Creating a Culture of Giving

People are not born with a giving gene. Because joyful giving for the sake of the giver is a worthy goal, faith communities want to help their congregants discover their own personal generosity. This discovery process requires focusing on the joy of giving, on being self-giving rather than self-serving. Recruiting volunteers and raising money can be almost incidental to creating a healthy culture of giving.

In Giving and Stewardship in an Effective Church, Kennon Callahan writes that the purpose of stewardship is giving, not fundraising, and that stewardship actually provides a service to the giver. The role of those leading a stewardship campaign, he believes, is to help people discover their own generosity.

Callahan proposes a four-year program to increase giving. He suggests that a congregation focus on growing the donor base in the first year and increasing the number of volunteers who work on the annual budget drive in the second year. He recommends that the third year be devoted to increasing the giving level of specific current households. He believes that the cumulative result of the first three years should create a quantum leap of giving during the fourth year.

While Callahan’s plan offers a well-conceived sequence, I believe that the first step is to find a way to talk about giving. The conversations can’t be specifically about money. They must include talk about call and spiritual vocation. A person might share his call (willingness to proclaim the good works of the faith community) by talking about his passion for one of the congregation’s programs or ministries at a new-member reception. A congregant might demonstrate her spiritual vocation (willingness to take up the spiritual work of the faith community) by participating in a Habitat for Humanity project or volunteering to teach English to a group of recent immigrants.

If your congregation is entrenched in a culture of scarcity, develop an intentional plan to explore the meaning of giving. By initiating conversations about giving, you can introduce the topic and reinforce the concept until it slowly becomes part of the congregation’s way of life.

Need Some Stewardship Support?

As the economy slowly . . . very slowly . . . starts to recover, more congregations are asking for the support of Congregational Stewardship consultants. In some cases, congregations are asking for annual budget drive support. Some others are asking for strategic planning guidance and still others are asking us to lead them through a capital campaign.

In all cases, an assessment visit is the first step in a relationship between your congregation and one of our consultants. There are three outcomes of an assessment visit:

First, the visit provides an opportunity for your congregation to get an objective assessment from a stewardship consultant. Prior to the visit, you will have sent several documents to the consultant. Once on site, the consultant gathers more information in a series of meetings with key professional religious leaders and volunteer lay leaders.

Second, an assessment visit provides your congregation with specific recommendations to get “from here to there.”  Based on all the gathered information, the consultant lists several steps necessary to allow your congregation to reach its long-term goals.  These recommendations are given verbally at the end of the assessment visit, and are then followed by a written summary.

And third, an assessment visit clarifies how the Congregational Stewardship program can be helpful to your congregation. Since 1985, we have provided support to hundreds of congregations. Each consultant brings special skills, as well as the combined skills and experience of the other consultants. Each is prepared to guide and coach your congregation through all aspects of your comprehensive stewardship expectations.

Need more information? Please contact the Congregational Stewardship Services office for more information.

Reflections on “Personal Best”

I came across an article in the New Yorker magazine a few weeks back written by Atul Gawande, an expert surgeon who engaged a fellow surgeon to serve as his personal  coach with the goal of keeping his skills sharp and helping improve his performance and results.    See Personal Best at The New Yorker online. Dr. Gawande calls attention to coaching analogies from sports and the arts, noting that elite athletes and singers often have personal coaches to help them be their best.  They observe them in action and suggest small or large adjustments in preparation, strategy, or technique.  Now as you might imagine it’s pretty rare for professionals like doctors and lawyers to enter into a formal coaching relationship.   The same is true in my business of management consulting.  Well as the New Yorker article indicates, the coaching experiment was quite successful, and Dr. Gawande is convinced that both he and his patients have benefitted.

This got me musing about the work that I do as a management consultant and more specifically as a congregational stewardship consultant.   I have never been hired explicitly to be a coach, but surely that is a large component of what I do – observe leaders in action, offer suggestions to help them do their work more effectively, and then work collaboratively to implement the suggestions.  This is true whether the engagement is to improve the services delivered by the information technology department of a large non-profit or to help foster a culture of generosity in our UU congregations.

So now I’m pondering what it would mean for me to think of myself as a coach and my clients as generally skilled leaders interested in improving their skills and effectiveness.    I wonder how my work would be different if I embraced the coaching spirit more fully and openly.   And how might I benefit from personal coaching?

Well, that’s as far as I’ve gotten with my musings.   I’d love to hear from others who have experience either as coaches or being coached.  I’m convinced that there’s something useful in the coaching model and would love some ideas about digging further into it.  Please comment and share your experience and wisdom.

Why we give to charity

Thank you to Congregational Stewardship Consultant Aggie Sweeney for sharing this article about generosity and the holiday season with our office.

“The urge to give that is awakened around this time is an important one: Philanthropy plays a crucial role in American society, providing funding for a vast array of services. Giving also connects us as a culture: According to a study by the Giving USA Foundation and the Center on Philanthropy at Indiana University, nearly two-thirds of all Americans gave to charity in 2008. American charities took in nearly $300 billion in 2010.” by Leon Neyfakh

You can read the rest of the article on The Boston Globe website.

Shibboleths of Leadership

A shibboleth has come to mean the use of old words or phrases that form part of the specialized jargon of a group, and reveal their users as members of a group. Since many of us continue to cling to old ideas, Lance Secretan coined the term shibboleths of leadership.

He believes the practice, theory and teaching of leadership as been in a rut for years. He has noticed a herd mentality afoot. Consultants, professors, academic writers, and theorists work hard to deepen the existing paradigm, thus excluding new thinking.

He believes our attachment to shibboleths and theories often serve our need to be right more than the need to make the world better. This frailty of ego results in making work experience debilitating or many people whose common sense tells them that the philosophies and theories being practiced and promoted are inadequate and anachronistic. Yet, people are pulled along on the stream of fashionable shibboleths masquerading as wisdom, unable to change it all. The CEOs, leaders and HR practitioners responsible for training and development, often scan the environment for the most popular theories and books—obsolete paradigms and shibboleths—and not wanting to be seen to be out of step, they encourage the same obsolescence  themselves, reinforcing the inadequacy and providing validation for those still stuck in their old paradigms.

You can read the rest of Shibboleths of Leadership by checking out the article in Paradigms magazine.

Creative Capital Campaign Gifts (4 of 5)

Over the last 26 years I have served as a Congregational Stewardship Consultant for the UUA.  During that time I have worked with over 135 of our congregations, some of them more than once.  I have had the opportunity to talk with many people about how they made their decisions to support a capital campaign in their congregation.  One technical note:  Financial commitments to a capital campaign are usually paid over a three year period.  Here is one of my favorite stories.

These stories are illustrative.  They contain one common element.  Persons with commitment to the vision of the church will find a way to give generously.  Each of these stories involves people who “gave until it felt good.”  And that really is the criterion for our success.  Each pledge is important.  Each person will give according to her or his commitment and will want to feel good about it.
David L. Rickard
UUA Congregational Stewardship Consultant

Sarah was an instructor at a major university.  She felt strongly that the new space and the air conditioning were very necessary for her congregation to grow and serve the needs of the religious liberals in the area.  But her salary barely covered her family’s needs, and her savings were to provide a college education for her daughter.  She, too, found a creative solution.  When the steward visited, she proudly announced that she would give $6,000 to the Building Fund.  The visiting steward, who thought he knew her well, was momentarily stunned until she explained, “This is so important to me that I will teach classes for the next three summers in order to make this pledge.”


Look for another story from David Rickard in the coming weeks!

CSS at UUA GA: It’s really not alphabet soup!


The annual General Assembly (GA) of Unitarian Universalists (UUA) was recently held in Charlotte, North Carolina. During those five days, the Office of Congregational Stewardship Services (CSS) conducted four workshops.

Because worksho p attendance was greater than expected (over 400 attended the four workshops) we ran out of handouts. As promised, here are the links to those handouts:

FORTH Introductory Video
Appreciative Inquiry and the Annual Budget Drive PowerPoint

During these same workshops, small groups of participants were ask to answer these questions and the links to their responses are at:

FORTH Short-Term Goals
FORTH Long-Term Goals
Characteristics of a Stewardship Team


Learn more about Stewardship at General Assembly

General Assembly 2011 in Charlotte, NC has finally arrived! Director of Congregational Stewardship Services, Dr. Wayne Clark, is leading a number of workshops this year. For those of you interested in the new FORTH: A Stewardship Development program that was just launched, there is a two-part workshop that may be helpful in deciding if this program is right your congregation. Information is included below for your convenience.  We hope to see you there.

Thursday 10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Convention Center 209 AB

Stewardship: Appreciative Inquiry and the Annual Budget Drive
Lead by Dr. Wayne Clark

How do you approach your annual budget drive? Do you focus on the problem of limited money? Do you
identify the root causes? AI turns these conversations inside out, asserting that positive approaches to change can transform your congregation. Come learn how to apply AI to your next annual budget drive.

Thursday 1:00 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
Convention Center 209 AB

FORTH: Growth, Stewardship, and Leadership (Part 1)
Lead by Dr. Wayne Clark & Mark Ewert

Come learn about this new and comprehensive stewardship development program. By the end of the workshop, participants will know how to:
1) initiate FORTH
2) take an Appreciative approach to FORTH, and
3) gain access to FORTH products and Resources.
Handouts and time for questions will be provided.

Thursday 2:45 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Convention Center 209 AB

FORTH: Growth, Stewardship, and Leadership (Part 2)
Lead by Dr. Wayne Clark & Mark Ewert
This is the second of two FORTH workshops. (Participation in part 1 is not a prerequisite.)

FORTH is a stewardship development program, and this workshop focuses on improving lay and professional leadership skills. Learn how to implement FORTH in your own congregation, while activating growth and freeing-up resources.

Additionally, this year the Congregational Life Staff group will  be hosting Table Talks at the Congregational Life booth in the exhibit hall. Dr. Wayne Clark will be hosting two Table Talks on Stewardship. During this time, congregational leaders are encouraged to come to the Congregational Life booth and asked Wayne follow up questions regarding Workshops or stand alone questions on any stewardship topic.

Table Talk Information
Location: #721, Congregational Life Booth, Exhibit Hall
Date: Friday, June 24th at 2:30 and Saturday, June 25th at 2:30
Time: 30 Minutes
Topic: Any Stewardship-related questions

FORTH: A Stewardship Development Program has officially launched

We have some exciting news . . . .

FORTH: A Stewardship Development Program has been launched after four years of input from hundreds of congregational leaders. FORTH has been created because we know that some of the healthiest faith communities focus more on stewardship than fundraising. As noted in chapter one of Beyond Fundraising: A Complete Guide to Congregational Stewardship fundraising emphasizes the need of the recipient; stewardship addresses people’s spiritual need to give.

Take a look at FORTH. Start by watching the 8-minute introductory video and decide if you would like more information about how your congregation can adapt this year-round program to fit the unique needs of your congregation. You may also want to look some other new FORTH resources including The Art of Thriving and the Stewardship Self-Assessment pages.

You can join the FORTH Community by completing the Congregational Self-Assessment. Upon completion, you will have access to many free and helpful resources:

  • Several short videos of lay leaders who have had some experience with FORTH
  • Suggested Year Round Calendar
  • Recommended Stewardship Language
  • Sample Stewardship Team Job Description
  • Recommended Stewardship Team Formation and Charge
  • Stewardship Information and Ideas
  • Sample Organizational Charts
  • Annotated Bibliography (currently more than 130 items)
  • Operational Support for Effective Stewardship
  • Suggested Four-Year Activities

Once you have completed the Self-Assessment, you will receive an email from the Congregational Stewardship Services Administrator with information on accessing these resources. In this e-mail, the Administrator will include a link to the web pages with these resources and the username and password required for logging on to these pages. Please save this information.

Want to get your leaders involved in an exciting interactive process? Become a FORTH Partner by asking five of your congregational leaders (lay and/or professional) to complete the Congregational Self-Assessment and your congregation will gain access to all the resources listed above, plus these free interactive activities:

  • Closed Facebook group
  • Regularly scheduled conference calls
  • Occasional webinars hosted by UUA congregational stewardship consultants
  • Updates distributed through Constant Contact

After five of your congregational leaders have completed the Self-Assessment, Wayne Clark will create a profile for your congregation, sending it to your FORTH Partner contact person. Information about FORTH Partner activities will soon follow.

Interested in some on-site consultation from a UUA stewardship consultant? Ask us about our fee-for-service program, with a sliding scale to match the size of your congregation.

Questions? Contact Us

Wayne Clark, wclark @ uua. org (207) 829-4550

Mark Ewert, mewert @ generositypath . com (202) 722-8888

Brent Jurgess, forth @ uua . org (617) 948-4272

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.