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.

UUA seeks compensation consultants

The UUA is seeking volunteers to serve as Compensation Consultants. Individuals with experience in UU leadership, human resources, accounting, employment law, church administration, tax law, mediation, and the like are invited to volunteer their time and skills working with the UUA Office of Church Staff Finances (OCSF).

Consultants help congregations address issues involving compensation, benefits, hiring, performance evaluation, taxes, and bookkeeping. Experience is helpful but not necessary because the OCSF will provide training. Email Betsy Gabriel, Compensation Programs manager, by July 1 to express interest or request information.

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.

Tax liability possible for congregations

Take the time to brush up on the law in your city and state regarding annual reporting of tax-exempt status. One eastern city requires tax-exempt organizations to file each year for continuation of that status. Because the city did not enforce that requirement until 2007 (when a new assessor took office), one UU congregation received tax bills for two consecutive years before it recognized it had a requirement to file an annual statement.

The city sold the unpaid tax bills (with interest they total more than $200,000) to a collection agency and the congregation had to hire a lawyer to sort everything out. Many months later negotiations are continuing with the city. Because the tax leins went to collections, the issue is more complicated to resolve. The congregation does not know what its ultimate liability might be.

Association Sunday 2011 focuses on excellence in ministry

From a September InterConnections feature story, now online at UUA.org:

Excellence in Ministry is the theme for the fifth Association Sunday, which gets under way October 2. Funds collected this year will be used to support Unitarian Universalis ministries in a variety of ways, including providing scholarships and continuing education grants for UU religious professionals and conducting a comprehensive assessment of UU ministries.

Association Sunday is an annual fundraising campaign of the Unitarian Universalist Association to promote growth and to reaffirm our connections as an Association of congregations. Congregations are invited to set aside a Sunday to focus on their connections to one another and to the Unitarian Universalist Association. They are also asked to take a collection to support special UUA projects.

Funds raised by Association Sunday in previous years were used, in part, to fund scholarships for UU ministerial students. Gretchen Haley received a $17,000 scholarship in 2010 through Association Sunday.

Go to the full article.

New handbook offers guidance for congregation treasurers

A new Handbook for Congregation Treasurers and Finance Leaders is now available. Compiled by the Annual Program Fund Staff of the Office of Stewardship and Development, the handbook includes chapters on financial management for congregations, risk management for congregations, the congregation as employer, donations to congregations, and congregational giving to the UUA and districts. The Rev. Terry Sweetser, vice president for Stewardship and Development for the UUA, said the handbook contains the “essentials for financial management” for congregations, including information from a variety of ecumenical and secular sources as well as the UUA.

The handbook, available online as a PDF at no charge, also includes a number of appendixes, including procedures for gift acceptance, congregational liability, internal financial review, UUA building loan and grant programs, and UUA membership requirements.


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.

Signs of living and dying congregations

The blog of the UUA’s Congregational Stewardship staff group is currently highlighting “Signs of living (and dying) churches.” A sample:

Living churches always have a parking problem; dying churches don’t. Living churches are constantly changing their methods; dying churches don’t have to. Living churches have lots of noisy kids; dying churches are quiet. Living churches grow so fast you forget people’s names; in dying churches you’ve known everyone’s names for years.

Also up on the stewardship blog: an article titled “All we ever do is talk about raising money!” about how to manage small fundraisers that can proliferate in the life of a congregation, one on “Stewardship as Spiritual Discipline,” and another on “The 12 myths of fundraising.”

UUA Bookstore offers fundraising book suggestions

A list of books useful to congregational leaders engaged with giving and stewardship is available from the UUA Bookstore (PDF). The books include the UUA’s primary stewardship guide, Beyond Fundraising: The Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship, by Dr. Wayne B. Clark, the UUA’s director of Congregational Stewardship Services.

Other books include two by church consultant Michael Durall, Beyond the Collection Plate: Overcoming Obstacles to Faithful Giving and Creating Congregations of Generous People.

The bookstore also has The Abundance of Our Faith, a collection of award-winning sermons about stewardship, edited by the Rev. Terry Sweetser and the Rev. Susan Milnor. Also on the list is Offerings: Remarks on Passing the Plate, by the Rev. Robert Thayer, collected anecdotes and reflections for use before the offering plate is passed.