

Dr. Wayne Clark, the UUA’s director of Congregational Stewardship Services, has written a post on the Congregational Stewardship blog about “Assuring the Long-Term Fiscal Stability of Your Congregation.” In it he notes that less than half of UU congregations have an active planned giving program. Planned giving is most often done with charitable bequests through a will or living trust, he says. Another means is by naming a congregation as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy or retirement plan.

An estimated 70 percent of all Americans die without a will and fewer than 10 percent of those capable of making a charitable estate gift have ever been asked, Clark says.

For a step-by-step guide to creating a planned giving program, see Clark’s book, Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship.

Setting a minimum pledge the wrong approach

Q. At our congregation we are working at establishing a minimum annual financial commitment policy for a voting member. I am wondering what other UU congregations have been doing in that regard?

A. Asking friends and members for just a minimum contribution is not a good idea, says Dr. Wayne Clark, the UUA’s Director of Congregational Stewardship Services. “Having a minimum financial commitment tends to lower the bar for congregants who might be able and willing to make larger commitments. It can lead them to expect that their congregation won’t ask much of them in any area. If you ask little of people, that’s usually what they will give. It’s often much less than what they would give if they’d been asked differently.”

Clark recommends giving people the UUA’s Suggested Fair Share Giving Guide as soon as they join or become involved on a regular basis. “That lets them create their own definition of a fair share gift by placing themselves on the guide,” he said. “Then it’s the congregant who defines fair share, not the minister or other leader.”

FORTH stewardship program ready

A new stewardship program, FORTH (Forward Through the Ages) is available from the Unitarian Universalist Association, following completion this year of a three-year demonstration project.

FORTH, from the UUA’s Congregational Stewardship staff group, is a multiyear program designed to address stewardship as a vital part of ministry and as something larger than simply fundraising.

The program has five components: stewardship education, joyful giving, ministry and good works, the annual budget drive, and planned giving. Seven congregations, at Milford, N.H.; Washington, D.C.; Asheville, N.C.; Boca Raton, Fla.; Grand Rapids, Mich.; Chandler, Ariz., and Vancouver, Wash. were participants in the FORTH demonstration project.

Congregations reduce energy use

Several Unitarian Universalist congregations have recently made environmental improvements that have allowed them to reduce their energy consumption.

  • The UU Church at Washington Crossing in Titusville, N.J., installed solar panels, which are generating about 90 percent of the electricity needed by the congregation. The system is expected to pay for itself in about four years.
  • The UU Community Church of Santa Monica, Calif., was honored by the city for making energy improvements that decreased its electrical bill by 9 percent. It also added cisterns to its property to reduce pollution runoff.
  • Cedar Lane UU Church in Bethesda, Md., is making efforts to reduce energy and paper use, including using permanent rather than disposable dinnerware. The church earns money from selling recycled ink cartridges.
  • The UU Congregation of Atlanta has adopted a “Sustainable Living Initiative,” which helps members weatherize their homes and encourages everyone to live more sustainably. It is working on a Buying Club to make green products more affordable to everyone.

Stories about these and other congregations are on the Green Sanctuary blog of the UUA’s Congregational Stewardship Office.