About the Author
Wayne Clark

A Quiz and the FORTH Report

This week we have a quiz for you.

Answer yes or no to the following questions.

  1. Yes/No Does your congregation have enough money?
  2. Yes/No Do you have an active planned giving program?
  3. Yes/No Is there a predominant culture of generosity in your congregation?
  4. Yes/No Are your board and committee meetings conducted in a consistently positive manner?
  5. Yes/No Does your congregation have a common definition of stewardship?
  6. Yes/No Do you have a year-round calendar of stewardship-related activities?

If you answered no to any of these questions, there is a recent report that might be helpful.

Using Credit Cards for Financial Commitments?

From time to time, congregations ask about providing donors  an opportunity to make their annual financial commitments on-line. We have spoken previously about Vanco Services, which offers electronic transfer options. Vanco will manage the process in which donors have their commitments automatically withdrawn from their checking account each month. Currently more than 100 UUA congregations successfully using this service.

But what about electronic payments using a credit card? Historically, we have shied away from this option because of the expense.  However, there has been recent conversation on the UU-Money email list that suggests there may now be a viable option. You can find lots of information about the possibility of using credit cards for financial commitments online.

We would welcome a blog conversation about this option.

  • Has anyone tried it?
  • If so, what have been the advantages?
  • What are some pitfalls to avoid?
  • If not, why?

Worship Web Resources for Tough Economic Times

Most of us continue to struggle through unsettling economic times. Yet money talk is still hard, generally unaddressed in our congregations.

How can we find words that will help us to talk about money?

How can we acknowledge that money provides us with the resources to live our ministries?

Take a look at the the UUA’s Worship Web for some helpful resources and please note that additional contributions (from you!) are requested.

It all comes down to making a compelling case

Quite often, I receive phone calls from congregational lay leaders who want to explore various techniques to ask congregants for annual financial commitments. Our experience has been that there are a number of techniques that can be implemented as an alternative to a stewardship conversation-oriented annual budget drive. Beyond Fundraising provides descriptions of several techniques, including commitment Sundays, cottage meetings, annual congregational dinners, faith promises, pony express, telephone conversations, and direct mail appeals.

We have found, however, that the technique is not nearly as important as making a compelling case. Congregants will make financial commitments if they understand the significance of their gift . . . what difference it will make. In this era, the successful annual budget drive requires that congregants understand the connection between their gift and the vision/mission/ministry of their congregation.

I welcome stories about successful annual budget drives that you have conducted. How did you ‘make the case’? What technique did you use? How did you define success (beyond meeting your financial goal)? How many lay leaders were involved in the drive?

Does this sound familiar? (Endowment Fund Question)

“[My congregation] does not have a coherent policy regarding earmarked gifts, special funds, special fundraising etc… We also have a history of programs raising their own funds as well as some history of people who participate in just one aspect of church life not pledging to the whole stewardship campaign but contributing to their favorite program, if at all…”

That statement has been excerpted from a current discussion on the UU-Money email list.  The following information might be helpful if your congregation has experienced the same dilemma.

Sample Endowment Investment and Distribution Policy

A. General

  1. The Endowment Fund Committee shall invest the assets of the endowment with the objective of earning an average total return of 8 to 12 percent consistent with moderate risk.  The Committee shall endeavor to invest the assests of the endowment in a socially responsible manner. It is intended that reasonable restrictions placed on any gift by the donor will be faithfully followed, subject to the Committee’s determination of the integrity and best intersts of the endowment.
  2. (more…)

New Orleans Congregations Still Need Your Help

New Orleans is back in the news again. Unfortunately there’s the possibility of yet another disaster in the Gulf Coast region. While our attention is starting to focus on a potentially catastrophic off-shore oil spill, three Unitarian Universalist congregations continue to struggle with the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina.

The following short video is being shared because so many of you remain concerned about these three UU congregations. Take a look at what they have already accomplished. Make a commitment to help in their ongoing struggle.

Does Your Congregation Have a Healthy Distribution of Financial Commitments?

Have you ever wondered if your congregation’s distribution of financial commitments (annual pledges) is healthy? Because so many lay leaders have asked that question, the UUA stewardship consultants created a chart that illustrates a healthy distribution of financial commitments:

The first 25% of total dollars is coming from the first 10% of the household donors
The second 25% of total dollars is coming from 15% of the donors
The third 25%of total dollars is coming from 35% of the donors
The final 25% of total dollars is coming from the last 40% of household donors

We believe that this distribution is healthy and we recognize that it is not the norm. We encourage congregations to use this distribution as a guide, not as the one and only answer to healthy finances.

Over the years, we have consulted with many congregations in serious financial trouble because they were overly dependent on a few household donors in the first quartile of giving. If 10 percent of household donors contribute the first 25 percent of total giving, a congregations is not too vulnerable if a top donor moves away, reallocates their financial commitments to other causes, or dies without having left a bequest to the congregation. On the other hand, if only 5 percent of household donors contribute the first 25 percent of total giving, a congregation will have a serious financial problem if a top donor ceases to contribute financial commitments.

Accepting Loans From Congregants

There has been recent talk on the UU-Money email list about accepting loans from congregants. The following information might be helpful.

The staff and consultants of the UUA Congregational Stewardship Services program are not supportive of seeking loans from congregants, especially when those loans are used to help balance an operating budget.

There is, however, one situation in which congregant loans might be a reasonable option. If a capital campaign has been completed and there are still insufficient funds available to complete a renovation or to grab that perfect building or piece of land that suddenly appears, congregant loans might be a short term, temporary solution. Even then, there are many issues to consider before seeking congregant loans.

Building Fund, Capital Campaign Commitments, and Personal Loans

Ideally, the congregation will have created a significant building fund in anticipation of this occurrence. And/or they will have recently completed a capital campaign in which enough money was raised to pay for a renovation project or to make a down payment on a building or piece of land. If the congregation exhausts its building fund and completes a capital campaign but more money is still needed, lay leaders may seek congregant loans. It is important to note that, in this scenario, the possibility of seeking loans should not even be considered until all of the capital campaign contributions have been committed. For obvious reasons, it is far better to receive contributions rather than asking for loans.

Champions of Change: Growing Effective Lay Leaders

ChangeAs we approach the completion of the FORTH stewardship development demonstration project, several elements of success have been discerned. Among the findings, we have determined that the chances of successfully implementing a stewardship development program are improved when there is one committed lay leader with a big picture understanding of stewardship development. The successful lay leader has an understanding that raising money for the annual operating budget is but one of at least five stewardship components; stewardship education, joyful giving, ministry and good works, the annual budget drive, and planned giving.

Further, we have learned that chances of success are improved when the lay leader receives consistent guidance from an external coach. The role of this coach is different from the traditional consulting arrangement in which a consultant uses her expertise to tell a congregation how to “do it right.”

A coach, on the other hand, works collaboratively with a client (a Champion of Change lay leader in this case) as a partner to define the lay leader’s goals. Through the coaching alliance the coach and the leader discover appropriate actions, compatible with each lay leader’s values and desires for their particular congregation. In this partnership, the coach and the lay leader work together to find each lay leader’s own answers, to facilitate personal growth, and to help move their congregation forward.

Five lay leaders from the Beyond Fundraising course at the recent Southwestern District Conference have been selected to become champions of change. Each leader is teaming with Wayne to create and implement an 18-month personal plan for leading change in their congregation. Wayne’s role is to guide and coach. The five leaders are doing the heavy lifting. Each has committed to twice monthly phone conversations with Wayne.   The five participants have each identified their individual growth goals, indicated below: